‘Chalk’ is built around a tiny handful of memories from the summer I turned two, spent in and near my French grandmother’s clifftop house in Normandy, across the Channel from Worthing. Because I was so young, those memories feel as fragile and crushable as shells in shingle. But my hope was that, through being in a marine landscape that echoed Normandy’s beaches, my solitude could become a form of translucence, making me more permeable to my two-year-old self, and allowing her find a language to communicate her experiences. I decided to observe the tides, creating a reflective practice to help tune into the receptiveness that is instinctive to very young children.
Out on the shoreline that first afternoon, sprays of seaweed fanned out like swimmers’ hair. The retreating tide was setting the sand into ripples. In rubber boots, I waded through wavelets, crouched down to peer into rock pools frilled by floating sea lettuce, jumped giant steps across freshwater channels. My half-French father first took me onto the beach in Normandy during the two-year-old summer which ‘Chalk’ records. He died when I was eight, but his love is at the foundation of my identity. It has helped me to live beyond the childhood sexual abuse visited on me by my mother, which intensified after his death.
The sun was easing down the last segment of sky, tinting the clouds mauve and apricot, and causing the shallow tide pools to flame with colour as I finally headed back, with my thoughts expanded and my spirits lightened. Climbing four floors to my room, it seemed as if the natural world had opened around me. I imagined the same sunset flaring across the Channel.
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