When I was a child I used to sleepwalk. I don’t remember doing so, only that awakening I would often find myself in unusual places – curled up on the warm wooden floorboards next to the bath, facing the washing machine while it was still soaping the clothes inside, and once outside, my face shaded by tiny ferns circling the small pond in the garden.
These incidents never alarmed me, nor particularly my parents, although a sturdier lock was put on the back door after my nocturnal wanderings.
Water was the element that connected all three and it was true, I felt more liberated, unbound and unfettered in water than on land.
Swimming became second nature – pools, lakes and rivers were all entered into with glee. The sea however was my favourite, the anticipation of embracing the cold water, salty foamy drops forming rivulets down my bare skin, leaving a trail of pale tributaries; ankles and wrists aching with cold, my head ducking under the waves seeking the freeze that felt like a drug. Finally, the blood coursing warm inside my veins, the ache subsiding into a somnolent narcotic numbness.
I sought that peace more and more, it proved teasingly elusive as I grew older, but there was relief in knowing that the sea understood and would lull me wrapped in waves with the swell of each breath.
On this particular day I had been combing the beach for seashells, an activity I found both meditative and fascinating. There was treasure aplenty, the shoreline bejewelled with star tulips, tiny sand dollars pinpricked with light, hawkwing conches and minute pink cowries.
The early sun beamed through swathes of morning mist, warming the rocks I loved to clamber over both now and as a child. Their rising jagged contours a perfect backdrop to the smooth undulating beach, deserted in the dawn light.
I peeled off my thin silk shorts, leaving on a pale gauze top, a whimsical impractical garment but one I loved for that reason. I stood gazing out to sea, the soft fabric whispering against my breasts and arms as the wind snaked against my thighs and bottom. I revelled in the freedom of being almost naked, arms aloft as I looked across to the horizon.