Monday, February 18, 2008


Sorry, but when the mood takes me somewhere I just have to go...
Each time it starts the second I get out of the car....a kind of aura begins to lift me out of whatever thoughts are in my mind. It can be the music I hear wafting along the esplanade from a nearby house or it can be the tinkle of the sea on the shore or the height of the blueness of the sky but it always happens and only today did I stop and register that thought. Every week on the same day I do a simple thing - go for a walk on the beach with whatever dogs I and my mother happen to have and I have been doing it for as long as I can remember.
It is not something I want to do with another person, but something almost secret because aloneness is special to me. Only in being alone can I use all my senses at once, or separately. Recently I have spent a few minutes of this time walking along with my eyes shut and relying on all other senses to keep me going straight, at a normal, brisk walking speed. It is so beautiful to hear the sounds of the sea so accurately, to feel the cool water as it laps over my feet and to detect the wind direction by the touch of the breeze on my face and arms. As soon as I open my eyes, sight takes over in a powerful way and dulls the other senses a little.
The sea is only a 15 minute drive from the centre of the city and the shore is crowded with houses old and new, jostling for space, but from the long, straight beach the sea stretches out to the horizon making a panorama devoid of human interference. It takes me about 10 minutes of walking, usually, to be totally free of my life and to be in a space centred on the moment. I think modern-day people pay money to go to meditation and all sorts of classes to reach this place but it is there, free to all, at the beach, if you just give it time to find you. And once you find it, it can stay with you all day, if you are lucky.
On a perfect day like today there is also time to see the changing details but when the wind is cold and howling and the sea is deafening and the walking is hard it is easy to be distracted by these personal battles and get back to the car having missed some of those tiny things that make the beach an ever-changing canvas. Ripples in the sand, tiny pieces of brightly coloured sea weeds, a seagull with one leg, stones of a certain shape and colour, shells of a different type, a pelican gliding inches above the sea, the texture of the sand, the sun appearing from behind a cloud, a dolphin fin only metres from the shore - all these and hundreds more nuances are like a kaleidoscope in slow motion, changing weekly or monthly or seasonally.
This is not so different from what is possible for us to experience in the garden but I find growing food provides me more with that skippity-doo feeling compared to the freedom and solitude of the beach.

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