Yesterday after a series of gruelling appointments online, I was drawn again to walk by the sea, because as I noted after my first solitary retreat in 2016: “The sea is my reminder”.

In the end I went without camera, phone or notebook, the better to inhabit the moment, and without socks, although I had on my turquoise Vivabarefoots.

With these I have a love-hate relationship (for the side of my left foot is sore today from chafing, and it will heal from the salt kiss of the sea, and yesterday’s sole-protection from jellyfish tentacles is worth their salt).

On the move at last:

I lope past the surfers’ house (where a snow-white skull – might it be that of a dolphin? – lies soaking in a bucket next to their wet-suits);

linger fingeringly next to the empty bungalow, from whose half-kempt garden I covet – and do not take – cranesbill seeds;

clink-clunk the gate at the bottom of the Drive, aware of not very distanced golfers teeing off in my direction as I put on a brief burst of sprint across this free-for-all turf;

trudge past three dog turds (although so many of the locals do pick up), fifty pancakes of cow (this is common grazing, and the farmers don’t) and innumerable pellets of sheep and lamb.

There’s a slight rise in the path before my “Aaaah” view, and then – Aaaah – I’m there. Over the top into the wide trench that the tide has carved, time after millennium, just short of twice a day, for all the days I’ve been coming here and for some enormous multiplier of that, just the same and always, always different.

Like the profile that the waves carve in the sand and sometimes in the dunes. Like the colour and design of the ultramarine, caerulean, Payne’s grey, lapis, jade, viridian that I hoard in the manilla cardboard box in the shesham bookcase that Rosemary sold to me when she left.

All these colours and more, smeared and feathered onto the sky, the sea, by the paintbrushes of my eyelashes as my feet pick their way through the August thistles and into the eroded gullies made by other feet, dog-walkers dogs unLocked teenagers small boys who forget their socks and even their underpants (I have found both) new fathers with papoosed babes, new mothers achingly pushing strollers with an older child-straining and gesturing from the Strap-down.

This time I head straight there, right-angled to the half-dead strandline of ribcages and quills. My feet drop heavy in the drier sand, almost dry-squelching as they sink. I gain the darker wetter firmer shore with relief, a lifting of each instep and a firming of each sole and a yearning of my soul to play, just to play in the water.

There are jellyfishes overturned along the trickle of the turning tides, all three sorts today: the huge visceral broody ones; the purple compasses; the clear&four-leaf-clove-pink-marked ones that I first examined at Tywyn in which holiday? – The year that Goran Ivanišević lay down and kissed the ground with his tears at Wimbledon, and Simon said: “Schist happens”, and grinned, as we played along another & western shore among the wreckage of Yr Wyddfa.

There is foam too, little round cakes of it almost as real a bun. I tip the toes of my blue sandshoes into the firmest, and smear it to and fro to convince myself of its insubstantiality. These skandas have been bounded by the opposition of wave forms, akin to the diffraction patterns I’m observing now on the shallowest and gentlest of convergent ripples.

I laugh inside – I don’t have to teach this stuff any longer, although my tea-time conversation with Grandad over the neighbourly fence had challenged my explanation about diversity of chromosomal arrangements in species akin to Rowan. Thank you Grandad for the maps that you gifted me.

That sidelines me back to March 1975, and to Dr Max Walters (later to be my mentor through the panic years); and taking my-friend-Pauline to a practical class in her college-holidays visit; and thereby contravening Section X of Regulation Y of the Statute Z of The University of C.

And to his gentle, wise reprimand (and he let her stay for the lesson); and to that being the time he wrote ‘IUCN’ on the blackboard in white chalk; and me now time-travelling to giving birth eight years later, while on maternity leave from IUCN , after Chris and Lissie and Yvonne and Sue, Martin and Brian had clubbed together to buy me a medlar tree for 16 Station Road, from which Liz, three occupiers on, picked me a basket of fruit…

… and bringing my breath back once more into the present moment, and to the tiny happy sighs of the sea, and of my feet as I continue to walk, perpendiculat to the water’s edge, and in it now up to my ankles, I am aware of …

to be continued, perhaps by you?

Brain dump

Right now, I am aware of …

Right now, I feel …

Right now, I sense …

Right now I think …

Put down your pencil for a couple of minutes, and close your eyes (when you’ve read the next block!).

Becoming aware

Become aware of your feet resting on the ground, or chair, and feel them heavy, connecting with the earth.

As you sit here, sense into places where there is any tension in your body, and quietly approach those places one by one, with a gentle breath.

As you stay here, in-dwelling your body and breathing it, feel into what you are holding in your heart, naming it silently (for example, heaviness; excitement, blankness, panic, appreciation, stillness…).

Allow yourself to breathe into these feelings, just like you breathed into the body parts.

“It’s OK; it’s already here…” owning to them and then letting them smove on, to be replaced by something else.

Then whever you are ready, take a deep sigh, come back into the room, and pick up your pencil again.

Flying a kite

In your Thoughbook draw a big, simple picture of a kite – a diamond shape with two lines connecting the four corners, a string attached to the centre of the kite (as accurately aerodynamic or as unflyable as you like), trailing the tail feathering out from the bottom of the diamond.

On the main vane of the kite you can write some of the “feelings” and “sensings” you experienced during the meditation, naming them, and then letting them free into the air.

Just don’t fly your kite near power lines.

Golden threadwork

Use either your kite- flying experience (real or imagined) or the poem or the essayat the beginning as a starting point for today’s free-flow writing;

or use some entirely different prompt, and keep going for 20-30 minutes or longer.

You may like to recall the rules from ‘Wild Mind’, which are summarised at the very end of this blog post.

You could jot a “rule” down here,

and then choose to break it today

Appreciation ~ for you to

write your own, before mine

Today I am grateful for:




~ the wind that takes my kite soaring high in the rain-washed sky;

~ the rain that refreshes my sunflowers;

~ the sun that “loves it all better” like a parent hugging a chld who has fallen over and grazed his knee.

Further Resources

The title of this blog post is a mis-quote of Stevie Smith’s tragic poem, which starts:

Not waving but drowning.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,   
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought   
And not waving but drowning.

If you are feeling similarly stranded in your life, remember that you can seek help (here in the UK) from:

Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide

is a tragedy |

Here to listen

Wild Mind rules and misrules (for writing Braindumps and Golden Threadwork)

In her book Wild Mind, the wonderful Natalie Goldberg gives rules for free flow writing such as:

keep the hand moving;

don’t think;

don’t edit;

be specific (‘pina colada’ rather than ‘drink’);

go for the jugular;

feel free to write rubbish;

take risks;

and I would add:

don’t be afraid to break at least one of these rules

at least once a lifetime (of a pencil or page).