It started with Chris-the-ninja, who I met on a train one day. We hit it off, and before long I stayed with him a summer weekend in Paignton; we sat on a harbour wall watching the light on the sea, then he took me to a little cove where we had a fire, accompanied by chinese take away and red wine. If I close my eyes I can still remember the warmth and woodsmoke. It was the first time to have a fire on the beach, and I loved it!
This year I’ve enjoyed more fires on the beach, and what strikes me now is how every one was different. The basic principle is always the same, like the centre of web – to commit indefinite hours to simply sitting by the sea, with friends, watching the flames burn.
Winter solstice, 21 decemeber 2004 found me huddled in blankets against the cold and dark, sharing methol cigarettes with Hikari-from-Japan, playing with cheap glow sticks and having my soul restored by friends. There was a defiant edge to this day, with a sense of possibility for the future.
6 months on, a day after the summer solstice and the night of a full moon, I returned to the same spot Chris had taken me to, but this time with a small group of friends, mostly girls. We drank wine to celebrate the end of Helen’s exams, and ate more chinese, and lit a small bright fire as the light faded from the near-longest day. We sang together, with rounds and old half-remembered school songs. Later I clambered around on cliff rocks to discover the rising moon. We had the beach to ourselves, at least once a furtive couple gave up and left.
The friday just gone, we had a jubilant fire to start of an incredible action-packed weekend. Friends were visiting from far and wide, we had two car loads of people this time.I spent some time talking with Rachel’s younger sister, Hannah, whose youthfull enthusiasm (and slight lunacy?) reminded me of something I was forgetting. With her encouragement, we ran into the sea, and splashed around, and swam. I felt so alive again, to do something silly and invigorating!
This time we weren’t the only people on the beach. A younger group yelled at us we weren’t allowed to have fires, but a bit later a guy came over with a peace offering off sorts, a small piece of wood. By the time I got out the sea, and it was getting dark, the two groups had become one and we all sitting round the flames. As I tried to dry my knickers, a couple of the guys took their shirts off and in a display of machoism started running into the sea as well. We played with Poi, and drank and danced a bit. I will mostly remember naked torsos and the cool of the sea. Later on we managed to get John and Zak to strip to boxers and holding hands with Hannah we ran crazily down to the water’s edge.
Sadly, the tide had gone out by then so we all threw ourselves onto rocks, resulting in various degrees of injury! Luckily nothing serious, like broken bones, but it just goes to remind you nature is not all soft and refreshing. (and that your parents had a point when they told you not to jump into water because there might be rocks!)
The rest of the weekend was action packed, sunny and restoring. Running about a kids adventure park, going on big slides and playing in ball pools. Going to an amazing Taiko concert again – Exeter is apparently the “Taiko capital of Europe”, and the local group drum something like a jazz variety, full of improvisation and movement. I’m in the process of signing up for a workshop – if I’m any good I might be able to audition to be a part of it! It’s mostly women, which would be good because right now I really want to spend more time with women (I get male overload at work currently)
Sunday, Kiroo took us to a river valley in Dartmoor, I clambered about on moss covered boulders and played in a river,paddling up to my thighs and using hands to explore and play with the flows and currents.
This weekend, I also realised that I have friends that care about me, and not only that, but believe in me. Even when they live at a distance. I’ve realised that support does not come from answers but understanding and empathy. Most of all I’ve realised that I have support, even if I can’t always see it in front of me. All this has been very encouraging and I got rather soppy about all my friends.
This weekend left me feeling encouraged, loved, and the restoration that comes from being closer to your nature. For me, this means lots of friends, outdoors, swimming in water, eating well, listening to drums and sitting in the sunshine.
Definitely want to do more fires… next one should be round halloween time…
Thanks to everyone who made it down to Exeter, for a great weekend.