Christmas Eve afternoon; another day when I have to force myself out of the house and endure the wet Welsh winter weather, but Kes, my pretty collie cross, enjoys her walks, and so I must obey her hopeful doggy plea. I walk head down along the beach, muffled to the eyeballs, hating winter and wishing for spring, as she makes happy circles in the sand. The damp on my face could be rain, surf, or tears.
Again the sea fog obscures the horizon and the headlands, and I trudge on to where the rocks and sand meet the sea. I am struck by the patterns in the surf that laps at my feet and wonder about the journey this foam has made from the green algal blooms of warmer seas. What a story the sea could tell.
Behind me, the cliffs rise bastions of endurance against the might of the sea that pounds them day and night in an eternal struggle. The rocks are rounded by millennia, the pebbles smooth and of many different colours, some with patterns of quartz running through them. And they have their own tale to tell. Some came here from far places as ballast in sailing ships that landed here to trade for coal dug from a small mine on the clifftop and hewn from the claustrophobic tunnels that can still be seen bored into the cliff-face. Some pebbles were born here in the volcanoes and sediments of eons long past and bear the scars of their life story.
I can’t resist picking up a large pebble. It has seams of quartz running through its red-brown surface and deep pockets that were formed by bubbles of volcanic gas. It will come home with me, to join the many others that are memories of walks on my favourite beaches with faithful furry friends long gone but still deeply missed.
There is no sign of human presence here, no ships, no buildings, not a sound but the sea, not even my own footprints mar the perfect solitude of a place without another living soul. I can walk no further. I am bound to the mercy of the elements. I am at the edge of wave and sand, land and sea, life and death, light and dark, reality and the surreal, and at this moment I feel a deep connection to these waves, this sand, these cliffs, this land. I feel a quiet, primal, and overwhelming joy. I am at peace.
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