It is rare, on one of our workshop weekends, to get a moment to yourself outside of your room. There is so much to do and any free time is generally spent catching up with people you too seldom see. But, given that I was in no fit state to join the others for their cliff-top walk, I found myself in the car-park above Staithes on my own.
Staithes is a pretty village, once a major fishing port with every available inch of land holding fast to a cottage. The narrow streets and gay colours of the houses give it a welcoming feel… but I had completely forgotten about the hill that leads down to the bay. And this is not a hill anyone should be able to forget. Down is relatively easy… although the bits of me that were aching disagreed… but getting back up would be hard work. Still, I had a while to wait and, with the last light of the day tinting the sky, I wrapped my cloak around me, thankful of its warmth, and sat down to watch the sea.
There is a lot of history in Staithes, and I should probably mention that Captain James Cook had lived and worked here as a boy before the sea caught him and him on the waves, but to be honest, the only thing I could think of was that the sea had me too. I have never wanted to become a sailor, but the sea has always pulled at my heartstrings. Perhaps it has something to do with being as islander… something we tend to forget when we live inland. The sea is in our blood and, although many of us see it but rarely, it is never really very far away. I have lived inland all my life, but sometimes closer to the sea than I am now. For years, I did not see it at all, and even now, when I get to the coast a little more often, there is a childlike excitement and a sense of coming home.
The waves beyond the little harbour crashed and foamed, within the embrace of the walls, the sea was mill-pond calm…at least on the surface… as the sun went down. I watched a family of children collecting shellfish along the waterline, a lone mallard duck looking out of place amongst the seagulls. And I watched as the tide turned, listening to the song of the waves and the beating of my own heart. There is healing in such moments of peace and communion, when there is nothing to do except be and the sea always works her magic.
I could have gone inside and waited in the pub, but I was perfectly happy where I was. By the time the others arrived… and not by the path I was expecting… the sea had receded and so had the pain. All I needed was a coffee and a little warmth to feel better than I had all day. Everyone was tired, and the pub was packed, so instead of an early dinner, we parted and made our way back to Whitby and our hotels. At least, that was the plan. The night, though, had an unexpected treat in store…