When the sand draws you down to its grainy heart, you have to keep control of your feet, lift them, before they sink completely. This, I found out while walking on the beach at Ardmore with my husband and baby daughter. I was posing for a lighthearted picture and somehow my daughter’s buggy stayed firm, while the sand crept up over my ballet pumps. It was a fresh day, with an awakening chill, but the sun was defiant in the face of all that promised rain. It really felt like Easter – a casting off of winter. The sea made everything clean. We walked too far, enchanted by the extra hour of light and had to stop for a rest.
The sand offered us a gift – what looked like a mermaid’s trinket case, but was, in fact, a razor clam shell. The colours ran from pearl to mahogany, as if an artist had added light and shade. I began to imagine the great mer-kingdom, that this precious item might belong to. There would be a Neptune-like ruler, with a glistening beard, dictating to his subjects. The mermaids would bob to the surface, for breaths of cool air, and to see the lacy dance of waves against cliffs . . . They would wear shells in their hair, pebbles around their necks and the sea-shine of their adornments would never fade.
On the way home I thought of the adventure years, lying ahead of my daughter – the castle-building, paddling, wave-jumping and den-making years. I haven’t forgotten the magic of my own childhood, but sometimes it feels as though the self that experienced all that wonder has been buried in the sand. Perhaps I just need to lift back the layers, ignite memories with different experiences, watch everything with the same intensity as my daughter. At the moment, she is fascinated by the sky. It’s as if the change of season has brought it to life for her, shaken out the grey and replaced it with billowing blue. Against this background, she can pick out birds and trees, follow them with her ever-discovering eyes. Each day rushes to meet her and we both feel it – a blossoming of new.