I’ve lived here or hereabouts for 14 years and for the last 8 have been toddling off to the beach every morning, to walk the dogs, sometimes paddle, always pray (well, for the last 5 years) and meet up with fellow dog walkers. I’ve often heard people talking about the rare orchids growing wild in the dunes but I’ve never seen them although I’ve kept my eyes peeled at this time of year. I know they flower for only a few weeks and that they’re very small but I was beginning to think that they didn’t exist at all.
The other day I was plodding through the dunes to the beach, carefully avoiding the dips and holes dug by rabbits and badgers and rats….. but not carefully enough. David Suchet was reading the Gospel of John to me, and for a moment we lost reception so I looked down at the screen to see that annoying little clock thing telling me that it was buffering, as I stepped into a dip and went flying. It happens in a split second. You’re up and about and then you’re down and out. Winded! But, you know, I’m really really good at falling. I’ve done it quite a lot in my time, and it never worries me. I sat on the grass and the dogs jumped all over me, the sky looked down on me, the birds sang and I laughed. Ridiculous woman, sitting on the grass in the dunes, breathless and snorting, bounced upon by two small dogs. Ludicrous woman. As I sat there, with my phone flung a few feet away, David Suchet started reading Chapter 7 and I realised that I had to think about somehow getting up.
I have two damaged shoulders (years ago I tumbled down a spiral staircase, ricocheting off the sides several times on my way – told you I was good at falling) and last year I had bursitis, and sciatica (that wasn’t a great summer!) so my mobility when upright is great, but when prone, it’s not so wonderful. How to get up? If there had been something to hold onto, no problem, but there was nothing but grass, squirming dogs and……
That set me off laughing again. Ridiculous woman, sitting amongst wild orchids, unable to move. I just marvelled at the beauty of that tiny flower. These spikes are about 6inches high, that’s all, and to see the colour and the markings, and to know that no human hand planted them… and all they do is give glory to God, and maybe a moment of shelter or shade to insects… or whatever their purpose is… made me feel privileged, not foolish or silly or clumsy, just privileged. And I remembered one of Wordsworth’s first lines “She dwelt among untrodden ways.” but that was all I could remember.
I thanked God for those orchids, for the chance to see them, after looking for them for so long.
It took me about ten minutes to get up, I think. Chapter 7 had rolled on into 8 and 9 and maybe even 10. I tried it with my left leg bent… no good, that was the bursitis hip. Tried it with the right leg bent.. better, but my shoulders don’t push…. I can’t lock my elbows…. I know! Crawl to the bend in the path where there’s a shrubby thing and pull yourself up on that….. nope… the shrubby thing isn’t on this bend…. how far can I crawl? Oh, come onnn, Luce… get a grip. Launch yourself. Pain is but a fleeting thing… and if you fall down again, so what? Try….
By the time I was upright the dogs had wandered off, bored. I took this photo of the orchids and made my breathless stiff-legged way up through the dunes and then down to the sea, my knees green with grass stains. Like a very clumsy four year old.
It’s strange to be 70 years old, going on 12.
I never thought I would live this long.
I don’t feel 70.
I get really bloody furious when the world treats me like I’m 70.
“No one wants you when you’re old and grey” the song says… well, stuff that!
I mean, it’s crazy to be this old and still feel this young and unfinished. I should be feeling a bit rounded and polished by now, shouldn’t I?
When we reached the shore I spent a few moments just letting my arms hang loose, my knees lock straight, my toes enjoying the delightfully cold water…… getting my breath back, and again, lost in wonder again, I thought about the tides which I don’t understand, and the pull of gravity, which I don’t understand, and about the effect our fat little moon has on this fat little planet of ours and I said to God “I don’t understand a flipping thing! I’ve got to my three score years and ten and there’s so much I don’t understand, or know, so much I’ve never even thought of. How can I have lived in this world for 70 flippin’ years and yet I know so little? ”
And then I thought “You know everything you need to know. You know that God is there, even in the untrodden ways, even when you can’t get up, even when you’re old and daft and breathless. His glory is there, visible in everything, from the big blue sky to that small shy orchid.”
So I thanked Him for everything that morning, the sea and the sky and my cold toes, and for Pip who was chasing birds in the distance….
When I came home I looked up the Wordsworth poem and it’s about someone called Lucy! I don’t think she bore any resemblance to a fat dog-walker in trainers and a bright yellow jacket wallowing on the ground like a stranded beetle. I think his Lucy was a lot more gracious and graceful than that. Here she is, for your delectation:
She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
By William Wordsworth