If I have to use words
by Mercedes Webb-Pullman

 If I need to speak because you stopped listening to my music, I will.

When I breathe in, trees breathe out, dance differently; flax sighs or screams, the ocean changes tone as it nibbles or gnaws at the land. Listen. Let waves draw you into their rhythms. Breathe with me.

Clouds, scattered like young lambs, shadow in patches the glare of sand and glittering ocean. You feel them touch you, fleeting, gone.

Children’s laughter laces a ribbon between dog walkers, strollers, joggers, bikers, fishermen, families sharing ice creams, or fish and chips from a newspaper package, holiday-makers, convalescents, school girls cutting class to share a cigarette. Mirror-imaged in wet sand, spaced for maximum privacy, people come and go through the faint haze that leaves a salty taste on your lips, drops of moisture in your hair.

Here is childhood; sand castles and tides, waves and games, love letters and moons, customs and rites.

The charms and incantations a tohunga sang over Te Rau-o-te-Rangi, The Swimmer, live here, where every mother is bound to her child, who floats safe when the mother is safe. This may not be the place that gave you birth, but it is the place that gives you life.

The first time you cooked and ate your own catch is here, even if it happened elsewhere. The first time you conquered your fears is part of this place, maybe its very heart. These are gifts.

Find time to listen to waves, to wind in trees. You don’t need to know the words — this music will teach you far more than words can. Breathe in time, align yourself, be part of the spirit of Kapiti.

If I can’t make you listen, you’ll lose me.

IMAGE: Paekakariki Beach, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The piece came from noticing how many people on the beach have plugs in their ears, so they’re cut off from and unable to respond to the rhythmic sounds of waves, wind in trees, seagulls. They miss out on much of what a walk on the beach has to offer. I personified Mother Nature as this voice, chiding us for ignoring her.


Mercedes Webb-Pullman started writing in 2007. She gained her Diploma in Creative Writing from Whitireia, 2009, and graduated from IIML Victoria University with MA in Creative Writing 2011. Her work has appeared in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, Otoliths, Connotations, The Red Room, Typewriter, and Silver Birch Press, among others, and in  her books. The latest, The Jean Genie, explores the work of Jean Genet. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. Visit her at