It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere right now, and Christmas in New Zealand for many is traditionally followed by an exodus to the beaches, or the mountains and lakes, to take in the scenery and sun. Each year for the last few years my husband and I have taken the children to a different spot in the most basic but stunning locations. Long drops and cold showers; but beaches, and walks, native bush and views.
Each year I am aware that I come away slightly weighted down by the year that’s been. Carrying different longings, griefs, joys, memories, vestiges of experiences from the months past, that need sifting through and placing down. My time away becomes one long prayer. I watch it change from, “God, I’m sorry…” to “God, I need…” to “God, I miss….” to “God, I hope…” to “God, thank you!”, “God, thank you!”, “God, thank you again!” It soon becomes, “God, although you are here in this place, you have also been with me in the year past, and you will be with me in the year to come. You have never left me, and this place of beauty, and quiet and majesty only reminds me of this truth.”
My prayer becomes a poem that I sit and write on a rock by the beach, and another rock on the beach over the hill. And perhaps it’s sitting on these rocks that I find myself praying for a heart-shaped rock to return home with, as a reminder of God’s love. Walking on one of the beautiful beaches of the magnificent Kari Kari Peninsula just before departing, I look down and half hidden by sand I find my rock. A clearly defined heart but with a slightly jagged corner which I feel with my hand as I hold its solid weight. I like the jagged corner because it reminds me that love and life isn’t smooth, but a little rough at the edges sometimes, where we like rock can be worn down. But the centre of the rock is solid, warm and firm in my hand, and trustworthy. Like family, like friends, like God. I sit it in my bathroom when I return, where I can see it every day. It will carry me into the year ahead, as will the memory of this precious time away.
Come home to yourself.
Home is sand under your feet.
And sun glinting silver on the sea.
Home is the waves and the birds.
Warmth on your skin.
The solitude that brings you home,
to your soul.
Forgo the crowd, which leaves you lonely.
And come away for a while.
Come back to yourself.
Survey the view.
And you’ll remember,
that you’ve never been away.
Just been wearing something ill-fitting,
waiting for the day you can disrobe.
And run barefoot.
Dishevelled, wind in your hair,
Come take a walk.
To the hill where the sky is large.
See the evening spread like a curtain across the day.
And feel yourself small, but wide.
If you still yourself you will hear,
your heart beat along with the earth’s.
And you will know yourself a part of the whole.
No separation at all.
A particle of life.
Which can seem lonely, unless you recall that,
your footprints leave a mark on the sand.
You make a track where you choose to walk.
Every action has a reaction.
No, you are not swallowed up
by the majesty of this breath-taking earth.
You share its beauty,
because of your living, breathing
part in it.