Written and performed for Penarth Outdoor Arts Festival ‘To the Sea’, which was produced and directed by Splatch in collaboration with Vale of Glamorgan Council.
September 16th 2023.
How to begin, this tale of love
How to get your attention, dear listener
When all around you there’s the busi-ness of city life.
To transform you for a moment or two
And transport you to a new world
Where Gull and child play
In the dance of all life.
How to begin this tale of loss
How to get past the story of separation
That divides us from our kin.
The Gull asks
“Let us invite you in to our yarn
As we weave threads of connection
Between people, place and past.”
The Gull, a Mother now
Sits on the railings looking out over the Pier
Where she has rested all her life
Observing the ways of the two-leggeds.
Witness to it all, the joy, fear and hope
The dropped ice creams and the snaffled chips.
The Boy Gull, sitting close
Making his own wonderings about the wanderers he spies
Says, in the way that small folk do…
“Mummy, Mummy, why does the woman walk here everyday at low tide, always going to the end of the pier on the promenade, and then the same below, through the sludgy sand?”
“Oh darling, she’s certain of her uncertainty
Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable
Longing for meaning.
Resolving her inner contradictions
Seeking harmony and opening her mind
To all possibilities.
Walking atop the pier she sees expressions of the two-leggeds culture
Walking below, she sees the life that evolves in the pools and puddles that form around the structures.
The constancy of the atoms holding themselves together to form the Piers struts, timeless, yet succumbing to decay.
And she wonders about the contrast.”
The hours pass, and the light changes.
The dogs chase balls propelled by their own two-leggeds
In a mutual display of care and affection.
The tide comes in.
The Boy Gull asks…
“Mummy, Mummy, why did the small girl love her red ball so?”
“Ah, yes, I recall
The small girl who lost her ball that day.
She’d been out on the big boat
On returning over the gang plank to the Pier
She dropped her ball
Watched it disappear into the sea.
Her shiny, new, beautiful, precious
Beloved red ball.
Is that the girl you mean?”
“Yes, that’s her”
“The small girl loved her things
The two-leggeds do.
They’ve invested parts of themselves in objects
As a way to learn about making relationships when they are small
Forgetting to shift the attention to each other as they grow,
they find themselves hooked.”
The sky gets dark
The lights come on and the noise gets loud
Two-leggeds getting rowdy now
Behind Mother Gull and Boy Gull.
The sounds of their laughter in the air
Rousing some with disdain.
“Mummy, Mummy, what was the lost girl looking for?
“Ah, the lost girl who lived in the ticket office at the end of the Pier
Who did not hear
And nearly stopped believing in stories.
She walked everyday for many years
As if looking for something.
“She forgot how to listen to the stories of the land
She forgot how to listen to the stories in her body
Tales untold from times past.
But we need those stories now
For our futures to be cast.”
The Boy Gull
Still speckled with the brown jewel-like markings of a young one
Spreads his wings and leaps into the air
Swooping down low
Enjoying the flight
Riding on the waves.
His webbed feet spreading
Body in perfect balance as he takes aim and lands back on the railings.
“Mummy, Mummy, what did the two grown-up boys find when they jumped from the Pier into the sea?”
“Ah yes, of course, the two grown-up boys
who on a hot summer day at full tide
took themselves into the sea
off the edge of the Pier.
They languished in the joy of the jump!
“They lost their minds
And found each other.
They found their souls
and then got a proper telling off from the authorities
which only bolstered their resolve to do it again.
They crossed a boundary for us all
That we can find freedom.
But freedom is only so if we ALL have it
If it’s just for a few then it’s a privilege.”
“We, the winged-ones
lost our privilege as fellow journey makers long ago.
When we lost our food and came to know the opportunity of the two-leggeds waste.
Then they cast us aside, othered us.
Our survival at their disposal unnerves them.
They don’t see the relationship.
They stopped dancing with us
And chose only themselves as partners.
But what is a dance with just one kind?
As the sun went down behind the land
In the turning of the day
Mother Gull and Boy Gull joined their flock on the cliff.
Together they squawked tales of the best catch of the day
And rested well together.
For tomorrow brings another story.
Here comes morning and dippers dipping.
Capturing the dances of the two-leggeds in their ritual immersion
With lenses fashioned by the technologies of man.
Forging beauty from the turning of the Earth once more
Into the light
Into the gallery.
