Word Eight: Spindrift

Image Copyright Kate Stone Matheson

Image Copyright Kate Stone Matheson


This was my word of the week.

It’s hard to imagine a word more appropriate to what the last twenty-four hours brought me in terms of both emotional and physical tempestuousness, and if I hadn’t sworn off against manipulating the word choices, I possibly would have attempted it. By its very sound, the word gives a feeling of being lost in a storm of sensation, or a tide of feeling too much.

Spindrift: (n.) 1. spray swept by a violent wind along the surface of the sea.

There are three astonishingly wise and wonderful books by Robertson Davies, the Canadian writer, poet and playwright, known as The Salterton Trilogy. The first of these is Tempest-Tost,followed by Leaven of Malice and A Mixture of Frailties. I adore all of the late Professor Davies’ writing, and the Salterton books, written in the 1950s, are among my favourites. They revolve around an amateur production of The Tempest; the various personalities, personas, and petty dramatics which occur behind the scenes of any theatrical effort – often in far greater colour and creative inventiveness than those played out in front of the proscenium arch.

In the words of Shakespeare’s script for that magical island of Prospero itself, Davies can, with ease, make normality a sea change into something rich and strange.

For both body and mind today, it is those words – ‘tempest-tost’ – which resonate strongly, alongside spindrift. It’s as though someone has taken me up, like a salt-drenched fine mist of seawater, and is curving and clawing me with the wind. Dependent as the four lords of the compass points are on their supreme ruler, Aeolus, I have not known which directional gust will be next to blow me along the ocean’s surface, making me feel both like a hawk and a handsaw within a single heartbeat.

Whether emanating from north-north-west or southerly, the violence of this spindrift motion has left me with pain and sleeplessness. It is the result of mourning the death of a dear and much loved shining spirit, a friend of selflessness and light. It is the violent awakening from a continuous nightmare of the senses, where true physical pain has resulted in mental imaginings too cruel for even my sleep-deprived body to overcome and dismiss. It is the fury of being taken advantage of, of seeing a kindred spirit in distress due to the manipulative and stealthy advances of a predator in a highly effective disguise of affectionate care. A crooked Caliban using magic to entrap and ensnare.

All of these things have left me with stress beyond the normal, which in turn mean a twisting of my own body so that it, too, is more like the dog Caliban’s than any blithe Ariel. Parkinson’s is a stress-reactive disease. It worsens when I am angry, upset, and tired. It leaves me feeling, like that spindrift spray, as though I have no say in my own destiny.

Yes, the feeling will pass. Control will return. What worries me is this.

Because some of the spindrift sensation has come from anger at being taken advantage of myself, and more so at someone I care for being hurt, I am concerned that, much like the title of the second of the Salterton books, I will spend time, once controlled, planning and acting in a leaven of malice and wickedness, rather than, as Corinthians tell us we should, with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Having a disability doesn’t make you any better than the next person. Sometimes people forget this, and see you as some kind of long-suffering saint.

It doesn’t make you any worse, either.

Unless, of course, the next person is Donald Trump.

If that’s the case, then I still have a long way to go in the evil stakes.

This thing of darkness I
Acknowledge mine.

– The Tempest