Andrea Power is a very versatile painter from her dynamic seascapes to her playful seabirds. Her rich use of colour feeds our hungry eyes.
Ann O Reilly, Artist & Therapist, Dingle Peninsula
In my last blog I mentioned my perpetual wonder at the ever changing nature of our local beach. You never know what you will find.
A couple of weeks ago I was down there and there was a dead seal pup. It was way above the tide line so it stayed there and became a rather unpleasant site. Well, yesterday I was down there with the dog; as is my routine, and I looked at the carcass; I had kept my distance recently as the aroma was none too pleasant by now! Then I thought I saw it move. It did move....
Hurrying over somewhat surprised and a little baffled I was relieved to find that it had not moved it was indeed another seal pup lying right on top of the carcass of the other( a strange place to choose to lie) on its back. Had it been the original seal risen from the dead I would have run like the wind. Zombie seal pups... It is too surreal; but funny how these ludicrous thoughts appear in one’s head however mad. Thinking perhaps it was in its death throws I was pleased when it rolled over and looked at us; albeit slowly. It was surrounded by the foot prints of a large dog and had a little bite mark near its tail.
Luckily my dog, though lively and somewhat scatty, does what she is told; when she can remember what that is, and is only a cute little soul so she kept well away when told to do so though she made a few attempts to play. I remembered that I was told that though cute and cuddly looking, Baby seals have very sharp teeth and it is wise to keep your distance.
Well, my first thought was to phone the seal sanctuary but then I recalled it was gone for years and the only other was way up the country. So as our little friend looked healthy enough but seemed exhausted and was perhaps in shock from its earlier encounter with some big dog. It had lost its fluffy white hair almost completely making it roughly 4 weeks old so I felt the best thing was to encourage it back into the sea where it must have come from this morning.
The tide was a really long way out and as I watched its first lame attempts to shuffle itself along I realised this may take some time. I felt I better sacrifice my planned hours of painting and crafts to help this creature. There was of course the possibility that it may not survive but I figured that if it was going to die better to die at home ( in the sea) than on the beach at the hands (or teeth ) of some over excited canine.
So we began encouraging it towards the sea. This involved rousing it by talking to it and approaching and then getting behind and driving it along. A lot of talking though. I was blessed no one witnessed my babblings apart from the dog and little seal. Painstakingly we made our gradual progress down towards the sea. Fudge, my dog and I frisking about in the sea in front of it when exhaustion seemed to be winning at the last hurdle.
Obligingly the sea threw out an especially big wave as if to help it home and it was a truly magic as water touched young seal. It shook its head vigorously and seemed to grow. Energy surged back into the young creature. A reuniting of elements. Wonderful to behold. As it swam away enthusiastically it turned several times to look behind and I think it was saying "thanks for the help" and "goodbye friends".
At least that is how it seemed to me....
So onto the beach I go to lose my mind and find my soul.
Someone once said to me "There is one thing in life that is inevitable: that is...CHANGE". No matter how much you want things to stay the same, change happens. It is I suppose then a good idea to accept change; as life is change... I am not always the best at accepting change generally, but one place where I am whole heartedly ready and willing to embrace it is at the beach.
I think it is one of the main reasons I am so powerfully attracted there. It quite literally never looks the same twice. Even if you close your eyes for 5 minutes and look again at the same vista there has been some minor adjustment. The light has altered, tempering the colours; a subtle transition to a fresh new palatte, or the wind suddenly whips the quiet organised waves into a minor frenzy. Sometimes the metamorphosis is so massive, the transformation so complete that I feel I have been transported somewhere else! Seriously. Sometimes the sand is taken off the beach... gone! not all of it but most of it leaving rough unfamiliar rocks we had no idea had been buried there all that time .... and for days, weeks or months I hope it will return. Why or where our lovely golden sand went nobody knows. Then suddenly one morning there it is, back from its travels and it has brought even more with it so there is much more sand than 'usual' (whatever that is).... Familiar landmarks; or beach marks become more deeply buried than ever before till some commonplace shapes vanish completely only to reappear when least expected and half forgotten. Tidelines change rebelliously, revolutionising the whole place, all the time. The very architecture revised, a complete reformation...
