An Awareness Walk by the Sea

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An Awareness Walk “By the Sea”

 

From Holy Trinity Church look towards the sea. Directly in front of you there is a path with the new Westbeach flats on your right, leading into a smaller path to the sea. Once you reach the sea front you are on the “South West Coast Path” - a major route that begins in Minehead in Somerset and goes all around the coasts of Devon and Cornwall and on to the shores of Poole Harbour in Dorset. Think of all those who have walked this way before you – the communities, landscapes and beauty the path connects.

Turn left or right. There are benches all along if you want to sit. To the left the path goes past “the ruined house” and continues along the cliffs towards Abbotsham. To the right the path continues into the main sea front area of Westward Ho! and there are several places where you can walk down onto the beach. Depending on the tide there is much to explore – the beach, rock pools, ancient wooden ship wrecks, the “pebble ridge” (a natural defence that stands between the beach and the “Burrows” behind – an area of moorland and sand dunes), the sky and sea-scapes.

The sky is immense with different colours, patterns, light and shapes, reflecting in the sea itself. The sea is vast, unrelenting in its movement. Always there. Sometimes wild, sometimes soft and gentle. It can be any colour from brown through slate to bright blue. It has a mood to suit all occasions.

The surf may be clean or choppy. People may be surfing on boards or with kites – skimming over the waves, making fantastic jumps. In the summer the beach will be full of children and families enjoying the sun and the water. Harbour porpoises can often be seen playing and oyster catchers fly and call. It is a place for people and nature to enjoy together.

Depending on the tide it can be difficult to see where the sea starts and the sand stops – the beach is a place of transition – a borderland. The sand appears so differently depending on whether it is wet, how the light lies and reflects and whether its surface has been rippled or left smooth by the tide. It can be firm to walk on, slippy and muddy or soft so that your feet sink in and the walking is effortful.

There will be shells and worm mounds. Pebbles and all sorts of beach flotsam and jetsam. If you see any rubbish or harmful plastic perhaps pick it up and take it off the beach to protect the sea animals.

The rock pools are home to sea snails and shell fish, anemones, crabs and small fish, to say nothing of all the different types of sea weed.

If the tide is far out you may see old wooden posts sticking up from the sand – some are the remains of ancient boats.

To your right the coast stretches across the estuary of the Taw and Torridge rivers towards Saunton and Croyde. There are channels, pools and stony places – take care if you walk a long way along the beach this way not to get caught the wrong side of a channel on an incoming tide. To your left the cliffs stretch away to the amazing rock formations of Hartland – their folds signifying the immense energy and strength of the earth. Out to sea is the island of Lundy, named after the Norse word for “Puffin” – one of our favourite British sea birds making a comeback on the island. Lundy is also the centre of our local Marine Conservation and No Take Zones, which have been hugely successful in conserving and restoring habitat and species over the past few years.

 

So as you walk …

  • Find SPACE alone. Stand still and be silent. . . .
  • BREATHE in the whole scene with eyes, ears, nose and feet.
  • Be AWARE of yourself in this place
  • FEEL your limbs, hands, fingers, feet.
  • LISTEN to every sound near, mid-distance and far away, in earth, sea and sky.
  • TOUCH as many things on your walk as you can. Use fingers and finger­tips. Feel the ground beneath your feet - is it easy walking or difficult?
  • FEEL the weight of objects. Feel the natural and the man-made.
  • EXPLORE the different tex­tures - stone, shell, seaweed, beach flotsam and jetsam. ..
  • TASTE the air, the sea – or a “Hockings” (a very special ice-cream to our area)
  • SMELL the sea, the wind, the seaweed …
  • LOOK out into the sea and the sky - things near and far – be aware of all the colours and shapes
  • LOOK with eyes and the heart
  • LOOK AT SHAPES of the clouds, the waves, the stones, the pools - order and chaos, beauty and ugliness, light and shade, contrasts.
  • CONCENTRATE on some small object - trying to see it as if for the first time.

 

 

Becoming fully aware, immersed and connected to creation is to connect somehow with God’s Spirit – his holiness, his peace, his beauty, his stillness, his majesty, his exuberance, his joy.

 

And sometimes, we find ourselves drawn in compellingly to a particular object, sound, texture, picture or feeling in the landscape. If this happens – explore and examine the object or view as deeply as you can. Ponder or pray what it is in it that you are particularly relating to.  Ask God why whatever it is has caught your attention.

 

Perhaps it is something small but vulnerable – perhaps you are feeling vulnerable – or full of compassion for something or someone else. Perhaps it is something beautiful. You wonder in amazement and cherish it as God cherishes you. Perhaps it is something broken – perhaps there is something broken that needs healing in you – perhaps you lament the brokenness of the world. Perhaps it is something exuberant which connects with the joy within you.

Perhaps something deep within will arise that will enable you to lay whatever it is before God. Perhaps something has been troubling you and you will be enabled to see it in a new way. Perhaps you will see something that helps you to understand the world or the human condition a little more closely.

Sometimes your attitude of walking in awareness and prayer may lead a stranger to feel able to speak with you – be open to such conversations – and sometimes your awareness may lead you to pray for or speak to (if it feels appropriate) with someone else. Some amazing conversations and connections have been made by people who have walked before you.

Whatever it is – notice it, ponder it, pray it, listen to God, feel his healing, his word for us through his creation – and give thanks.

The creation is a great teacher. The sea, the sky, the sand is ever- changing and ever- ready to accept us as we are – to understand our moods – to bring solace and peace.

Have a good and holy walk.

Rev’d Penny Dobbin