Last Thursday morning Linda and I decided to take a long walk through King's Park, across to the Woodland Walk and then down to the beach, from where we could walk onto the centre of Bournemouth. Quite beautiful. As we hit the beach at Boscombe we realised there was – what technically might be called - a “helluva” wind blowing. And alas, it was blowing against us!
By the time we reached the centre of Bournemouth and could get out of it we were truly done in! Along the way, though, I had spotted one amazing thing.
The wind was up, the waves were rough, and the sea was empty: across the horizon I saw no boats, and even the gulls seemed subdued somewhere else; except, there, just beyond the Boscombe pier, a solitary windsurfer – a speck – out there on the deep – surfed the waves in a kind of joyous abandon. He caught my eye and I slowed to watch him now I had spotted him.
He, in fact, traversed an arc – a long arc out from his starting point on the beach, between two groynes – which returned him back. So far out, it looked extremely difficult and dangerous to navigate in such waters. He returned safely in, paused for a few short moments, and then launched out to do exactly the same thing again. I say exactly, but of course, we never enter the stream at the same point twice – the danger and the difficulty were, perhaps, the same, and may be his courage too, but in launching again who knew if he would come back?
I was reflecting on why he was doing it. The beach was denuded of people; and the promenade itself had few – and they all were hurrying away, coping with the wind, no time to stand and stare. This was not one of those summer pose type of people – LOOK AT ME! Nobody else in the whole universe could have existed, yet still he would have done what he did.
The great poet – probably the greatest of the Twentieth Century – WB Yeats had an expression: “the fascination of what's difficult” - and here it was in action. The conquest of the elements, or better still the subduing of them till they bend not just to the human will, but to its imagination. Like a musician sitting at a piano with a whole bunch of notes and keys in front of them – a C, a E and so on; and from these creating an unexpected musical masterpiece.
Thus did the proud windsurfer strike me in that moment of bleak and blustery glory – composing his work of majesty on the very tracks of the sea and through the very power of the wind. How transient – the sea opens and accepts the force that splits it and allows the way through and the way back to the shore. And then closes behind and there is no trace left that he was ever there. So the music sounds, and after there is stillness.
On Saturday in Bangkok, my eldest son, PJ, posted on Facebook pictures of the birth of his third child – his little mouth open and crying for the light of the day. May he surf sublime all the days of his life.