A short walk with eyes down fixed on the tideline reveal more differences. Seaweed; sometimes, not always. A multitude of little limpets, sometimes. Other days a myriad of mussels, other days berries and crab apples from... somewhere? Hundreds of By-The-Wind Sailors (little blue hydrozoans that live on the surface of the sea and sometimes float in and get beached in their hundreds and thousands. The next day .. not a one! Jelly fish, dead crabs, star fish, ...cockles and periwinkles of every size and colour. Occasional dead sea birds. Azure beach puddles dramatically reflect the dynamic happenings in the ever changing sky. Rainbows and every conceivable cloud formation. Sand patterns squiggles and wiggles everywhere in different tones ..sometimes, others deep furrows have been carved and new sand banks formed. Driftwood of every size and shape and of course plastic, plastic too much plastic which is our least welcome visitor!
Seabirds often but not always I love to observe the oyster catchers gulls and cormorants, sand pipers, herons, egrets sometimes I know their haunts and where they like to rendezvous but never the same number. Sometimes many, sometimes few and sometimes none at all. Then there are the magnificent variations in light and waves all of them magical and never duplicated exactly.
Oft times I get a rush of anticipation as I walk down the beach path what will be happening today. What has changed today?
So if life is about change then perhaps I do like it after all ..even love it. I must admit in case you hadn't guessed the beach is my favourite place in the whole world. I would live right in the middle of it if I could. Perhaps I will come back as an oyster catcher! Who knows that would be a change now.
Brought up on the Pennine moors in the days when people did not travel about much my exposure to the sea was minimal; once a year during the annual caravan holiday usually on the coast of North East Yorkshire or North Wales. I remember lots of days making sand castles on wet windy beaches and having to be dragged away from the wind swept cliffs as I was so enthralled by the big crashing waves that I didn't ever want to leave.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons I fell in love with the Dingle Peninsula; no shortage of big crashing waves. I find I am still utterly transported when I stand by the ocean; whatever the weather; where to I am not quite sure....But it is a happy place where worries and problems don't exist; and I never want to leave...
So what is it about waves that is so fascinating?..... to me anyway. It is a strange thing to try and paint a wave. It is catching a moment quite literally. Then painting the structure seems to give it a solid presence which in fact it does not really have....well not for long anyway. a few seconds and it is gone all that majesty and miraculous colour crashes into froth and spray and is gone forever never to be replaced exactly ever again... it begs for deep thoughts about life.... but instead I throw another stick for the dog and vow to make a simple attempt to catch some of this wondrous magnificence that is all the more heart stirring because it is so soon gone....
In the 22 years I have lived on the Dingle Peninsula I cannot remember a Winter as bonny and blithe as this one just finishing..... In fact, whatever it is that makes all the wind and rain has definitely been away on its holidays for a very long time, taken a career break!
As from September right up to now we have had mild calm often serene days, punctuated only occasionally by a few nasty days and a couple of cold weeks. Anyone living here for a long time would tell you this is nothing short of miraculous! ... And here Spring begins on February 1st so we are presently in the transition from one season to another. The birds are singing uproariously in the mornings and primroses and crocuses are appearing to lift our hearts in anticipation......
Though the usual relief provoked by spotting my first primrose was exceedingly mild compared with most springs; where I would rush out immediately and pick a few as soon as I spied them peeking out from the colourless undergrowth, I would put them on my kitchen table and stare at them as if to convince myself that fine warm weather would one day come, savouring the delicate yet vibrant colour. A symbol of hope after what seemed like endless months of taking refuge from the elements.
Not needed this year as we have not been through the wars as we so often do weather wise. Consequently, I have remained rather buoyant much of the winter and there has been a much more animated atmosphere around the whole place. Now of course our thoughts turn to Summer and the season.
Will we get some decent beach weather? Was it wise to spend so much of my leisure time getting out and walking the land this winter and consequently being behind with all the things I was meant to do by now? But then to me being out in nature is an absolute pleasure; nothing short of sacred. So I suppose time spent "out there" is never wasted as it feeds the soul which is perhaps the most important thing.....? well, at least one of them...