The Wave

July 2008

I never liked making lots of trips, so I have the house key in my pocket, roof key hanging from my little finger, studio key in the hand, coffee mug in the other, camera tucked under my arm, measuring tape, cell phone, and various other unidentified things in the crook of my other arm. My foot is adept at closing the door behind me and I make it up stairs, open the door to the roof, slosh the coffee just a little (Mum: “Emma, don’t walk around drinking coffee, you’ll spill it” Emma: “Yes, Mum..:”). Now I pile all the contents of my arms onto the crappy white plastic table we salvaged from the street. The empty coffee tin was among the various unidentified things in the crook of the other arm and I think, how did that get there? I can’t be bothered to go down stairs again, so the empty tin sits outside for most of the morning until the next coffee break.

I’ve got to finish a body of work. Or at least abandon it in its present state. The longer I have it lying around, the more I’ll tinker with it and, seeing as I have to get it and myself back to New Zealand by the end of July, I need to complete it. I’m also sweating in my studio. It’s 40 degrees plus outside and the old brick tiles of the studio roof aren’t helping matters. Later in the evening we will go out to cool off at the swimming pool in my brother in law’s apartment block.

Later that evening at the pool-

She dive bombs. She goes in head first. Feet first. Tummy first. She swan dives and star dives. She’s a brown little nut running around in nothing but her tog pants.

Mira! -she calls to me “Look at me!”

I’ve just dived into the pool. Inmita, my five year old Spanish niece has dived in after me. I was terrified of deep water at her age. They’ve just come back from a weekend at the beach. She’s been in and out of the water all day, diving into waves.

The closest beach here is a long Atlantic stretch, full of candy cane sun umbrellas, beach towels, queues to get ice creams and chilly bins. We’re going to the beach next weekend. We will swim in the morning, eat lunch at 2.30pm and later, after cool water melon to finish, there will be a long siesta. Then there will be teasing because I am so white and my in-laws are so brown. A photograph will be taken to accentuate the difference. And granddad el abuelo, brown as a coffee bean and not to be disturbed, will be snoozing in his beach chair in his togs, newspaper resting on his ample tummy.

My dad has a story about togs. Foxton Beach in the early 50s and dad is running around in his new togs knitted by his grandma. All the kids have new ones. Before long, after a few swims, the togs start to lose shape. Sand is all through the wool and the garment is sagging down his legs, the elastic is a bit tight and his bum is getting really itchy…I know that feeling…itchy, sandy togs. No matter how much you rinse them you can never quite get it all out.

Like my niece, I love the waves too. I love feeling the drag on my body and diving in just before the wave hits, to feel myself limp and suspended in that weightless place as the wave passes overhead. I could do this for hours. Then as you rise to the surface you have a moment of neither wave nor pre wave, just the swilling sea.

I was reading one of Bill Cooke’s recent articles, and he mentioned the word ground breaking. It caused me to ask myself. Am I a ground breaker? Am I like Tumatauenga out there on the prow of the canoe, surfing the wave, cutting at the wind, first into the new space?

No, I’m not. I can be found floating in that vacuum left after the wave has passed, contemplating and pondering. However, in my own time, I’m discovering little things, perhaps already observed and felt by many, but new for me. In my little life it was ground breaking to lose my fear of deep water, even when other kids had lost it years before. I remember those early swimming lessons¸ the poor swimming instructor encouraging me to let go of the edge of the pool. Some of us just take a little longer.

And now, in the waves I lose all sense of time and place, finally crawling out much further down the beach than I realised I had gone, bedraggled, tired, pulling at my togs, contently in search of my towel.

P.S. Dear Spanish speakers: my apologies for misspelling Pasodoble in the last article. Never fear, I was duly told off by my Spanish Editor.

P.P. S. Dear New Zealand, put the kettle on and pull out the ginger nuts, I’m coming home.


About the author Emma Louise Pratt

Emma Louise Pratt studied at Ilam School of Fine Art, Canterbury University, New Zealand. She has been the runner up in the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award (2005), and a finalist in the Norsewear Award (2007) in New Zealand and finalist in the Focus Abengoa International Painting Prize, Spain in 2014. Emma is known for her landscape based work where she explores specific landscapes that convey significance to her either for their historical or personal importance, serving as they always have, as a personal travel map.

All posts by Emma Louise Pratt →

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