In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.
I know very little about seagulls. We do get them here where I live, far inland, raiding the landfills… but they seldom cry. There is something heart-aching about that sound that pulls at the soul with an indelible longing. And always, when I hear them, those lines from Tolkien wander through my mind. It is not a discontent with what is, but rather a yearning for the possibilities of what might be; a feeling very similar to that of childhood and the first sight of a summer sea. That too was carried on the cry of the gull. And we were heading for the beach…
The plan had been to take the train into Harlech and walk back, a couple of miles along the beach. The heat, however, was intense, so we settled on a more gentle perambulation, seeking out a quiet corner on the sands. It is our custom to invite our companions to share readings at these events. Some choose pieces that fit the theme of the weekend, others choose readings that speak to heart and mind. They always seem to fit the moment and the environment somehow, even when we have not given a detailed itinerary or when we have changed our plans to suit the day. This time, we had added the bibliomantic readings into the mix too and the randomly chosen quotations had a special relevance and nowhere more so than on the beach.
“Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”
We found a spot where someone had been balancing rocks. There were a number of these ephemeral sculptures around the place where we rested. It is not as easy as it looks to get even these fairly regular pebbles to retain their place. Michael Grab is an master of the art and his gravity-defying sculptures are something else entirely. He describes the meditative state of awareness that is both required and engendered by the stones as ‘finding a zero point or silence within yourself’ where awareness can be brought to understanding the form and the stone. It seemed the perfect place for the readings and subsequent discussions. It seemed, too, as if the readings were already answering those discussions, even before they arose.
As we sat on the sand, children ran along the beach, destroying most of the balanced art, except those pieces closest to us. It was a small sadness, knowing that the wind and tides would have taken them anyway. The children had no concept of what was involved in their creation. Their parents did not seek to stop them, and that brought the role of authority back into play. There is a place for it, when it teaches values, but how often are those values skewed or blinded, I wonder, by those authority itself has learned?
Those who gaze at you in joy will find your face joyfully reflected back at them.
Nicolas of Cusa
Yet, it was as children that we waded out into the cool of the sea. Typically British and unprepared, shoes and socks were removed, trousers and skirts were tucked up…all that was missing was the proverbial knotted handkerchief. My one regret was the lack of swimwear… though I went out farther than was safe for my dignity, at least the sun was hot enough to dry the sodden skirt. Such moments, when the years fall away into unimportance are reminders of who we are behind the authority of our own outer personalities. The child remains within us and just as we would not confine a child in life, so should we offer the inner child its freedom.
The day was drawing to its close as we left the beach. Flowers as joyous as the sunshine lined the paths and birds, well-used to bounty seemed unflustered by our presence. There was, we were told, one more place to visit before heading back to Porthmadog for dinner. It was to prove, in its way, as stunning a site as any we have seen…