• Tina Beattie

Wormholes

You can picture a wormhole as a kind of tunnel that connects two points in spacetime. That tunnel could be a straight chute or take a more winding path. If the wormhole is "traversable" it acts as a shortcut through spacetime, connecting two points that would otherwise be far apart. Wormholes could connect different spots within a single universe or they can connect different universes. (Scientific American)

I climb the dunes as the full moon sinks over the sea and dawn sets the horizon ablaze. The nuclear power station at Dungeness is silhouetted against the flaming sky. Further to the north, the sunrise dissolves into the moonlit glow and pastel colours play on wind turbines turning lazily in a soft breeze.


It's Holy Week. I listen on my headphones to Mahler's Symphony Number 2 - the Resurrection Symphony - and let my thoughts skitter through memories, longings and imaginings, with the heavy obligations of the week reflecting off all the mirrored surfaces.

I come across a piece of wood, beautiful in the sunrise, studded with metal. Behold the wood of the cross. Set adrift to float on the tides. What story would it tell? Where has it come from? What purpose did it serve?


Down by the water's edge, two men carrying long poles are pulling small wheeled carts. I make my way through the pools and across the rippled beach to ask one of them what they're doing. He has a faded scarf tied round his head, grizzled stubble on his chin and a weatherbeaten face that could be forty or seventy years old.

"Shall I show you?" he asks. His accent tells me he has probably always lived round here, in the place which first gave shape to his voice."See that there," he says, pointing to one of the delicate spirals of sand which form along the beach. "Now watch."


He pushes the rod down into the wet sand and lifts his thumb off the hollow end to create a kind of suction. He does this several times, until one of the spirals yields up its secret. A long fat worm emerges from the end of the tube. "I'm collecting worms for bait," he says.


"Oh, how interesting. Do you use them for fishing?" I ask. My accent marks me out as a DFL - "down from London" - one of the wealthy drifters of our postcolonial, postmodern, post-everything times.


"No, I sell them," he says. "It's how I make my living."


I thank him and we wish each other a good day. I go on my way. When I look back I'm gazing across time and space to a different world. If I narrow the focus of my vision, shutting out the beach café, the luxury homes and the distant power station, I could be at the dawn of human time, when death and scarcity crept into our imaginations, the earth no longer yielded her fruits and birthed her children without labour or pain, and humans began to tell themselves that living was something that had to be earned. Time, like the ocean, has rhythms and patterns which elude our grids of order and control.


I've learned something today. I've discovered what those spirals on the sand mean. It's what it's all about really - knowing how to interpret the patterns on the surface, digging for what lies beneath, discovering what it means to make a living.


Mahler's finale soars through me. The risen sun kisses the blackthorn blossoms on the dunes and the tightly fisted buds of the sea buckthorn. In my mind I hold the image of a delicate spiral of sand, and the memory of going down a wormhole.




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