Standing on the Cold Side by Jane Swan

“The Southerly blows straight from the ice,” Nathaniel always says. But it’s the Easterly that cuts me to the bone.

I’m standing at the top of a steep cliff looking to where the sun will grow tomorrow. Behind me are the weatherboard walls of the barn. Below, the Pacific Ocean tears at the New Zealand coast. If it wasn’t for the roar of the East Wind I could hear the rattle of pebbles being sucked into the sea. Sometimes in the night the shingle is rebuilt into long piles like burial mounds.

Children are never allowed down on the beach even when the men launch the small boats.

This evening I can’t drag myself inside. If only my prayers were beacons to draw The Viper home, its sails breasting the rim of the world. How many months is it now?

I know about sighting land. Didn’t I follow my man halfway around the globe? A free farm, they said, in exchange for five years on a whaling ship.

The wall behind me casts a deep shadow. I clutch my shawl closer and scan the horizon one last time before hunger must be fed, tears dried and fair heads settled on pillows filled with the feathers of birds I had never seen, or eaten, before coming to these strange shores.

Only the other women know the space I really occupy – the narrow path I’ve worn behind the barn. It is edged with rocks I have painted white as sea spray, to mark my way in the long Southern nights.

Later I will creep into the moonlight and stand on the cold side of my world. I will close my eyes and believe. Then, perhaps, my whaler will return with the morning tide.

Published by helenmoat

Helen Moat is the author of Slow Travel The Peak District. part of the UK Slow Travel guide books and published by Bradt. The book is available from Amazon and the online Bradt shop, as well as major outlets. Helen Moat was born in Northern Ireland and spent her childhood travelling the length and breadth of the island in her Dad’s Morris Minor – or so it seemed: she still suffers from wanderlust. Helen studied German in England, living in Switzerland and Germany for extended periods. The author has since settled in the Peak District, her adopted home. She is constantly inspired by the local landscape, and the people and places shaped by the Peaks. A keen walker and cyclist, she’s happiest when outdoors and on the move. As a travel and fiction writer, she’s always on the hunt for a good story. The Peak District gives her plenty of material. -

One thought on “Standing on the Cold Side by Jane Swan

  1. I can’t think of a place in New Zealand off the top of my head that has pebbles on the seashore, but not doubt there are some! It reminds more of the place my wife comes from in the UK – Sheringham, on the Norfolk Coast. She loves the beach there, but I find the pebbles far too hard to sit on, and think they’re much better used for decorating the houses (which is what they do with them). Very atmospheric story.

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