There are times when there is magic afoot that we barely notice let alone comprehend, unless we’re attuned to its presence.
Two days after I blurted out my last short blog about pond-skaters and starfish – the title for which was, by the way, driven more at the time by the image of the pond-skater than the starfish – the universe gifted me with the most magical of experiences.
It’s been a glorious few days here in the south-west of Ireland – with clear skies, high rugged mountains reflecting the shadow of white clouds drifting above, and a still, dark-blue, sea fringed with copper-coloured seaweed. The other morning I headed out with no particular intention except to immerse myself in my surroundings and allow my new lead character (Morwenna) – who has emerged from the mountains over the last few days – to show herself more fully.
After a few hours of alternately strolling in the unusually warm October sunshine and lounging on my back in the heather, I strayed across a track that meandered towards a copse of small trees. From where I stood, the track seemed to lead through the trees to the landward side of a cliff – beyond which, I knew from earlier exploration, lay the sea. It was a dead-end, as far as I could see. And yet something pulled me in. As I followed it, intrigued as always by the hidden, gently pushing aside ferns and long grass, I could feel the mood shift. It felt as if I was crossing a threshold – stepping through a portal from a mundane world into another that lived by different rules. And as I climbed a low stile that brought me through the trees, there it was in front of me – a sea cave, whose rocky, shadowy entrance stood in stark contrast to the bright sunshine all around. Sea arch is probably a more accurate term, as the cave stretched down and back towards a smaller opening at the far end, through which the Atlantic waters come and go.
Sunlight shone in on part of the water in the cave as it softly rose and fell, sending dancing reflections onto the high rocky roof above. The gentle plink-plonk of drops falling was all that broke the silence. I sat on a rock, mesmerised by the timeless portal I had stumbled upon, soothed by the quiet rhythm of the drops and breath-like rising and falling of the water.
As I sat, a small shape caught my eye on the side of a rock a few feet in front of me and below the water’s surface. It was a small pink starfish! I grinned broadly, astounded at the synchronicity, and struggled to quickly get boots and socks off, and roll trousers up, so that I could wade in for a closer look. Tentatively I reached my hand into the water to touch it – and it came away on my palm. Dead. Ah well. It was still a beautiful touch of symbolism from a magical universe. I placed it carefully on top of a rock where I could photograph it more easily.
As I stood, fumbling with my phone’s camera, something tickled my toes and I glanced down to see an almost transparent crustacean – then two more – exploring my bare feet. They butted gently against me then darted off to my left, taking my attention with them.
And as they disappeared below a tuft of seaweed, my eyes saw what it seemed they were drawing me to – a large starfish, more blue and alive than I have ever seen, moving gradually along the side of a rock that had been hidden from where I had been seated a few moments before.
How long I stood watching, in awe, as it drifted lazily along the rock – crustaceans now back nibbling at my feet – I don’t know. But when I finally turned to go, gathering up my boots and my phone, I noticed that my smaller, pink, ‘dead’ starfish had already started its migration back towards the shadowy side of the rock on which I had left it. It was no more dead than the blue one – nor the tiny white one that also caught my eye as I turned yet again.
Confirmation from the Universe that I am, indeed, a ‘starfish’? Or just one of those inexplicable coincidences? Who knows. But isn’t that the wonder of magic – that it can’t be explained?
(PS For those who are fortunate to be in the area, the cave is a real place and can be found on the Pulleen Loop, a few kilometres outside of Ardgroom on the Beara Peninsula)
(PPS And for those who are astrologically-minded, the starfish ‘discovery’ coincided with the most recent peak of a Neptune transit to my natal Mercury)