Monday, 16 June 2008
Beach Tree dancing
On the beach strange things happen. Once, so I was told some years ago, a man would go down to the beach every morning to practice his tai chi and another to practice his dancing. I believe there was a woman who also used to sing arias into the clear pale blue of the morning sky. But I don't know if that's true or not.
The two men were brothers who rarely spoke, which was a shame, but that was how it was. They had a natural dislike of each other. On the beach this was shown in their utterly ignoring each other - pointedly. The tai chi brother was called Joe and the dancing brother was called Maurice or Mo. People would walk by these two brothers with their dogs or their breakfasts and watch the gracefulness of the men. Sometimes these passers by wondered if the men were brothers or not - they looked somehow similar.
It happened one day that while they were on the beach practising their movements with such grace that the tide suddenly began to come in quickly. Joe suddenly found his concentration broken and cursed the sea. Mo danced further up the beach. Still the sea came in and the brothers were forced to retreat to the promenade and watch. The incoming tide was swift and yet, it was coming in when it ought to have been going out.
There are some people, sailors for instance, who know that the sea must be respected. They know that it has power, but they also know that it has a kind of magic all its own. Neither Joe or Mo were sailors. They were an advertising executive and an accountant respectively. They both felt upset by the change to their morning, especially given that they did not know the reason for the tide coming in when it didn't ought to have.
They both went home and changed for work. Joe went off to his advertising and Mo went off to his accounting. The next morning they both went to a wood they used to go to when they were boys. It was full of bluebells and the pollen count made Joe's hayfever worse than usual. He cursed the flowers and went back to his car. He drove home and cursed a seagull that almost collided with his car. Mo stayed for a little but then went back to his car and drove home.
Now the following day, the weather was fine and the beach was clear. Both brothers went down to the beach, but somehow Mo did not feel like dancing. He stood on the promenade and thanked the sea for being so beautiful - as beautiful as the bluebell woods.
"I don't like my life at the moment," he told the sea, "But at least I can look upon this glorious morning and feel a little comforted."
His landlord had raised the rent the previous day. A group of women at work had mocked him for being an accountant and said that he was too 'geeky' for anyone to love him. He didn't even know what 'geeky' meant or why he was supposed to be that. His boss had told him to stay late on Friday when he'd hoped to go away for the weekend. If that weren't enough, his doctor had told him that he would have to give up dancing because it was making his ankles weak. But for all that, he had this glorious morning and the previous day he'd been able to see the bluebells.
Joe, plodded onto the beach and made his way to the edge of the sea where the tide was going out. He was full of hayfever and it had made him cross. He stamped his foot down in the sand and raised his other foot, balancing himself with his outspread arms. Very suddenly without him being aware of it, he turned into a tree, right there on the beach.
People passing by were amazed at the tree on the beach and wondered how it had grown there with the salt and sand. They ran their hands over the coarse bark and a couple of dogs used it as a scent marker. It became news. Photographers were sent down to get a picture of it and journalists wrote about it. The local council met to decide what to do about it that very evening. But Mo, of all people had seen what had happened. He knew what his brother was like. Half of him wanted to walk away and say it served Joe right. The other half of him knew that he shouldn't. He went down onto the beach that evening after work and stepped gently onto the sand. He felt a warm glow around his ankles and continued down to the shore. He stood there, the waves washing gently around the tree. He was where the sea met the land and the land met the sky. He had heard at work how a car had been almost hit by a low flying seagull and guessed it was Joe.
He asked the sea, the land and the sky to forgive his brother.
"Would you forgive him?" the rushing of the waves seemed to murmur.
"Would you forgive him?" the sighing of the sea breeze seemed to whisper.
"Would you forgive him?" the shifting sands seemed to sigh.
Mo considered this and sighed. He could not even remember why he didn't like Joe now.
"Yes, I forgive him," Mo said finally.
Still nothing happened and after a while Mo went home. The next day he went down to the beach determined to dance even if his ankles broke. But his boss phoned and said that he needn't work late on Friday. Mo thanked him and left his house. One of the women from work stopped her car by him and apologised to him for their mocking of him.
"We shouldn't have. It wasn't kind and it wasn't necessary," she told him before driving off to meet up with her friends.
Mo smiled a little to himself and went down to the beach. Curled up on the sand, fast asleep was Joe. Mo raised his brother into his arms and held him for a while. The tree was nowhere to be found. Joe woke up and started at finding himself in his brother's arms.
"You want some breakfast?" Mo asked him.
"But we hate each other," Joe answered.
"We're grown ups Joe. We can do better than that. Come on, we'll do some Beach tree dancing and then go and get breakfast," Mo told him with a smile.
Joe stood up and looked sheepish. Then he held his hand out to Mo who took it. In the fast oncoming of the day, they danced on the beach... well, a mixture of tai chi and dancing. The waves rushed softly onto the sands and dashed away, whispering of eternity.