Waves crash outside the French window.
They stir up the dark polished wooden drawing room of the single-floored beachside cottage. Lace curtains pulled back to savour the salt tang and the cream-coloured dunes waver and shiver in a cold wind. The north wind is coming off the gigantic swells and wine-dark sea blackening with the fleet of clouds sailing over his house, over the still crystal beach.
There's a storm coming.
A table sits against the massive thrown-open window, darkening with the gloom. Such power! Such fury is about to be unleashed across the seashore! Even from his high-backed chair, with his shoulder chilled from sitting at the window for hours, he can feel the electric power of the fleet gathering overhead.
Rock features in his thoughts; heavy rocks, thick and ancient and eternally taking an eternal beating from brine and whitecaps. Out past the point, past the little grove of windswept trees where he writes verse is where his mind's eye takes him.
The brush in his hand captures the pockmarked face of Poseidon's domain, captures the god's own stoic brushstrokes upon this beautiful cove. Outside, waves are pounding the beach with enough force to rattle the shells by the porch and send drops, the odd hint of spray across his tongue and the long, unbound hair of his whipping in the wind.
He's got the coast properly; the black oaks bent inward from centuries of such force.
It's the horizon that's hard to define.
It shifts. From thirty kilometers away, it seethes in turmoil. Swells forty feet high change his perceptions even from the water's edge, blurring his perspective. It's an interesting paradox.
He closes his eyes, drops his brush across the worn oak table by the window and the porch, breathes in. Chill. Cold. A rawness he can't describe, can barely hope to capture. It's awe-striking. Colours can't capture the force of this upcoming blow.
He opens his eyes. Studies the horizon with cold wine clutched between ink-splattered fingers. He needs to think. He needs perspective.
The bur and tangle of waves, the parade of clouds across the horizon adds weight to the eye, crushes it in thunderheads and cloud arches and the millions of waves crashing across millions of beachheads across this enduring coast.
The wine remains untouched as he ponders. A sail stirs across the horizon, just beyond the cleaving rocks and stark surf. It's a fishing boat, darting into port before the storm hits.
The masthead flies Coel's mark. It tosses, it shifts, it bounces across the waves, seeming to mock the sea god with every twist of its supple hull.
There's a thought.
The old artist begins as he always has. Flicks his brush to canvas and stares out into space. The open door to his cottage's bedroom is within his sight, but his mind is cast away and lost between the howling winds and swirling waves outside. Every whitecap, every bone-white drift-log and sail fragment has locked itself into a memory that demands perfection. It demands precision.
But there is little of that in a seaside; less in a storm's preparations. There is fluidity, there is shift; there is a progression from swell to beach. From thunderhead to storm. From gale to calm.
Deep inside the nerves and the touch of an artist, there is the ever-present worry that this canvas, of all canvases, will remain unfinished, soiled, imperfect in its aspirations to capture nature.
There is no need. Lines drop from the sky, perfectly straight, blurring all detail and casting another layer of shadow to the scene. Rain claws into the scenery, obscuring all.
Perfect. An effect. His hand dizzying sloshes the backdrop, the clouds, the storm, his work. Minutes pass like years.
Then, it is enough.
He lays down the brush and takes in a breath.
It's calm outside. Dead calm. The fleet is ready.
Poseidon cracks the sky apart in a storm unearthly.