My mother took me for a weekend when I was twelve. It rained the entire time; the sea was rough; the wind buffeted and forced us to squint as we struggled along the coastal path. I couldn't get near the water. It was supposed to be special, but I only remember the distance between the experience and the ideal.
Now here I was on a Sunday afternoon on the north Devon coast, eyes straining against an unforgiving gale, hair in my face defiant of a dozen hairpins, alone and trying not to fall over. Inappropriately dressed in skirt and heeled boots, laughing grimly at my absurd romantic notion that a day at the seaside would reinvigorate me somehow.
I feel small by the sea. It has always brought me a calm and grounding sense of place - not insignificance, but something like reverence. In the salt air and drowned out by the constant grumbling roar of Atlantic waves, I am centred, as if it knows me and I know it and the roles we play.
But not today. Today it isn't loud enough; today I cannot lose my petty unease, my navel-gazing. I hunker down in view of sand and sea and pebbles, soft grey boulders reaching into the mist and ringed in white, and I am miserable somehow. My own vitality is not replenished by the life around me, not as I expected and hoped.
I now know what it is that I am here for - I want to be obliterated. To fight is to tire, but to surrender is to rest. I have come to the sea to surrender, but she won't accept my terms; I have no choice but to keep fighting, and I'm tired.
The cold, steel-blue waves; the soft green land; the milky pebbles and the unrelentingly grey skies, so vast and yet my spirit is indomitable. And do I want to be indomitable? Today, it seems I do not have a choice. And as I fight my way up the harsh incline of the pebble ridge I remember - what do I remember?
I remember that when I fight, I conquer and I laugh.