It’s a particular kind of cold – morning hailstones on a blustery beach on the north coast of Ireland – and it occurs to you that you have watched too much Marple, read far too much Maisie Dobbs and Inspector Gamache, to be truly at ease in a beautiful and isolated place.
You could write the setting for your murder, here between the crashing waves and the rushing river, an 18th century temple dramatically perched on the cliff edge above…
Maybe someone would see something glancing out the window of the coastal train before it disappeared into the tunnel.
You are relieved to see a dog-walker. You trust dog-walkers. They have a legitimate reason to walk. (And you never hear of dogs being accomplices to murder. Do you?).
There’s a lone seagull ‘winter paddling’ in the water’s edge, just like you are. He’s braver than you, not scampering off when the tide comes in, or maybe he’s just more free? You feel a bit silly letting the water wash over your colourful wellies. The seagull looks just right though, he has a legitimate place in the sea, written into his name.
What the hailstones add to the texture of the beach is incredible. Someone should write about it, you think. A legitimate writer. A poet.
“So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute”, Wendell Berry says.
Take a solitary walk. Winter paddle. Write.
Fill in your blank.
I know, now, not to try to write as soon as I arrive at the writers’ retreat.
I know, now, to put my welly boots on and wrap up warm and head to the water before it gets dark. I do not need to see words gather on a screen or in my yellow writing pad, just yet. I need to see the sea, and the rocks and my own footprints in the sand.
I do not need to open the laptop in a hurry. I need to open Jayber Crow with dinner and Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings with breakfast.
I need to walk and I need to read. This is what I’m here for, too.
Nourishment can seem like a waste of time to me. The amount of nourishment I require can be a source of frustration, and sometimes embarrassment, to me. Why do I need to eat so often and with such intentionality? Why can I not run on less? Why can I not start my day with a quick cuppa like other people do? Why can I not sleep without a good supper? Why is what is enough for other people not enough for me? I try to start and end and punctuate my day with steady fuel, with good(ish) food, because I know the cost if I don’t. I need to eat well to function well every single day, multiple times a day. I haven’t found a quicker fix.
As I walk along the cold beach after breakfast, I realise how closely my physical needs and my particular metabolism, mirror my soul needs and my particular introversion. The amount of soul-nourishment I require can also be a source of frustration, and sometimes embarrassment, to me. Why do I need space so often and with such intentionality? Why can I not run on less? Why can I not jam-pack my day like other people do? Why can I not sleep without a good novel? Why is what is enough for other people not enough for me?
Nourishment can seem like a waste of time. Open the laptop and get writing already.
This is my third year at the writers’ retreat and I know, now, there will be regular trips to the kitchen, and to the shore and to Port William with Jayber Crow. I haven’t found a quicker fix.