Tonight we’ll cross the Channel, setting foot in the UK bright and early Saturday morning. The rituals of the ferry are ranked high in my list of life’s joys – the quayside queue, the oft-imagined supper, the little cabin, and the ‘sailing the seven seas’ (!) imagination of my busy-port watching boyhood. Oh, but the leaving! Leaving the places we love is always so sad. My olfactory memory-mapping goes into overdrive.
Tomorrow, closing my eyes, I will know again in my nostrils this local salted butter, and the slight mustiness of the basement, and apple juice, and oaks and pines, and the planked floor of this bright bedroom, and the bubbling mud of the riverbed, and the warm breakfast baguette, with melon and strawberries and honey and strong coffee, and the armoire. I’ll tell myself convincingly ‘no leavings, no arrivals.’ And ache a bit.
We’re just back from an annual visit to an old and dear Breton friend. Each and every such occasion is pure celebration of life. Léonie speaks not a word of English, her first language is Breton, French her second, and cheerfully willing as we are, notre français est très limité.
Still, though, a joyful friendship has been maintained for years. By way of Léonie’s patient ear, and our willingness to leap in and have a go, together with shared delight in Brittany, hugs and smiles, laughter and tears, good food and coffee at table – we’re ever reminded that relationships are not made by words only.
We were crossing the Sound of Iona between Western Scotland’s Inner Hebridean islands of Mull and Iona – part of the Atlantic Ocean – just a little while ago, and marvelling at the ferry Loch Buie’s riding the strong current that seems set to impede her progress about half way across. I experience a little frisson of triumph whenever I see her safely arrived, either side.
And so it was again today, in Southern Brittany, during the five minute boat trip to the Île aux Moines (Isle of the Monks), the ‘pearl of the Gulf of Morbihan’. Surrounded by the Mare current, deemed to be the strongest in Europe, the little ferries do battle with the swirl dozens of times a day – something we’ve also experienced in kayaks when frisson doesn’t quite nail the encounter!
Explorers, we humans. And islands large and small have a voice that clearly beckons, no matter the waters.
Beloved holiday home beside the river
River filling now saltily sunlit and tidal
Tidal mudbanks submerged in the rising
Rising spirits and a cormorant’s call surprising
Surprising emotions swirl in quiet evening eddies
Eddies cast starbursts on white painted trawlers
Trawlers satisfactorily laden newly returned home
Home and supper with dearly best beloved