A drenching low sky, rain driving steadily on a strong wind. Set in – a not going out day. I slip a light windproof over my running vest and venture out. Grey rain; bullying wind. Coming up over the sand dunes the real weather hits and I make my beach landing shaking the water out of my eyes and laughing at the elemental scale of it all. Flat simple colours all: dark wet sand and dull beach grass, a gun-metal sea and slate-grey cloud. I turn left and run, buffeted and drenched. The simplicity of the moment is engulfing; sea grasses twitch and shudder in the wind-a swerving line of dull milky green: the thin line of high tide sand follows the curve: three lines of seaweed. Thin, wind-driven waves track steadily towards the beach. Nothing else, just a palpable grey presence overhead filling the day and the rest of the space. I push along: rain-soaked release! A cry whips away from me on the wind: enigmatic and lonely; it takes a moment to realise it is not in my mind. I see the curlew ahead of me on the beach, a solitary easy presence. We meet on the most exposed part of the beach: a bending shoreline that seems somehow higher at this apex. The curlew shifts as I come towards him then hops onto the wind for a low loop over the waves; he returns to exactly the same point…once I have passed – privacy preserved; the distance between us is fragile but clear.
Nothing else living seems remotely close.
And I imagine him still on that bend, content in his confusion of weather, mildly perturbed by a rustling wet running man moving slowly against the wind. And I wonder how long he will remain, but begin to realise that he might never leave me now, I have captured a fleeting moment, held him down to a few desultory minutes in a big wind. The flickering reel rewinds and plays through my mind on a loop in that strange hinterland between what is now and what is remembered. What endures is a feeling that somehow the shy lonely bird is in his element and that I have yet to find my own.