Tag Archives: Uplifting

Three Life Lessons From a Cornish Beach

Beach Scene with Kites

1. Kites
2. Sand
3. Waves

1. Kites
Stumble upon any Cornish beach and you are bound to see a kite or two flying high in the sky. The Atlantic breeze coming off the sea is so strong that even inexperienced kite flyers have no trouble in keeping their tethered objects aloft, at least for a little while.

Higher and higher they go, until they compete for air-space with the gulls and the crows and for a short while they are a fascinating delight to the eyes.
Then for anyone other than the kite flyer, there comes a point when we want to focus on something else. The silken spectacle has ceased to be a draw, and although pretty, after a period of time, our attention wanders elsewhere.

Until

I watched a man with a wonderful kite. He controlled it with two strings. The inanimate object danced into life in his dexterous hands, and made beautiful patterns in the sky as it rode the current. Then quite suddenly, it swooped dangerously low; I thought it was sure to crash until the Kite Flyer deftly brought it back up on another gust of air, back up and up the coloured silk climbed higher than ever, before plummeting again and then lifting once more.

I observed the people around the kite flyer. They all stood transfixed, watching the thrilling display.

The thing is, when things are always perfect, they don’t stay all that interesting. The excitement is all about keeping things alive. That is what we all need to do. And as with kites, life takes constant monitoring and effort. That Kite Flyer may well have been experienced and therefore would have found it easier than a novice, but he must have started sometime. And, however good he is, even if he is brilliant, the kite won’t fly, unless he stands there and makes it.

2. Sand.
You get all kinds of aggregate on Cornish beaches. Certain beaches boast their own unique sort of sand, unlike any other, anywhere else. Some beaches are pebble, some are shingle and some are sand. Of course, some are all three.

Last week I took my son for a walk along a stretch of beach, before the café opened for our breakfast treat. We calculated that we could walk for twenty minutes one way and then twenty back to arrive in perfect time. The sun was climbing high in the sky and we watched a trio of ladies in boiled-egg swimming caps and sensible swimming costumes wade into the sea. Further along was a man practicing yoga on a bamboo mat. A little way on, a sweet couple clearly in love, dared each other into the refreshing water.

“It’s so lovely!” I said to my son. “Let’s leave our shoes at the café and walk along barefoot!” Now my little one’s middle name is Caution. Well, it’s not actually. It’s Winston. But you know what I mean. He said he didn’t want to because the stones looked quite sharp. (He’s far more sensible than me). “Oh, yes, I see what you mean, but we can pick our way over those bits and get to the shoreline where the sand is as smooth as velvet!”

Off we went, mother striding forth like Bear Grylls and son, reluctantly sloping behind. When we got through the powdered sand to the place where the shingles began, it started to feel like a particularly painful version of reflexology by way of acupuncture.

It delighted my boy. You see, we all like a challenge! He grinned and yelped (sometimes, with joy) as we screeched (ok, that was just me) across the sharp stones. Please note, no blood was drawn from either of us…

We giggled as we dared each other on, just to get along the patch of shingle to where the sand began. Oh wow! I cannot describe how blissful the feeling was, when we put our sensitive little soles onto the cool silky sand, and wandered back up the beach, this time, along the shoreline. “Ahhhhh…”

We arrived back at the café, ordered and ate breakfast, admiring the view and talking of this and that. When it was time to leave, we put our socks and trainers back on and again experienced another surge of sensory pleasure. “Oh!” We both declared; “The cushioned soles!”

How funny: that thought hadn’t crossed my mind when I laced up my Nikes at 6am that morning. You see, everything is a matter of perception. Take something away, and then you will appreciate it all the more when you get it back.

3.Waves.
All savvy surfers check where the best waves are to be found along the coast in Cornwall. They also balance that with how busy the section of sea is likely to be, if it’s hazardously rocky, and what the riptide is doing. I just concern myself with accessibility and whether or not there is a good café, and/or free parking. Some days, it’s the North shore, others, it’s down to the Lizard and our favourite, Poldhu Cove.

For serious swimmers, they want just the opposite. They are looking for millpond flat sea, ideally with little or no white-water.

Those who take care of little ones want beaches they can see from one side to the other clearly, with sweet little waves to paddle in.

Adventurous kids want rock pools and caves to investigate, so they don’t particularly care what’s going on with the waves.

Don’t even get me started with the paddle-boarders and the sailors…

And there you have it. The same fabulous ocean surrounds us, but it means different things to different people. What is perfect for you is a complete turn-off to someone else. You may have to travel the coast in order to please the people around you, but in the process, please don’t forget to also find time to please yourself. x

Decisions

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Last week, a difficult choice had to be made between two alternatives. We are not talking Craig or Connery. The dilemma was not chocolate or pistachio. No, this was serious grown up stuff. The absolute decision process weighed heavily on my mind; this was sort that we have to make from time to time, the sort where there is no option but to choose a or b, and even though the outcome will have major life affecting consequences involving several people, I alone had to make the final call, and abrogation from the process was completely impossible. A timely conclusion was necessary, and although plenty of advice had been sought, the responsibility for this onerous task laid squarely at my feet.

