Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside (2)

I have a favourite walk part of the South West Coastal Path, on the north Cornish coast  from. Trevaunce Cove, St. Agnes to Perranporth .

Much has changed since I first walked the path over 60 years ago. I have changed, but the ever changing sea and the rocky coast seem untouched by time. Toiling up steep hills and making my way down over rocky paths, I make slow progress through a heritage landscape that still bears the scars of a tin mining past.

As I stop to  look back - at the cove and my life - different vistas open and I see things in a different lights and from different perspectives.

Time has not left the landscape, nor me, unchanged. Back in the day,  the Trevellas Valley was a noisy, busy place. Steam from coal fired boilers drove massive, thumping, pumps in engine houses. Water driven stamp mills crushed the ore.  Horses and traction engines and all manner of mining folk competed with each other on the narrow lanes. Now all has fallen silent -  save for the gulls cry, the pew pew call of buzzards and the chaj chaj of jackdaws.

Heather and gorse are reclaiming the slag heaps. There is a strange beauty about the place. As I turn my gaze inward, I note that a similar process is happening to me. Childhood's wounds, which gave me such trouble in the past, have become an established part of my nature. Without the scars, I would hardly be the person I am. My wounded-ness makes me sensitive to others wounds. I am, I suppose, not so much a wounded healer, but a beggar who can tell others where they can find bread.

The landscape has a long history. Tin has been mined since the early Bronze Age 2000 years before Christ. Legend has it that  Joseph of Aramathea came this way to trade tin. He brought with him the young Jesus of Nazareth .   "And didst those feet in ancient time, walk upon England's mountains green...." sings the poet William Blake (and I find myself singing along with him!).  Disbelieving though one may be, there is some truth to the legend. There was a long established trade between the tin mining West County and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Psalmist teaches us sing,  "The days of our life are three score years and ten and if we have strength, four score." At 73 years of age, I cannot guess how my strength will hold out. Maybe this is the last time I will manage the steep  and the precipitous paths. This thought sharpens my awareness,  and I observe my attention switching between past, present and future, outward and inward and two further dimensions.

Beyond the land, the sea stretching beyond the horizon. Since I was a toddler,  the sea has held a deep mystical attraction to me. Sometimes at high tide, spray would come over the garden wall and I would watch American DUKW going down Abersoch's slipway to load ammunition ships in the bay. The fascination grew with me and has never left me in spite of 10 year spent at sea as a merchant seaman.

Underpinning all is the sense of God, the ground of my/our being,  I can't remember when the sense of God first became so certain. Once again the Psalmist helps. "Those that go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep". Even when it seemed that one could not survive the ferocity of the wind and the roaring of the sea, the fascination was still there. And on velvet dark tropical nights when stars shone as bright as jewels in the sky. "O lord, our Governor, how excellent is you name in all the world...  when I consider the heavens the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what is man  that you should be mindful of him"

Turning my eyes once more to the Eastern Mediterranean, for the 7th/8th century John of Damascus,  the ever changing, always constant, limitless ocean was a  simile for the limitlessness of the divine.

The walk ends at Perranport, where legend tells of the evangelist St. Piran,  surfing into the beach on his (variously ) gravestone or tombstone, to bring Christian good news to the Cornish. I take refreshment in the Tywarnhale Inn and catch a bus back to St.Agnes.

More of this later......

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