This morning I was going to swim in the sea… when I left home the sky was amazingly blue, there was no breeze at all, and the only word that sprang to mind was ‘hooray!’ When we (dogs and me) walked onto the beach the flag at the RNLI was waving around a bit so we knew a bit of wind had sprung up (the dogs know these things). The beach was, as usual, almost deserted at that time, the only sounds were the waves and the birds, a perfect time and place for wandering and wondering, praying and singing, for being filled to the brim with thankfulness and for being empty headed with absence. On the changing tide the breeze sent the clouds scudding across the sun so, although it was paradise, I wasn’t tempted in any deeper than my knees. The dogs paddled and I paddled, and it was so very beautiful – if I had been in charge I wouldn’t have changed a single thing.
When I came home, it was the usual routine – shower, feed the dogs, tidy up, re-read the chapter I had read sleepy-headed first thing. Look at Romans chapter 8 and do the homework for Sunday’s sermon (I’m being silly – it’s not homework). And then.. and then… and then….. LOOK!
My house was built in the shadow of a huge chapel and for 10 months of the year the tiny back yard gets no sun at all, but for a short few weeks the sun is high enough to arc around and give us two whole hours of warmth before it dips behind the chapel again. Two glorious hours. The patch of sunlight is just one flagstone deep and two flagstones wide, but if I move my chair around to follow the path of the sun I can roast and roast. Lovely. No views of course (unless you count drains) but wonderful sunshine. What a great blessing. Just to sit outside is such a wonderful gift.
Sometimes the most precious moments are unexpected and sometimes what feels like a problem turns out to be a blessing. Oooh. That’s a bit churchy. Sorry. Maybe I’ve belonged to a church for too long! Anyway, here’s a problem that turned into a real gift:
My village is built on the shore of an estuary. On our side of the estuary is a wide beach, sandy and gentle, skirted by dunes, and on the other side is a smaller, rockier, more workmanlike shore with a jetty and boats and a caravan park and boulders dumped there to keep the winter tides at bay. The two estuary shores have friendly, welcoming names – the beach is Poppit Sands, and the rocky shore opposite is Patch. Poppit and Patch. They could be detectives in a tongue-in-cheek TV series, or dogs in a children’s cartoon.
It’s daft to anthropomorphise beaches but here goes: Poppit thinks she’s a cut above Patch, because she comes under the aegis of the the Pembrokeshire National Park Authority, while Patch sniffs dismissively and says that Poppit is all fur coat and no knickers. They glower at each other across the shallow water. You’re either a Poppiteer or a Patchist. Some people try to love both but you can’t serve two beaches. Fact.
I usually stick to Poppit, but recently, feeling very much alone in the long lockdown days, I’ve been getting into the car and going a bit further afield just to give my bored eyes something different to see, my brain something to actually think about. Mostly, because I’m alone, I don’t get out, just drive around, but yesterday we went to Patch in the afternoon, and I took the dogs for a leg-stretch. It was a real shocker! I was shocked to my core. I thought that I was, in spite of weight and arthritic spine, a fit kinda person. OK, I can’t walk fast, but I can walk far. Very far. OK, I can’t jog but I can swim. And I love the water. OK, I can’t do stairs, but I don’t want to anyway. Who does? OK, I’m deaf but it isn’t the deafness of old age, it’s the deafness of something else. Yesterday it all got serious. I discovered that I can’t walk on pebbles! My ankles turn, I lose my balance, I feel disoriented and sick if the scree moves beneath my feet, my tri-focals confuse me…. I felt, suddenly, about 90! I managed to get to the top of a steep incline and there I stood, shakily. Paralysed. Retreating was as dodgy as going on and, reasoning that there might be another way around the promontory, I eventually continued down the scree on to the less pebbly shore. There I discovered that there was no other way back to the car except the way I’d come. Stranded. I sat on the rocks for simply ages trying to pluck up the courage to return over what now looked – to my chastened courage – like a sheer cliff face.
As I sat there, with Pip madly chasing birds over the slimy rocks, and Percy glued to my side, worrying (he’s an empathic dog) I found myself saying “This would be an adventure and something to laugh at, if I was with someone. ” and a small filling voice (the only way I can describe it) said “You are with someone.”
And I was. I was with God. So we sat there, me and Percy, and I knew that God was with us. And you know what? The scree wasn’t so worrying, I didn’t fret about falling, and I did laugh at the silly bloomin’ woman who managed to get (almost) stranded on a perfectly ordinary seashore, a seashore where toddlers clambered happily and couples strolled romantically.
And I got back to the car without calamity.
What a twit. Aren’t we a funny lot? You may not be a daft old bat yet, but one day, if you get to your three score years and ten, you will be! Here’s the news… it’s not so bad. Yeah, yeah, sometimes you’ll think it’s the pits, deep deep cesspits, but most of the time it’s not so bad.
Get ready to laugh at yourself, if and when the time comes. And remember you won’t be alone. Even when the world turns away, when the most ordinary day becomes a worry, God will be right there with you.
Even to your old age and grey hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
Today, just now, (don’t know how long it will last) I am giving thanks for all things. Even wonky eyes, hearing, ankles, back….