The Artist, aware of my imminent responsibilities, reminded me of the need for an ultra clear head in order to achieve the best possible conclusion. This he said, was no time for mulling things over indoors, this was a time for striding out, into the spring sunshine. He declared that the only way to get to an end result was to pull on designer wellies and get outside. Actually, I think he was just bored and wanted to go for a walk.

It is so easy to stop doing the things that help us when we are pushed up against it. We all know that we function best on a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and exercise, and exposure to the open air and sunshine. Ironically, the first thing that usually happens when we feel overwhelmed is to let these things go.

Most people use comfort food or alcohol as a buffer to stress. It’s often considered easier to reach for processed snacks than to shop and prepare fresh food, especially when the pressure is on. But the easiest way to feel great and in control is from within. A diet packed with nutritious fruit and vegetables makes a massive difference to mindset. Sinking a bottle of wine won’t help either. It may help take your mind of the dilemma at the time, but that situation is going nowhere, and the next day, you still have the same thing, only now you also have a headache.

Absorbing Vitamin D from the sun enhances well-being and positivity almost immediately. The process of walking allows thinking time. It is the most effective tonic for the soul I can possibly think of, and all that it costs you is your time.

So there I was, reluctant to leave the important thinking I had to do, harrumphing into my hat and coat and bundled out the door by the kindly Artist, keen to point out the masses of snowdrops, wild primulae and narcissi against the huge camellias at the end of my very own garden, just before the little gate that leads to farmland beyond. These are the flowers of optimism, the first we see after the barren winter, and we do nothing to encourage them; they simply arrive, brightly and generously, forgiving lack of attention, unlike their demanding summer cousins who insist on diva like maintenance, spring flowers just appear because they want to. I beamed at the sight of this utterly joyful display; taking in the bobbing heads of the snowdrops and the acid yellow of the daffodils like the gifts they truly are.

The giant waxy buds of the magnolia present a salient reminder that perhaps we should give the best of ourselves first; precocious blooms poised to burst into life among bare branches. I love the pared back elegance of delicate flower contrasted against gnarled bark. Bold can indeed be beautiful, and the toughness and resilience of these spring flowers makes them all the more so. The end of winter tends to drag, and despondency may creep in, but just at the point that it is felt most keenly, the emergence of perfect blooms on weather-beaten trees perhaps brings to mind that there is always another chance, and always another spring. 

We passed through the little gate, and continued down the path, towards the farm. I was starting to feel much better, and began to enjoy the brief hiatus from the burdensome responsibility of my decision-making obligation. I allowed myself to unwind, and delighted in the gloopy earth squelching beneath my rubber boots. Onwards we went; following the tractor marks in the mud, concentrating on staying upright.

We talked of this and that, and that and this, and then turned a corner to find a field full of steers! There must have been at least thirty beasts, and they were all looking in our direction. Now for those of us who are not country-born, these are young castrated bulls, their destiny to become beef. “I cannot go there!” I declared. This was one of the easier decisions I had to make that day. “Why ever not?” said the bewildered but patient Artist, who is used to my strange superstitions and has more than enough of his own. “Karma!” I cried. “They are all staring at me! They know!” I was not feeling the guilt of one too many burgers, but the fact that my family are butchers, and I was quite sure these babies knew it. “They can sense it!” I wailed. “It doesn’t matter that I have a chakra-aligning lentil and goji berry salad waiting at home for lunch – these guys want revenge!”

The unflappable Artist pointed out that we both had sticks, and that all we had to do was wave them about a bit and they would go away. I decided (again without much agonising) that I could detect bovine malevolence in their eyes. They wanted to make an example of me; retribution for several Sunday roasts. Payback for eagerly consumed prime rib. He said the cows/bulls/steers/oxen (delete as appropriate, I remain unconvinced) knew none of it. They were not interested in my carnivorous past, or the family trade. I was almost convinced, I mean, he IS from the country after all, so I went on a little further, only to find TWO more, lurking behind a tree, with obvious intent. No. The only thing to do was to slowly but purposefully cut back and then across the perfectly un-sinister field of harvested barley.

I can’t begin to describe how wonderfully mood uplifting it was, walking across a field without cattle. Soon I was almost skipping to keep up with the long stride of the Artist who didn’t mind a bit that we had to change course. I even spotted wild pansies growing against all the odds. All experiences are stimulating, and this one was exactly that, and helped me to get a very clear head and enjoy a most productive afternoon. 

As for the big decision?  I got there in the end. I wish to give thanks to those who love me and have been there for me. Some of them are very close indeed although they are actually really quite far away.