Lost At Sea

Entry by: writerYNKGHTYLDE

8th April 2015
He'd looked out at islands all his life.
Always longed to make that journey.
But his feet were too heavy.
He could never lift them off the shore.
His heart wanted to go.
His body was strong.
But his mind was weak.
His feet were stuck. The sand like cement around his shoes.
He could never let go.
He was only 19 the first time.
All Ireland stood beneath him.
Huge Atlantic waves pounded the Donegal dunes.
The power, the spray, the freedom.
He looked across at the rock of Tory Island.
He'd been offered everything in life here.
Between walking in to the tiny bar at 11am and staggering out beneath a starry sky at 3am, through clouds of creamy Guinness he'd floated to his own heaven - and been offered a job, a house, a place to call home.
He'd even dreamt of romance, of a blissful union with a girl he knew amid the round stones on the hills above Derry.
This was indeed his spiritual home.
But his feet wouldn't move. Rooted in his past. He couldn't dive in and embrace his future.
It was the same further down the coast three years later.
Life wrapped itself around him on Ballycastle beach.
The wind whistled around the girl's Fair Isle sweater as she held him tight as they walked along the shore straight after he'd accompanied her to Mass.
Rathlin beckoned across the swelling sea.
He'd conquered the rope bridge at Carrick-A-Rede. Nervous. Just shy of disabling vertigo. He'd stepped out and gone where salmon fishermen had gone before him. Love had seen to that.
But he couldn't throw himself off towards Rathlin. He couldn't abandon himself to the waves. Couldn't commit. His past, his history, like bricks in his shoes, red bricks of his industrial Lancashire past, all Lowry, and dour.
The Strand at Portstewart, the shore at Castlerock, even staring out to the Blasket Islands in County Kerry, he was locked in by land, and the barriers in his mind.
He longed to be a fisherman, to sing like the Waterboys, to fly like the seabirds darting between the waves. But he could do nothing.
So he always turned back. Never pushed on over the edge. Never stretched himself to see if he could live outside the comfort of his own mind, his limited, suburban upbringing.
When he was 42 he finally summoned the courage to make a bid for the other side.
He reached out to Shetland. He even made it to Mousa, a midnight vigil where storm petrels swooped in from a day feeding at sea in the half light of the Simmer Dim. He could feel it there. The golden glow. The future. So close, to being in the palm of his hands.
And once he stood on the cliffs at Unst, the most northerly point of these Northern Isles, just as he had on the Cliffs of Moher, and thought he could finally step out over the edge. He could finally leave who he was. The urge was there. His mind was now made up. But his feet would still not move, never able to leave the grass.
He'd long since turned back to what he knew. The safety of his history.
Doing what he had always done. Making himself busy. Burying his head in the sand. Hiding his emotions, his dreams.
Until the final days came.
He'd lived his life on land.
His home now was beside the Duddon.
Through ageing eyes he looked out across the estuary beyond Black Combe to the wide open spaces of the Irish Sea.
He knew the land beyond so well. As a young man this was where he was going to be someone.
But he knew now his time was up.
His illness had caught up with him.
He'd said his goodbyes.
He'd even left a note on the table by the door, for those who might care to read.
He set out from Sandside determined to make it through the rising waters.
But he never even made it to Dunnerholme.
Today, there is a small slate on the beach.
It simply says:
Jon Finlay,
April 8, 2015,
Lost At Sea