Today was a long one, yes. Another 13.6 miles and 30,007 steps. But it also was different in two significant ways.
First, it was our first day on the coastline of the North Sea.
Second, it was the first day where we could walk at least part of the way on the beach.
These two changes made a heck of a difference in the physical and mental aspects of this pilgrimage. All for the good!
Last night was spent in Warkworth and this morning we immediately headed to the sand dunes and the bright blue waters of the North Sea.
Adjacent to where we started hiking on the sand dunes is a nine hole links public golf course. Our hiking path follows two of the holes of the course. There are two elderly gentlemen playing those holes at the same time I am walking St. Oswald’s Way. Out of respect for them and the game of golf, I stop and don’t move every time one of them addresses his ball and is set to make a shot toward the green. That is part of the reason I stop walking each time they are ready to hit a shot, but the other reason is that I so much wish that I was out there playing a round of golf with them. oh, do I yearn for that.
Golf is a great game, but it is even better when it is played in the British Isles on a links course. This is where the game was developed, and this is in my opinion real golf as it was meant to be played.
What made this scene so memorable for me was that although the two gentlemen playing were up there in years and not very good golfers, they did not care. They just were obviously enjoying the experience. And they also were very aware of the elements that make links golf so interesting and challenging. The fairways are not flat. By no means. They roll and rise and fall, and the grass is not perfectly mowed. So, you never really know where or how your ball is going to come to rest. Every shot is different. Every shot may leave you with a next shot that you had not anticipated. In addition, the winds and the weather are always a factor too. Bottom line, playing golf on a links course is challenging, interesting, unique, and requires very creative shot making.
The other thing about today’s scene that was so wonderful was that it was a nine hole course. Very rarely do you see 9-hole courses in the States. Nine holes are wonderful for so many reasons. And to see it baldly acknowledged by just putting in nine holes is wonderful.
But, back to our pilgrimage, our hike, our walk.
I get to the top of one of the good sized sand dunes and cast my view out on the blue waters of the North Sea. I take in a deep breath. I do it again. I feel like I have arrived. For some reason the sea is like home to me. The smell, the wind, the sand all add up to a feeling of warmth, and safety and being at peace. Which is kind of weird when you think about it, because they are many elements of the sea and the coastline that can be dangerous and disorienting. Winds, water, currents, tides, sand and rocks, all the elements that are found by and in the sea. Yet, the feeling that comes over me is one of security – being at home. Odd also in many ways considering some of the adventures I have had by and on the seas over my lifetime.
Part of this reaction could also be the response to the weariness that comes from the last five days of hiking in the moors and countryside of Northumberland. And part of this reaction could be in response to the weather today. It is glorious, or as they would say here in northern England, lovely.
I can’t help it but I immediately bolt for the sand. The group is hiking on the path that follows the sand dunes, but I need to be on the beach for some reason. My feet must feel the sand. And much sand there is. It is approaching low tide and the expanse of sand is unbelievable. It seems like it goes forever. Some is hard packed sand, and some is not.
Another hiker in our group, Toby, joins me. And we just walk and walk and walk.
The group sees us from time to time from their perches along the tops of the sand dunes. We are not following the rules of the group – to stay together. But we are within eye sight most of the time. And after a bit we will leave the sand to join back up with the rest of the group.
What does walking on the sand do for me? It is soothing. The softness of the sand on the soles of the feet.
in addition walking on the sand leads to a never ceasing inevitable unending panoply of interesting realities. Whether it is a little hole in the sand and the wonderment that goes with knowing that each of those small holes is a lifeline to some organism. or the constant surprise at the beauty of the impact of water on the rocks, whether it be with the smooth rounding of the once jagged rocks or the unusual colors of black and orange that the salt water brings out of certain rocks. or the surprise that comes with each wave breaking on the beach, some softly and some more dramatically.
sand and sea go together for me. as you can tell it is almost a spiritual experience for me.