Into the hearts and minds of fellow travellers
As they get out of their minds and into the sea.
Gulls flock over water.
Mother Gull and Boy Gull perch on the railing once more.
Different this time
but the same somehow.
Experience shapes us all.
The morning brings the walkers to the Pier.
“Mummy, Mummy, why does the small two-legged stand frozen so at that spot there, never going any farther out over the sea?”
“So it’s this story you settle on today, my love.
“What can we learn from the woman who loved the living world and her small child who walked on the pier one morning?
The boy wouldn’t budge you see
he froze solid the moment he passed the point at which you can see the sea through the slats in the floor of the Pier.
His Mum tried to reassure and encourage him
But he just wouldn’t move, stuck
caught up in his fear.
“He sees the eerie world beneath
through the gaps in the construction
Forged by machine from tree
And it fills his heart with fear.
The two-leggeds have forgotten their connection to the winged-ones
He’s scared of the height because he’s forgotten the part of himself that can fly.”
“I can fly Mummy, look at me”
And the Boy Gull launches his slender feathered body off into the air, moving his wings in just the right way.
He’s still learning too.
As he returns and snuggles into Mother Gull, he asks,
In the comfort of knowing the answer from asking many times before,
but hoping for a new perspective from the telling of the tale this time…
“Mummy, Mummy, why did the Gulls flock on that day when the sky went dark?”
“Gulls have always flocked
It’s how we keep the stories alive.
But on this day
When the Pier still welcomed big ships and dancers
And the two women as old as time made the journey from the top of the valley for a day out at the seaside
A journey they had made together every year for almost their entire lives….
Something extraordinary happened…”
“What happened, Mummy, what happened?”
“The sky went dark
The air rumbled with thundery waves
The sea churned.
The Gulls flocked, hundreds of them from all along the coast.
The wind was warm on their feathers
too warm for this time of year.
The two women old as time sat on the bench they always sit on
The one closest to the Pier.
Watching and telling tales of times past
Recalling sumptuous moments in their deep entanglement.
They tucked into succulent sausages from the chippy
They licked syrupy drips from the ice cream.
Then the seagulls started calling
You know the sound
Louder and louder as time went on
The two women old as time noticed and wondered.
They quieted their friendly chatter
And started to feel shivers of fear
Maybe a little excitement in their bodies
As the hullabaloo of the seagulls noisy dance heightened
In full murmuration now.
Sweeping back and forth in the big sky
Over the muddy sea.
Suddenly, a not so loud creak
And another, creaks of age, wood rubbing on metal
The cacophony of the sounds
The squawking Gulls
People on the Pier had started to notice something strange
Slowly but surely the Pier was starting to move.
The Gulls danced their loud sky dance over and under the Pier
Bizarre and berserk.
Who could have believed it…
A loud slomp sound, and another, and another
As the pier lifted pillar after pillar from its long time standing place in the sludgy sand.
The people shrieked as they ran
Desperate to get back to shore
For the pier was really moving now.
Boards creaked and groaned
People laughed at the ridiculousness of it
And ran, for their lives.
The two women old as time
Watching from the safe distance of their bench
Watching as pillar by pillar
Slomp by slomp by slomp
The Pier, like a caterpillar,
Moving legs as body undulates
Started making a path out into the sea.
Moving through the water
Limb by limb
Splashing and sploshing a way out towards Flat Holm
Not looking back, only forward.
Before anyone could make sense of what had happened
The Pier had gone.
A city needs its dreams
And it’s dreamers’ wild freedom.
Dancing a wilder rhythm now
With open hearts
And fire in our bellies
For the good of Earth and the rest of life.
We are at the event horizon
It’s what we do next that counts most for the future of our people.
Perhaps they teach us
Resourcefulness, persistence, intelligence and loyalty.
We still know water and wind
And flesh and bone
We are the keepers of the stories.
Weaving love amongst the loss.
Once spoken, words are free to land where they will.
Into our awakening
Invoking encounters with all life.
And everything that has been, is now and is still to come.
Into webs of meaning and connection that weave themselves between
With compassion, insight, intuition and clear vision
Vital and blooming we go
Into dream circles to find a common language.
Making the world together through our stories.
As we wake up to the world and it’s aliveness
In a moment of surrender.
To the sea, to lose our minds and find….”