…the green of swimming

The Witch’s Cauldron, Pembrokeshire

30.
You slip into the water from the smooth slate shore, the slanted rock sometimes sharp sometimes smooth beneath your palms as you edge your way deeper. You are in a small cove, the opening white with surf but here the water is glass still and cold enough to make you gasp once, twice, three times, but then your lungs expand, the shiver over your skin rejuvenating against the humidity of the day.

Your guide brought you here from the village, past a farm and through a verdant wooded valley where everywhere you looked was a shade of green except for the path ahead of you, then up onto the cliff top and along and around and down, down a natural stairway created by Ordovician layers that have been folded and fractured to create steps and gullies, small waterfalls and archways and the cave you swim towards now, the place known as the Witch’s Cauldron.

The gap between water and cave roof is too small to swim through, but your guide beckons you closer to see the light beyond the undulating roof where a giant blow-hole resides, where the witch keeps watch over the Cauldron itself.

While you wait you touch the rock of the cave mouth, the browns and greens and yellows formed millions of years before humans were conceived, the world exploring its capability, playing with the potential chemistry and physics of the materials she was gifted. You run your fingers down a calcified vein that’s thick as a rope, formed by a rivulet of water, you suppose, but it is vein-like enough to be the back of the witch’s hand reaching over the cliff tops, her fingers deep in the water to find the things she needs for the cauldron, the seaweed and crustaceans and shingling pebbles and small silvery fish that bunch together in glittering camaraderie.

As she works you lie back and float in the cradling stillness, letting your feet hang, only needing the smallest sweep of your hands to remain in place.

Finally the witch finishes her work and the tide retreats at her bidding. You return to the cave mouth to find your guide has already swum through, his face shadowed with the light beyond him. He reaches his hand out to you, Take your time, he says, take it slowly.

You touch the damp rock above you, kick your legs to move through the water, feeling the distance between the crown of your head and the cool cave roof, mere inches, sometimes less, and you are captivated by this sensation of buoyancy, of being drawn into the light of unknowingness and how quickly the cave opens up again, the roof now vast above your head and you within the glittering emerald green of the Witch’s Cauldron, smiling at the ease with which you can move into such a place.

You stop here and tread water, gazing at the witch’s creation and the power she has in those veined hands, and how, at other times when the volatile brews are composed and the tide is high, this cauldron becomes a broiling spitting turbulent fusion of white and dark, a culmination of everything the witch knows about the world, the actions and reactions, the people she has loved or been persecuted by, the centuries she has lived and endured and held faith regardless of her trials.

And now, this emerald potion is complete and you are spellbound, caught in the completeness of the universe — the sky, the rock, the water, the flesh — the witch holds it all in her palm and when she hands it to you the green glows bright, a green that whispers This is all you will ever need

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