The Woman In the Village By The Sea

Stories enter our heads and spark our imaginations. For this story I would like to thank people I’m never likely to meet. During an interview with Chris Evans, Tom Hanks conveyed this scene to describe a woman in his latest film. I’ve tried to do the vision justice.

There’s a woman and she lives in a small village next to the sea with her daughter. She’s at a point in her life where she’s found something that we all, men and women alike, search for. She doesn’t know what she has found she just knows that life in the village feels good. It’s not always happy but it’s rarely sad and the spirit within her shines so bright that it leads her onward. Perhaps all she knows about it is that she has realised that life’s journey progresses even when you stay in the same place and sometimes you have to stop, wait and listen for a while.

Each morning around 7:15am she leaves the house alone and heads for the beach. Alone swimming in the sea she feels alive and that makes it worth the cold water and the seasonal icy wind.

Each morning at 6:30am the men of the village arise from slumber and go about their morning ablutions and chores. There are those who get up earlier to meet the needs of their livelihood and continued existence. By 7:18 they are all stationed, waiting, breathing, slightly anxious that they are somehow late this morning.

The woman is wearing a baggy old jumper that hides her form and is intended to keep her warm, the old tweed pleated skirt keeps her legs warm and the ensemble would disgrace any catwalk anywhere in the world except here, and the thought makes her smile that enigmatic smile that women do from time to time.

As she walks past the partly open window of number 32, Mr Jones who is blind listens, captivated by her footsteps and the sound of her breathing, and sometimes he’s rewarded by a wafting breeze that carries a miniscule part of her in to his life and he smiles and his shoulders relax and he can face the day.

The holiday cottages are still silent and they are oblivious to her passing but at number 26, John Brown is leaning against an internal door jamb staring casually through the net curtains as she passes.

The formless jumper takes form momentarily as body touches fabric, a tantalising glimpse made so much more by the stolen moment of clarity of shape that soon hides itself. That glimpse fires his imagination and makes him feel whole, and his day and his dreams are restarted.

And as she passes the other houses that harbour men folk, on the street that leads down to the sea, the men are similarly ensconced and secreted so that they can catch similar glimpses of her morning walk to the sea. Nobody ever speaks of it. They wait and experience her passage in the same way that on Sunday they accept the sacrament. They are filled with something that is hard to describe except to say that it lights up their lives, and builds in them the will to continue.

There are perhaps times when she almost notices a sigh as she passes an open window or imagines that she sees the outline of a body through net curtains, or the occasional half perceived notion that a shadow is breathing. She smiles and moves on, never dwelling on the thought that passes through her mind, those brief thoughts that others use to construct horror stories for themselves. She learnt long ago that the rabbit hole of thoughts that descend in to catastrophe was not one that she wished to follow or contemplate.

As she walks she’s aware of life. The breeze catches the skirt and raises it a little against her left knee, she notices some flowers in a raised bed and she bends over to breathe in the perfume and she notices the jumper tighten briefly.

Her footsteps are light as she walks down the hill and the pale morning light meets her hair and caresses her face. She can hear the morning waves now down in the bay as she rounds the corner towards the beach.

She feels blessed.

Life has not always been kind and in some it would have left a bitter imprint on their soul but she found a way to resolve issues in acceptance. Accept the good things, accept the bad things, accept the nice people along with the not so nice. It’s a philosophy perhaps but for her it’s brought sanity and clarity where others gave up and got lost in self-pity and the blaming of others. And it shows. She wears her heart on her sleeve, moves on without malice and the world is grateful for her continued presence.

A tom cat purrs gently at the side of the road, she reaches down and scratches his ear, he closes his eyes and snuggles his head in to the curve of her hand and then she moves on leaving him to his reverie in the warmth of this summer’s morning.

The open vista of a ribbon of beach meets her eyes as she rounds the last corner. She feels the morning stillness and finds a place to call her own for the time she’s here. Her swimsuit hides nothing but her modesty as she undresses and as she walks to the sea, only the beach bears witness to her passing with footprints leading from a pile of clothes to the waves.

She wades in to the waist and reaches down and splashes her body before she dives in and swims. She actually swims, not that facsimile where the head is held as far out of the water as possible and the body writhes its arms and legs in an almost vertical position. She swims. She gives it her all. Changing stroke, swimming on her front and on her back, bourn up by the salinity of the waves and the sea eases as her form is effortlessly propelled along the surface.

Awake and alive with the zest that cold water brings, she returns to the pile of clothes and the towel that she uses to remove most of the water. She slips back in to the clothes that she reserves for this early morning awakening. She stands for a moment, back to the land facing the waves and the horizon feeling for a breeze that isn’t there this morning. Then she turns and walks back to the village, back to her life and family.

Her spirit is recharged as she recalls the cold water and feels the solidity of the land and the warmth of the morning light as she walks back up the hill smiling. It’s a smile that smiles inside and outside as the day moves on.

The men folk are moving around now, out of doors, going about their business, back in the real world. The women too are out and about making things right, looking after their world. They are all prepared for their day, and all who meet the woman, on her return, wish her good morning respectfully as she returns the greetings in the spirit that they are offered.

The village has started its day and life goes on.


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