The islands

For now, the road has stopped climbing. It clings to a slope of old scree, turf-covered, which falls at a dizzying angle to the sea, far below on my right, where the surf draws white outlines round a shelf of black rocks. The turf is velvety green, though in many places the huge stones break through, and here and there a scar of torn earth and unweathered stones tells of a recent landslide. There are boulders on the road.

On my left, the slope rises to a wall of cliffs, which baffle my eye but are surely huge. Waterfalls split the wall at intervals, still full and brownish from the recent rain, and leap down the scree in gorges which pass under the road by echoing culverts. They are wonderful to walk over.

Above, a great mass of cloud flows over the cliff-edge like another vast waterfall, melting into invisibility as the vapour hits warm air above the scree. The sun gilds the edges of the cloud and sheds a misty light on the base of the cliffs. Where I am, it’s hot.

And I am floating, as I walk, in the great emptiness between those cliffs – those fearful, awesome cliffs – and the distant floor of the sea, which spreads out below me in dappled blue and silver. Currents wend across its surface, like lonely roads themselves, perhaps leading at last to the islands which line the horizon, faded blue by distance, in strange and ill-assorted shapes – low, steep, jagged, sheer – like a handful of sea-glass strung out on a thread. Are they real? They look unreal, translucent, as if they belong to another world.

I gaze at them, and there’s a hunger in me. I want to be there, to sail on that horizon, to walk on those islands.

But the road leads on, and roads are for land, not the sea. Wherever it’s leading me, it can’t be there. And I have no boat.


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