Thursday, 29 January 2015

Gateway to the West

I'm at a cliff's edge when the sun temporarily blinds me, and makes me lose all sense of direction. One foot forward, I think, must be empty space, two steps back firm, dry land. But in the confusion, I must have turned myself ever so slightly so that when I stepped back my left foot found air. For a second, it hovered there like a tightrope walker finding his or her place on a high wire. Has anyone, I wondered, ever completed this act heel-toe and not toe-heel? I wobbled which instantly brought my mind back to my perilous position and sharpened my blinded senses. I carefully drew my left foot towards its companion and heaved a mighty sigh when the pair were once again parallel as they naturally should be.
I remember thinking how I would have undoubtedly fallen if it hadn't been for all those years of flamingo-style yoga poses. Go me! High-five! I wiggled my toes rather too deliciously for in doing so my confidence rose and I took two steps forward without so much as a second thought feeling sure I would find secure ground. Instead I tumbled down the cliff face like a young bird learning how to fly. My arms escaped from my sides, but still I dropped like a stone or how a pebble is thrown to skim the sea's surface. I grazed rocks and bounced off ledges, but luckily due to the speed at which I was falling as well as my blindness I couldn't see the obstacles as they rushed towards me, although the wind was knocked out of with me with surprising regularity. I was pretty much convinced I was a doomed rag doll.
And yet in that dazzling sun, I'd done what we've all done in such circumstances: tempted fate. I'd thought I'd escaped from a close call, but that smugness had only sent me plunging to what I was sure would be my eventual death.
It's funny how the mind focuses on random musings in such situations, and how seconds seem to last for the longest time. I expected to see the life I'd half-lived flash before my inward eyes, but no instead I pondered death; more precisely its purported figure. Was Death hooded and as grim as fables say? If Death had a face, what would it look like? Could Death be the opposite to what we've been led to believe and be a benevolent figure?
Unfortunately, as I was about to form my own answers to these matters, my unplanned dive was put to a sudden end as I ricocheted off a fine strip of sand like an aeroplane making an ungainly landing.
I think I must have blacked out for a couple of minutes, but when I stiffly came to I had remarkably recovered my eyesight. My head pounded with the same rhythm as the surf, and boy was I bruised and aching, but apart from that I was notably intact and alive. The sun was still overhead and painfully bright, yet in the distance I thought I could make out a momentous reddish-brown rock with a gateway through its centre. Even from afar it looked as though it was some majestic sculpture, beautifully crafted from hours of labour.
I pulled myself awkwardly to my feet with many anguished groans and began to hobble towards it. I reasoned that if I was in the vicinity of such a landmark there would be more chance of a rescue, because otherwise day-trippers or bathers were thin on the ground. And as I slowly walked or at one point crawled on my knees, I realised the structure wasn't as far off as I'd estimated, unless it was gravitating towards me and not me to it. At any rate, I reached it sooner than I anticipated and lost my breath all over again for the reddish-brown rock was the face and torso of a man.
And what a man with shoulder-length locks and a beatific expression. Dreaming of who knows what, but it certainly made you think that whatever he might have done in the past he had been pardoned and profusely blessed.
For once, there was no internal debate, I passed through the gateway to the land beyond. Who would have guessed that Death for me was a general of the West with a hole in this chest: Shakespeare's Othello.

Picture Credit: Othello Dreaming Venice, Salvador Dali