A rare moment in time

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Photograph credit: Chesney Bradshaw

I arrive at the beach, put my swimming things down and sit on a stone bench under a tree. I can’t believe I am here after a difficult year. It is late in the afternoon and shadows from the big trees that surround the beach cast long shadows across the sand. The seawater is flat, sheltered by the large granite boulders that run along the shore between the beach and out towards the entrance of the beach.

Two elderly women and an old man sit on a bench chatting. Another two women, in their forties, sit on their towels on the beach their legs outstretched. A woman in her forties walks past me, puts her personal things on a stone bench and walks down to the water’s edge. I watch her walk into the water, dive in and swim the length of the small bay, and then out into the open sea.

I change into my swimming costume and go down to the beach. The sea water feels chilly against my ankles but as I walk in deeper to waist height my body acclimatises to the cold. I’ve been swimming in inland pools and the seawater temperature takes a little getting used to. I came to this beach two years ago and have missed the sea, the sand and the sun.

I take in a deep breath and dive into the water and swim over-arm for several strokes. Now my body feels the temperature of the water. It’s warmer than I thought. I swim out to the two big boulders that mark the entrance to the small bay, turn around and make my way back to the beach.

Inside the bay I dive under the water, a greenish colour as I open my eyes. I check out the rocks and sand and then see two sea urchins lying on the sand. All that’s left of the sea urchins is green shells after they died a long time back. I leave them lying there on the sandy bottom. I’m not one for taking anything from the sea. I took enough in my younger days.

I swim towards the shallow part of the beach and linger there. I lie on my back in the water, looking up at the sky. Around me the kelp sways around the brown rocks in the surge. Inshore wave ripples run up the white beach sand. I’ll have to get out of the water but I want to stay there with the sea around my body for as long as I can. I have no compelling reason to get out, no arrangements for the evening, no rush to go somewhere, no people to see.

Far out beyond the big boulders the woman who went in earlier swims across the mouth of the bay. She is an experienced swimmer to be so long in the water. The light is fading, the shadows becoming longer, the water in front flat. Further out to sea is a large outcrop of gigantic boulders, and even further out is the lighthouse.

In this moment I feel it. Something moves within me. I sense nature drawing me into relaxation. The troubles of the long year past seem to melt away. All the people who contributed to the year’s turmoil don’t matter anymore. I continue sitting there looking at the scene before me, feeling as though I have become one with nature.

I don’t want to leave, don’t want to get up, don’t want to go anywhere. All I want to do is stay in the moment. A peaceful feeling comes over me making my head and body feel light. No buzzing or vibrations, only a calm making me feel relaxed. I wondered what has overcome me but put it down to being in a beautiful place with the stillness of evening and being where I want to be.

A woman comes down to the rocks before the beach and sits there taking in the scene. I hardly notice her. The two women and the old man still sit near me chatting. The woman who went in for a long swim comes out of the water, walks up the beach and strikes up a conversation with the woman who has arrived at the beach.

The calmness that comes over me remains. I’m in a place where I had long to be. A place I had almost forgotten about like someone you once knew long ago. Then you remember them and wonder what it would be like to see them again. You may have lost contact or they are long gone. Here in front of me the place I once knew as a teenager is still here and will remain in me.

To feel such deep relaxation when your mind and body seem to take in your whole surroundings doesn’t often happen with this intensity. I only experience this feeling again about a month later one morning in the solitude of the Kalahari in Namibia. There where the grass shimmers in the wind makes me feel like I am watching the ocean before me. It’s not possible to live in a state and moment of heightened feeling in ordinary day-to-day living. But the experiences stay with you to recall and relive when you need to feel alive and connected to something bigger than yourself. When you let go and find yourself in a state of utter calm.

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