New #USkWorkshop in San Francisco, Oct. 10:
July 27, 2014
Sun, wind, warm Atlantic water off the Galway coast - and a vivid imagination
Last evening I took the two younger kids to Killeenaran Pier for a dip. The tide was nearly high when we arrived, and the water was a beautiful greeny blue. When it's a spring tide, it rises right up over the pier, and when you wade to the edge you don't know when the ground is going to suddenly disappear beneath your feet, which is a lot of fun.
I really enjoyed the freedom of making a sketch without bothering to put things in the right place. Well, I would have, had they stayed still. But I still like the result - drawing like this is very good for control freaks. The lady in the blue top was the only person to stay still, so I drew her twice. The suntanned lad in the foreground is my son: I reminded myself once again that even if the subject moves before you've caught him, chances are he will resume the position and you'll get another chance, and he did.
I've always jumped off the pier without a care. But last Monday I called down for a brief minute, to orient my newly-arrived guests - my sister and her boyfriend - as to the whereabouts of the sea in relation to my house. There were a few dripping teenagers standing around, who had just finished their swim. As I looked at the mirror-calm water, I noticed something funny.
"Guys..." I said. "Are those dorsal fins I see? The ones going round and round in circles?"
We went to a better vantage spot a few feet away. My gut lurched and my heart sank as I realised that the fish weren't mackerel, and that the yokes sticking up out of the water were indeed dorsal fins.
"They're dogfish," I said.
"Basically tiny sharks," said my sister.
"Are they dangerous?" asked the lady looking after the teenagers.
"Not at all!" I said, with no idea whether they were or not. "Completely harmless!"
I didn't want anyone to think that our lovely pier was anything other than perfect.
"I'm going back in," said one of the girls, who was about fifteen or so. "I want to swim with them."
Her friend went with her. In they hopped, and swam towards the fish - I'd never seen anything like it for bravery. The dogfish swam away - very slowly - and I suddenly wondered if the girls were indeed safe, having basically been assured by me that they were.
"Can you eat dogfish?" asked a brother of one of the girls.
"Always thinking of your stomach!" laughed his mother.
Later, my brother, who doesn't trust anything in the sea, quickly Googled something he'd heard about a dogfish attack.
"This guy lost five toes in shallow surf off Northern Spain," he said. "Back in 1994. He was a doctor so he was able to make a tourniquet."
So now I'm nervous swimming off the pier. But I think numbers are on my side: there must be fifty people before me there every day - that's a lot of toes.
I joined my kids in the water there this evening.