The salt mill rests in the deep dark, on the soft floor, of the sleepy ocean. And down there, rusted and worn, it struggles to grind down the lonely hours. Churning what makes the sea so unique and special. No, the sea is not like the rivers or lakes. She is larger than life, swelling with birth. And if it weren’t for the mill, struggling to beat out her bitterness, in the pitch black, in the darkest night, the coldest world you’ll never see, where would we be?
When summer strikes and the sea cools our tired limbs. Where would we be when in love, if we could not walk this shore, and feel the sea in our mouths, as we hold one another, in our palms the air rusting our cars. Where would we be, when dreaming of being reunited, of not hobbling, barefoot, across the rock pools, wishing to share the sights we see with that someone, that person who wandered off ahead.
There are no perfect things in this world. Still, whales sing songs to one another. Did you know? They tell each other war stories, of up and coming danger. They are the news reporters of the great deep. And sometimes for what seems to be no apparent reason, they all die together.
The mill is no larger than your kitchen sink. In fact it is small enough to hold in your hands. So many divers have gone down, risking their soft skulls, to see it. They dive down in sleek black suits like baby seals. They kick their two foreign flippers behind them. The light they take shrinks the further they go down. The silence, they say, is not like that thick silence of a sound proof room. I have heard that that terribly difficult lack of noise is hard to express without gritting your teeth. There are still voices within, as always, as if the diver were on a train or resting in bed. Still fleeting thoughts of what the diver needs to do, or should have done, or could have done, or never will dare to do. Swimming down into the great abyss thinking, I will never fly or fall in love again.
All have returned. Pulled to safety by their friends and lovers. But not all, once out, have felt the delirious open air. The sad clanging of the wheel furiously turning, bubbles gurgling to the surface, the wide eyes and clenched palms and the nervous what if thoughts. What if he doesn’t make it? They all subside once the diver reaches the surface. Panting or still and blue, as blue as the waters surface, dead diver painted appropriately into the afterlife. A last moment tattoo.
It is true that we do not need to swim by the side of a whale to believe that the animal is real. The unpredictable blubber truck, so large, and we so small and full of such sticky hope that we are more. That bright attachment, hope. How easily it can be blown out by the open jaws of Moby Dick.
And when the divers go home, what do they do? And when the family members of the dead divers sit down at the dinner table, how do they eat? I have heard that once you lock a secret between your lips, wine tastes sweeter. And with each sip the idea of sharing becomes more and more hospitable. Dreams become stronger when desire sits at the edge of your bed. I know those divers, in their warm dry beds, would dream of the rolling seas, of spray and squinting to see the horizon. And deep down in their slumber they would see a flicker of orange, between the murky waters. Alien fish, that were they to rise to the shores, would scare away the paddlers breezing around the rising salt. That lonely elusive mill, churning down the hours. Why are we drawn to it? And then morning, in its urgency to be enjoyed, waking the divers in worried sweat. In salt. Cursing, ‘Last night I saw unbelievable things.’
Once there were close to 350,000 Blue Whales swimming in the belly and they were built to swim for eighty years. Then the whalers discovered blubber and arrows. Now there are no more than 12,000 Blue Whales in the ocean. An estimated 338,000 spills of blood and lost loves. And the largest Blue Whale weighed 177 tonnes. How much of her was blood? There are stains on our hands, shaken down through generations. Lucky we can’t see them.
Then in the United States of America at Florence, Oregon, in 1970, a beached sperm whale was blown to pieces. And I wonder, I do wonder. Why don’t we, after our wars, simply blow up our dead soldiers? Blow our sons into tiny pieces, so they may fly across the grain and feed the birds and, for once in their lives, not cause any trouble. Let’s not be ridiculous anymore, shall we?
All mysteries have been lovingly tied down into history through creation stories. The diver’s parents made love on the sand whilst the moon watched and the dingos scavenged for food. They made life together, alone in themselves, and one of the diver’s fathers had his hands on his lover’s sandy skin And with her hair for a moment curled around his ear, she pulled her neck up to kiss him. Her hips made waves against his shore as the mill turned through the night. The scent of his saliva and her aching lingered in the air as she looked to him and thought, ‘What if?’
One of the diver’s mothers was a writer and in the 4th month wrote: What if it’s all history, the words I write? All old? And my typing hands, lacking in dexterity, shaking above the keyboard, searching for a slice of something close to death. What if I don’t find it?
Unbeknown to her that the child in her womb, with webbed toes, would push out through her, and in his innocent eyes hold her trembling in fear. Once home his father looked to her and she to him as the diver cried for milk, and in unison they said, ‘What do we do now?’
Did you know that breastfeeding does not come naturally? Not to the child or to the mother. The breast is our first jigsaw puzzle. And ironically, for some, continues to be throughout romances.
I’m going. In a thick black suit, I’m going down. I’m going to sail down through the colourless and, with each hopeless compression of my head, I will think of the dead and grow nervous. Recalling the last place I walked ten paces. The dock, I will think, the dock, as the alien fish creep in and out of my peripheral vision. My light will shrink, unable to record the distance between my body and the surface, my skin and the seas floor. Unable to measure the distance between my floating hair and the lost shore. And swimming, cold and slow, mind gripping onto only how the light is muffled by such darkness I will see the mill, churning down the moment but only for a moment before I