A narrow path lined with vetch, thistle, yarrow, salad burnet and low scrub led us to the beach at Cuckmere Haven. On one side was the rise and curve of The Downs. On the other, our usual route, the low, wide bed of the meandering Cuckmere River.
We arrived at an encampment of delicate white tents. The evening sun kissed a soft blush on the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. Dusk fell and we sat beside the sea eating dark chocolate and raspberries as each tent began to softly glow and murmur.
This was the same field where a company of Canadian airmen put up their marquees and bell tents in 1940. As the sun rose, bombs fell on the South coast of England and they were killed. We remembered them as we wandered through the site listening to a haunting soundscape of love poetry, spoken fragments, folk songs, pipes, slow breath and snippets of the shipping forecast. Forties. Cromarty. Forth. Tyne. Dogger. Fisher. German Bight.
There was something respectful about the delicacy of the installation. This companionable cluster of delicate pods glowed orange and white on the gentle slope down to the beach. At seven other remote coastal locations on the British coast thousands of glowing tents huddled on windy shores and cliff tops, pitched to celebrate the Olympic Truce.
It was a gentle offering, a place that gave pause for reflection, invited quietude and connection. Silhouettes milled silently in between the tents stopping in front of one or another as if it might tell them a different story. But it was a single breathy incantation that filled the air. Listening and wandering in the dark, each one of us became part of the landscape – our breath, our quiet conversations, our stillness, holding hands and sleepy children.
When the sound subsided, we could hear the sea pulling the pebbles of the beach into the dark water. Rolling in again and again.
We left the beautiful glow to follow the path back to the car, turning around occasionally to catch a last glimpse of the small encampment murmuring out there in the night. Each one of us carrying a deeper peace and searching for the frayed corners of poems we half remembered.
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 24 July 2012