Boxing Day dawned with angry red clouds but I couldn’t stomach the thought of another morning trapped in that house. The rooms were shrinking with every passing day. I kissed my mother farewell on the cheek and left the comfortable cottage to take a walk along the Cornish coastline, a rucksack of supplies slung casually over my shoulder and a raincoat tucked through one of the straps. I trudged down the lane to find the familiar coastal path of my youth, leaping over puddles that stretched across the road. A combination of the poor weather and the festive season had left this tourist haven devoid of souls, and so I was left to my contemplation in solitude. The sandy beaches of Cornwall may draw the attention of the masses, but it was always the rugged cliff tops of the county that caught my eye and heart as a child. Jagged shelves of slate rock pointing to the sky at peculiar angles, mirrored in the rough and raging grey of the ocean on an overcast day; who could fail to love the spectacle?
The cove to which I made my plodding way had been a paradise in my youth. The long trek down many a step to the shoreline was well worth the effort to find caves surely still filled with the treasures of smugglers and pirates. We, my sister Andrea and I, became British heroes and explorers, the first to place our feet on the mysterious landscape before us and discover the wonders of beach and cave and ocean. When tiredness tore at our limbs we’d find a flat rock to flop atop of and watch the relentless waves warring against the impenetrable stone, chewing on sandwiches made soggy from our adventures. The future was nothing but the smudge of a rain cloud on the horizon.
Those memories tugged at the corners of my lips, though my mind continued to mull over the problems I faced. Perhaps it was the distraction of one too many thoughts that caused me to miss the rock pool in its stony depression until foot, ankle and leg were drenched with the salty gift of the sea.
Cornwall is a mild place to spend the winter, with cold breezes negated by the warm ocean air, but a shoe full of sea water and jeans soaked through to the skin are not the most comfortable accompaniments to a pleasant afternoon of ocean watching. It was my tipping point. I cried aloud in rage and frustration, scattering a flock of seagulls into the air. I thrashed and kicked my leg in an attempt to free it of the chill fingers that were creeping higher up my calf and causing me to shiver in a gust of wind. My outcry continued in a peculiar one-legged dance as I vented my frustration at life toward the rock pool and its solitary resident, a small crab.