Monday, 28 October 2013

Stormy Thoughts

They said there's a storm brewing - a big one.
But last night instead of battening down the hatches and hunkering down inside, I sought out higher ground - Colmer's Hill where the pine trees always bend in the wind - to face the storm, to look it in the eye; literally. 

So into the gloaming I went roaming: across the clear-felled field of maize, up the grassy slope, following the green faerie track, to the temple of the winds. A few strides from the pinnacle and the breeze duly picked up, the wind whipped around me like flying fingers picking at my clothes. From the peak I could see the dark, brooding storm clouds mustering with menace, malevolence perhaps. But also awesome and inspiring - a flexing of elemental muscle, a gathering of the sky clans. On the hill there was an invisible wall of wind, so strong I could lean back against it with my arms outstretched, supported, until a temporary dip in vented velocity sent me reeling backwards.

I strode over to one of the Scots pines and stood leaning back against the trunk, facing the blowing gale - pinned between wind and wood. I felt like Odysseus, strapped to his ship's mast, sailing through the Sirens' seas. The voices I heard weren't singing, but howling with rage. Stirred by some primitive instinct, I shouted back into the storm: roaring like a rutting stag, filled with potent energy. The words that found themselves on my lips were: "I am here!" As if I could assert myself against all that primeval power. Instead I felt small and insignificant, a mote amidst the might. But I was happy with that - a relief, a dissolution of the ego. It was good to be up there, exposed, naked, with all my trimmings and trappings blown away. 

I took a sip of malt whisky from my hip-flask: a liquid storm; a taste of wind and waves, soil and smoke. For a moment I was transported to the west coast of Scotland - in a cosy cottage, by a peat fire with a beckoning bottle of Lagavulin... And then suddenly the little squares of orange lights in the village below seemed warm and inviting. Maybe it would be good to hunker down after all, weather the storm inside.

Sleep that night was febrile and fitul, it came in fits and starts. Outside the storm, not relentlessly wild, nevertheless cried out in crescendo and climax, punctuated by calm. To be honest the thing that most kept me wakeful was waiting for a text from a friend, a fellow storm-chaser, who'd promised an early morning trip to see the stormy sea. It came just as I was falling into deep sleep, but I jolted awake, excited. By seven we were standing by the salty alter at West Bay, as the wild waves crashed and foamed. It was hard to escape the well-worn metaphor of white horses: seeing the stream of flowing, flecked manes, listening to the thundering of a thousand hooves. It was low tide now, high tide at midnight must have been a truly wild spectacle. But even so there was still enough venom and vigour in the storm to push the white waves against the rocky boulders and send spume soaring over the sea wall as we darted to semi-avoid a salty soaking.

Then the morning sun broke through the dark clouds from behind the red cliffs, and we witnessed a moment of elemental alchemy. Grey turned to gold, the wind and the waves and the sun and the sea in perfect poise.

The brew wasn't quite as strong as they'd promised. But it was good to be out in the thick of it, at the beginning and at the end, on hillside and seaside, riding the storm.

No comments:

Post a Comment