“Houd vast”, a Dutch nautical term – an instruction to grip the rigging and not to let go. A fisherman’s prayer. An invocation for hard times, when life feels like the open ocean, when we are set adrift in its currents.
Holdfast is a word shaped by the sea, describing the anchoring fix for sessile organisms that live according to the sway of continual strong currents pulling one way then another. Laminarias – the kelps – root into the muddy-sandy bottoms of the lower shore; their holdfasts are tough fists with many fingers that divide and divide, burying into the sea-bed, holding tree-like stems in place so the plants can grow and survive the plough of currents.
In the holdfasts of kelp, communities of life bed in and set up home, only to be destroyed like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah when the root is pulled from the bed in the tumult of a sea storm. Sea squirts, mussels, starfish and brittle stars, coiled-up worms, sponges and the sea-lace of tiny shelled creatures, bryozoans.
I can’t help but admire their strength, the fibres of their stipes strong-willed in the waters. Here is one ripped and torn and landed on the beach, along with a felled forest of dry and rotting stalks, at Football Hole, today.