Louise Slocombe lives in Wellington, New Zealand, city of shaky ground, challenging topography and amazing views. She has been known to write fiction and has had work published in The Yellow Room and Takahē Magazine, but these days she writes mostly non-fiction about nature, places and journeys and how we experience them. She is currently writing about birds, both living and extinct.
You come to a pier.
Let’s say you’ve been strolling along a beachfront, somewhere you’ve not been before. You’ve seen it from a distance, an indistinct line over shifting water, and it has caught your attention. Your step may have quickened ever so slightly as you got nearer. Without consciously realising it, you’ve made the pier into something to aim for. At the pier you will be able to make a decision of some kind—a decision about your stroll, or the rest of your day, or—who knows?—even the rest of your life. But this thought has not quite crystallised in your mind. It does not need to, not until you reach the pier.
And now you are here. The pier is long and straight, a timber boardwalk, the boards bleached grey by sun and salt. It extends out over the water, narrowing into the distance, its length regularly punctuated by lampposts.
You walk along it. Of course you do. You have to.
You step from the footpath onto the boards. At first, the pier runs across the beach. As you walk, you can look down over the railings onto the sand. But soon enough you reach the beginning of the sea, where the waves break onto the shore. There are scattered shells, and tangled clumps of seaweed caught up in the constant surge and pull of the foaming water. And there are gulls standing motionless, watching, on the smooth wet sand that in patches reflects the blue of the sky. And then you are walking out over the sea. You are aware of it swirling giddily beneath your feet through the gaps between the timbers. There might even be holes where the timber has rotted and you can glimpse the barnacle-encrusted piles down below, and you wonder—but only very briefly because it won’t stop you going to the end—just how safe this pier is.
As you progress along the length of the pier, you can look back towards the land that you are leaving behind, or across the water at the boats, if indeed there are any boats out there. But most of the time you are looking ahead to where you are going, fixated on that sensation of heading towards an end point, that might even become a sensation of watching your destination move towards you, becoming ever closer and ever clearer, as if you are a participant in a movie of your own life.
And so we are drawn to the end.