I swam toward the promontory, passing various unsurfable reefs, the vertical cliffs high and bright in the southerly sun, reminiscent of Dover and the White Cliffs, except red and ochre, and my own. About three-quarters of the way down, I stopped to listen. To the sound of swell.
You know what waves sound like. But do you know waves from wind sound different that waves from groundswell? Swell waves are more regular, and produce a deeper sound. If the swell is big enough, the sound will be of course be loud, and on the West Coast of Ireland at Spanish Point and Lahinch and Doolin, on huge swells, I’ve felt the swell and breakers shake the ground, literally shake it. But that’s not the sound of which I’m thinking.
There’s another sound, a deeper, more visceral sound. It’s the sound of the swell coming into the coast, the sound of the actual water moving, not the breakers. And the sound of the ocean bottom being rearranged and being transmitted, being transducted, from beyond your sight to your other senses.
You hear below it your hearing.
You feel it and taste it and smell it, like it reverberates at the resonance point of the long bones of your arms and legs and ribs, rattling your heart and the drum bone of your skull where it beats you into submission and it becomes a synaesthesia of sensation, and once you’ve realised it, it will forever be a part of you.
And in the quiet, when you give yourself the space and the freedom of imagination, you will always be able to summon it because now it’s inside of you, always reverberating and echoing in your spaces, the interstices of your imagination and your living.
And there before, during and after is also another sound, one I can never capture, regardless of equipment. The sound of myself in water. I hear my breathing modulated in a liquid medium. I hear the splashing of my arms, legs and head. I hear the water wash around me. I hear my exhalation fed back to me. The sound of life becomes solid and tangible. I can see my life in the water.
These Sounds. Of swimming and the sea.
These are my favourite posts to write, the ones where I am inspired by the pure actual act of open water swimming, where I feel free enough to start working on the idea. Something like this often takes me hours to write, short as it is, and will often be months from the first idea to publishing it. I started this one about six weeks ago, one of a pair, the other still to come.