Monday, July 6, 2009

I have come from Cornwall

After a hiatus from blogging I am back from a tiny town on the Cornish Coast, where a tiny room at a B&B made me want to hold out my hands in a don't-panic gesture and cry, "People of England! Do not fear me! I am not a giant!"

I'm used to the long and marshy beaches of the U.S. east coast, with smooth sand shading to dune grass and curving lines of breakers drawing out the shape of the land into the blue water. But Cornwall is altogether different.

The land is a green quilt of fields fallow and ripe, squares edged with centuries-old stone walls now overgrown with gorse, thick and impenetrable. These arc and swoop into hills and valleys of surprising steepness, coiled with tiny narrow roads ("Do not fear me!") and ancient-looking stone farmhouses.

When we were there the weather was unseasonably good: blue skies and high distant clouds, and the clear seawater shone turquoise in the rare sun. The shore is scalloped into headlands and detached islands, knife-edged ridges dipping down into the vertical as they become cliffs above rock-strewn coves. A few sand beaches stretch out, particularly at low tide, and everywhere there are seagulls crying.

St. Ives is a warren of stone streets and stone buildings clustered like barnacles on one of these sloping hillsides, fronted with a natural harbor which, at low tide, is dotted with fishing boats grounded on the wet sand.

And oh the town must have secrets. Smugglers, pirates, revolutionaries, adulterers, criminals, honest laborers, fishermen, mad artists. I looked at the buildings, many of them painted a blinding white through which the rough-hewn stones stood clear, and imagined basements and secret passageways, sea caves, minnows darting like silver light through long-submerged skulls.

Where people have lived for thousands of years, where their bones fill the ground and the strength of their faith built churches that still stand, green-shouldered with moss, over the town; where gulls call and the high wind bends grass over the edges of cliffs; where sailors and fishermen tend nets and feel the rough waves slide under their patched boats ... there are stories.


Babs said...

Oh what a place--so different than what is familiar to us but full of images, stories, and smells that beckon us all to it. Great description.

Peter S said...

Sounds fantastic. I can smell the algae on the seawall and the salty brine dripping from the rocks.