It had simply appeared one day. Not overnight. In the morning: nothing, and in the evening: there it was. Right on the village green.
Nobody spoke of it, it was too… well, you had to see it for yourself. Outsiders came to stare at it. Isn’t it marvelous? Can you believe it?
The locals shrugged these questions off. It was too unsettling. Once you started to think about it, you’d have to question everything you’d ever understood about the world. It was safer to ignore it. But if you did have to mention it, it was just…
Is it absurd to love someone you’ve never met? He sometimes wondered. But he felt he knew her well, even intimately, better than he knew anyone else. He couldn’t help but love her: she was fascinating, mysterious, and lovely. Or so he pictured her.
Her life was a glorious trail. His life was dedicated to following that trail and laying it bare for all to see. This was all he had ever wanted to do.
Sometimes he mourned the fact that they would never meet, she could never thank him for all he was doing.
Angela hated his hobby. She kept saying it was silly and dangerous. Well, it wasn’t. Not if you knew what you were doing and didn’t lose your nerve. He jumped and the air whistled around him. The adrenalin kicked in and he was free.
Gone. It was all gone. The nagging girl-friend, the growing patch of baldness on his crown, the money he’d “borrowed” from the client accounts to pay for his expensive tastes, his lonely childhood, his miserable youth.
And then there was that delicious moment of choice. If he didn’t deploy now, they need never come back again.
Sometime this summer my life got a little intense and I needed to get away for a bit. I went to stay in an old cottage by the sea and started taking long walks every day.
When you put your life on hold for a while, it gives you a suspended sort of feeling, as if time had stopped and left only you free to explore the moment. I started noticing things I’ve never seen before. Do you have any idea how many different shades of green there are? And have you ever listened to the birds chirping away throughout the day?
In a sunny bay I noticed scratch marks in the sand. They were different each day, some days shallow, some days deep, but always in the same area below the high tide mark. One morning I saw someone scratching in the sand with a stick. By the time I arrived they were gone, but the tide was still out, and I could see a picture in the sand: a colony of gulls standing, flying, landing, their wings still outstretched. I loved it.
I decided to go to the beach early the next day, to try and catch the sand-painter. When I arrived the next morning, the sand was fresh and smooth. I started walking to and fro on the beach. My patience, or lack of it, was rewarded, when I saw the sand-painter scratching away again.
Walking towards the sand-painter, I wondered how to start a conversation without seeming too rude. When I was fairly close she looked up and said “Hello, there”, and I was surprised at the friendly greeting. Afterwards I realised, my footprints told the story of my lying-in-wait only too clearly.
I looked at the new picture, a peacock in a garden. Each feather so clearly defined, you could all but see the colours. “It’s beautiful”, I gasped. She smiled, and looked pleased. “How kind”, she said. “You make a sand-painting every day?” “Most days.” “But it’s washed away by the tide.” “So it is”, she agreed. “Do you take photos then?” She laughed. “I never even thought of that.”
“But it’s a shame, all these beautiful pictures lost”, I burst out. She looked away quickly, but I caught the tears in her eyes. She was still for a minute. I started to apologise, and she silenced me with a small wave of her hand. “No, you’re right. It doesn’t last.”
“Nothing lasts”, she added quietly, and looked down again. I was sorry for intruding on her solitude. “So long”, I mumbled and started to walk away.
I hadn’t gone far when she called after me. “This way, there are no errors. There’s only the way it is.”