Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lands of Legend

So after the abbey, we went to Tintagel, where the coach dropped half of us, including me, off at the coach park, then went to Boscastle with the other half.  We were in two separate youth hostels that night, see.  My group was in Boscastle.  We walked there.  And what a walk it was!  We went straight out to the sea and walked the coastal path--the path on the edge of cliffs towering above water a colour of turquoise that I have never seen before.  It was amazingly beautiful.  A few steep stairs, yes, but the view!  Wow!

You know, some things like walks and concerts are hard to describe, because I can't go over every lilt of music or every mile of terrain.  Suffice it to say it was one of the most incredible walks that I think exist.  We arrived eventually in Boscastle and noticed that luck of the draw which had assigned our hostels had been kind to us--our hostel was directly next to the water in a great little village tucked between two mountains.  Not to mention Peter was cooking dinner and made an incredible pasta lasagna type dish and garlic bread and...wow, it was delicious.  We missed the evening singing but I was tired anyway.  Which meant I did not join the group of girls who went out to the water at 4 in the morning.  Well, that wasn't the only reason...there are certain activities in which I'm not interested in participating.

The next morning, Tony picked us up and shuttled us back to Tintagel and we went to the ruins of the castle there which are said to be where Arthur was born.  Also featured: Merlin's Cave in a little cove on the way there.  I...Look, I'm not sure how to describe how I felt accurately.  I'm going to add an essay I've been working on that is extremely rough and a bit short right now, but bear with me.

Don't talk to me right now.
Sorry, it's nothing against you, but you see, I won't hear you.
Thing is, I'm not here right now. I'm standing on a rock, wind in my hair, and waves crashing around the bottom. It's a sheltered cove, rocky crags reaching to the sky and pigeons and sea birds swirling through the air. The water is a beautiful shade of turquoise, like a polished gem. And there's a selkie poking her head above the waves.
You doubt me. But that's because you're not here. You don't see it. You haven't come with me. Take my hand and follow me. Wait, though, before we go—you have to promise me you'll stay quiet. Just listen and feel it. Ready?
Here we go, then.
Welcome to Merlin's Cove. I don't know what they call it, but we're in Tintagel. Behind us is a wooden staircase. Sorry you slipped, but I did warn you they were a bit slick. The rocks after that led to the beach, covered in long twisted sticky-brown seaweed leaves. I saw you, picking your way around so you didn't step on them. Don't worry, I did, too. There's the stream, too, trickling down a rock wall off on our right. Don't turn and look. Look out. See that? The waves coming in, the tide going out, all of it like breath. Like a heartbeat. Look at the rock, stained black by sea salt spray. Trace the lines of mussels with your eyes, following to the edge of the waves' reach. Come on out with me, step into the tide, and climb on top of this rock. Careful; do it between waves or your shoes will get soaked. Whoops, okay, I lied. It's impossible to stay dry, but here, it's not important.
You know what this place is, don't you?
This is Arthur's territory. King of the Britons, wielder of Excalibur, his dog Cafall always by his side. This is the land where Merlin lives. Highest of wizards, wielder of power unimaginable, living backwards through time. This is the land where they live, the land where every rock is charged with sorcery and you can't find a stream or a tree without a guardian spirit. That's why you don't look at the stream; the nymph there is very protective.
We're not in the boring land behind us, the land where everything is ruled by precision, by science and measured and meted so precisely that legends and stories only exist in analysis, pinned to the card where the butterfly loses its magic. But that's not here. This is the place where the fact diminishes to the fossil it is and is buried in the rock. This is the land of legends.
Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean the legends here “come to life.” A silly phrase; it means they were dead. Here, they live eternally. The very air here is the breath of kings and magicians, of magic and of fantastic creatures like you've only ever imagined. See the selkie? I told you, here, it's not a seal. In the land of facts, they'd know every muscle that made her move, but the soul of the creature here...there's no doubt she's a selkie, born and raised, and waiting for us mere mortals to get off her beach and leave her some privacy.

Like I said, rough, but the way I felt while I was there was unbelievable.  It was absolutely beautiful and I would not have been surprised to run into Merlin walking along those shores.

I walked up to the castle after the cove and poked around the ruins for a while, but I just couldn't stop staring off the side and out.  I actually...don't laugh at me, but I had a conversation with a seagull for a while.  (Hey, he was just standing there, even when I sat down not far away, and I wanted to voice my feelings somehow.) It was a windswept and rough land, but beautiful.

This is short, but I honestly am having trouble expressing just what it was like.

After that we went even further back, visiting a place called "Lanyon Quoit" which was four uprights with a big stone on top, 47 feet around at one point, I believe, that was once covered in earth except maybe the top, which no one quite knows what it was for--possibly communication with the spirit world, religious ceremonies, all that.  It's now a good bit shorter because one of the uprights fell (because people were messing with it so much) but it used to be tall enough for a horse and rider to both fit underneath.

We also saw Men an Tol which means "rock with a hole" which was...a rock with a hole through it!

(By the way...the above two--we'd expected them to be bigger and were mildly disappointed.  Which is silly, I suppose, but there you are.)

After that, we took a hike.  Really.  Started off at a beach (where I stood on another rock watching the waves and got soaked the rest of the way when one wave was abnormally large) and then proceeded to walk around the coast in a land becoming increasingly shrouded in mist.  (Remember that bit where I could believe that the legends were real?  This was territory where I wouldn't have batted an eye at a dragon peeling off a cliff and taking a jaunt over the waves.  People didn't entirely believe me when I told them about taking a flight with a dragon over the ocean.)  When we reached Land's End, it was entirely misty so you couldn't see far beyond you, which meant the land's end really was just a fog.  Not much to see.  It's like sleeping through the apocalypse.  "What happened?"  "Oh, you know, Ragnarok, end of the world, calamity, fire and earthquakes, Final Judgment.  Where were you?"  "...I had a long day yesterday, okay?"  Fine, maybe not that dramatic.  There were also small houses set up in a little village for an unknown purpose...My first impulse was to terrorize them...I don't know what that says about me, but I do know it means I'm not alone as we got several people doing the same.

Hey, check it out!  A picture!  Charming first picture, eh?

1 comment:

  1. Just catching up on your blog... I love the picture! Sounds like you are falling head over heals in love with England. Hope you enjoy the second half of your stay!