“Take notice, be astonished, write it down.” Mary Oliver
Trekking home from the wide mouth of the mystical Mbashe, it’s valley rising steeply away,
a magical staircase disappearing into the verdant distance, layer on layer of quite indecent green.
Wreathed in salty mist, softening the outline of everything and hiding the Nguni herd in full sight on it’s bank.
Gulls and terns and oyster-catchers wheeling and landing, wheeling and landing in formation, like shoals of gleaming fish in the dipping sun.
Our deep foot-prints instantly filled with freezing ocean,
the foaming water’s edge rich with high-tide treasures:
a shell, a seed, a tiny silver fish…
and then, as if by magic, conjured from my imagination, a delicate spiny seahorse,
so impossibly perfect that I don’t believe my eyes!
Transfixed with wonder,
marveling at her graceful detail,
awed by her perfection.
But she was gasping for breath!
Galvanized into action, I sprang from my reverie
to the rescue,
gathered her up with all the urgent tenderness I could muster
and hurried her back into the icy ocean.
With all my heart I wished her well.
Her perfect image imprinted forever in my brain.
It was only the following morning that it came to me.
I had it wrong.
My seahorse was dying of cold.
In my ignorance, my clumsy anxiety to rescue, I had failed her.
I should have held her while she died,
Somehow conveyed to her my wonder.
Cried her a rock pool of warm salt tears
into my cupped hands.
With the crystal clarity of a cleanly breaking turquoise wave
I saw how my well-meaning efforts to fix and help and save
might do the opposite.