Ustica – Early morning swim

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Ustica – Early morning swim

Posted from Sicily, Italy.

Donkeys greet the dawn. Some time later, 7am, just after, I rise and sneak off down the path that leads to the road that leads to a track that leads to the steps that lead to the sea. The world is mine. Shiny blue-black beetles, the Antonov A225 of the Ustica insect world, drowse on the faces of sunflowers along part of the path. The sun is just beginning to turn the sea to a sheet of beaten gold. The sky is dusty blue and infinite.

I turn onto the track that skirts the excavated skeleton of a pre-historic village. No grasshoppers burst from my footfall like shrapnel, as they did yesterday, no swallowtail butterflies or painted ladies loop from yellow thistle to yellow thistle.

At the bottom of the steps the water is slurping and sloshing in a lazy fashion, mazily refracting the sunlight on the rock outcrops just beneath the surface. A few blood-red sea anenomes lie closed, plump, fleshy poufs, along the waterline. I slip on my flippers, squirt baby oil on the inside of my mask to stop it from misting up, adjust my snorkel and slip into a cooler world of different shapes an colours and textures and tone. It isn’t a silent world. It’s full of clicks and scratches. A nimbus of small silvery fish – baby grey mullet? – hang just below the surface. A pack of larger specimens fossick over a rock below, twisting and turning like beagles. A plump fish the size of a pudding plate in a tight-fitting jersey of yellow-green with narrow horizontal blue stripes eases away between the weeds. Another in vertical emerald-green, paradise-blue, buttercup yellow stripes, a gaudy parrot of a fish.

Everything sways in this shallow water – the pubic weed, the long tentacles of pink-grey anemones, fish, me, suspended, floating over the hills, the valleys, woods, gardens, outcrops, cliffs. Suddenly I’m over the edge. The world drops away, vanishes. The shafts of sunlight dim, diffuse, vanish into a blue and then black. It’s mysterious, that unknown, a bit frightening. I have no wish to explore it, to investigate and find – what? Grendel? the Kraken? Some other monster? I’m happy with my light-flooded sea world.

I was happy. I spot a medusa, a jellyfish, candy-floss pink and pulsating and ominous. There’s another and another. Time to go.