I’m walking on the beach at Mar de Jade.
It’s early morning, and the sand is still cool. A pair of tiny hermit crabs are inching their way across the sand. They pull their shells down quickly as I draw near and then, if I’m still enough, peep out tentatively before beginning their journey again. The waves are warm this morning, and I wade out until the water reaches my knees. There’s a stronger undertow today. I have to work hard to keep my footing.
There are no aircraft here, I realise. In London I am used to the almost constant roar and whine of jet engines passing above and the criss-cross trails across the sky. Here, the skies are silent and clear. The shadows passing overhead are the pelicans, back this time in smaller groups of five or six, flying together v-shape just inches above the water. And wherever the pelicans gather, wheeling frigatebirds follow, high. They keep airborne with hardly a movement of their wings, turning in graceful arcs.
A larger group of pelicans, fifteen of them, cross the bay in a line. And all the while, I realise, I’m hardly here.
I could be paying attention to the warmth of the water on my feet, the tug of the tide, the bright sunlight and – beyond all of this – the intricate wholeness of this place, and how it’s all impacting me. I could be noticing this, in all its exquisite beauty, before I head off to the airport and hours of travel home.
But instead I’m thinking, mostly about what’s not here.
I think about what I’ll write today, and how to write it; about clients I’m due to meet next week, and all the preparation still to be done; of my family and all they’ve been up to; about things to be done around the house; about far-off projects only just coming into being. I think too already of how much I’ll miss this place, and wonder if I can bring any part of the experience home with me back to London. I think of what of my week here I’ll forget, and try hard to grasp onto it.
And then, momentarily, I catch myself in the act.
Our extraordinary capacity to think means we often outsmart ourselves, us human beings. We can think ourselves away from any situation. And in doing so, we miss so much of what’s present just here, as well as the wisdom of our bodies and hearts that have so much to say that can be different from our thoughts. We do this not just on the beach, but in our work, in our family lives. And in doing so we miss out on a a vital aspect of our own intelligence.
And so, for a while, I see if I can settle and just allow myself to be in the middle of it all – to be a witness to the wholeness of what’s happening here, both on the beach, and within me.
Photo by Justin Wise