Taking the Waters

limpet shell

A man on a beach near the mouth of the Firth of Forth is reading to the sea. He stands about ten feet out with his trousers rolled up to his knees reading aloud from a large book, turning first to the left, then to the right and then to face the horizon.

When Rachel tells this story later, our friend the musician says: maybe it’s the man’s wife. Maybe he scattered her ashes out there.

They reminisce about sound artists they’ve known who worked the shore. Recording underwater is apparently a simple matter of putting a condom on a microphone and dangling it off the end of a pier. But what must the other fishermen think?

Walking the beach at dusk, a low surf of sand flies rises in front of us with every step. Listen, says the musician, and holds his video camera down to capture it: a whisper, like dry rain. We’re near the ruins of an old spa where ailing Victorians came to float in saltwater pools. The red sandstone blocks in the ancient wall behind us have thinned almost to nothing, some of them, under the sea’s corrosive treatments. They are scooped and scalloped. The sunset light like a hermit crab creeps in.

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