10th April – Today was a day I had long looked forward to though I didn’t know it had arrived (for sure) on waking. In fact, I would have said it was “most unlikely” based on how I was feeling in my body. We had planned to go back to visit this particular waterfall for some time and, more recently, I had come to equate this with the completion of a healing-process I have been undergoing, to which this visit felt like the symbolic finale. This, in itself, could have been enough (would normally have been enough…) for me to have held out for a different day to go there; one that felt far more “ideal”, less “challenging” than what I was faced with after a night of poor sleep and a lot of accumulated pain in my body. Instead, something in me rallied and, though I didn’t tell the family what my thinking was until I was quite sure we were heading there, I set about looking at the map and making the picnic food ready to go there.
In hindsight, I clearly see how “perfect” this so-called imperfection really was. To have waited, postponed and held-out for some sort of golden day when every circumstance felt like a guaranteed “fair weather” forecast of where I imagined I was heading would have been to have pushed at bay the very completion that was already mine for the taking. How often we do this…painting our hoped-for destinations as so very different to our current reality that we fail to even recognise them when we are already in them; awaiting some sort of holy day when the heavens will cleave open and a hand come down to air-lift us to our long-imagined citadel…when, really, we get to drive or walk or climb or simply be there all by ourselves, as soon as we choose to say “I’m ready, right now”, perfectly-imperfect as we are, just as we are and incumbent with all of life’s major and minor inconveniences (however painful those may seem). Those very things which seem to suggest we are “not there yet” are part of the perfection of the now moment; reminding us that we are alive, yes, fully ALIVE in these human bodies and that means we get to feel it all, every most inconvenient sensation of it, every step of the way.
So there I was, feeling it all – every inch of it all – climbing back into that driving seat for the hour drive to the waterfalls and the three or four hours walk over rugged terrain when we got there…yet I knew it felt right and was mine for the claiming dressed-up in its own equally rugged form of perfection. We were even assured of a “weather front” coming in with torrential rain and winds by mid-afternoon but nothing would stop me in this self-fuelled conviction that “today was the day” and, yes, I insisted on driving.
You could say (if you really wanted to) that many bits were less than perfect about our day. The early-morning sun didn’t last very long and struggled to come out of the rest of the day (though at least the forecasted weather front proved to be premature and held off until just after we got home). Even without rain, the walk was wetter underfoot than last time (by far) and felt much longer, more strenuous in warm layers and “spares” in the bag than it had in July’s shorts. Of course, it was Sunday so there were people everywhere, the pulling-over verges on the mountain roads were stuffed full of cars and motorbikes – I hadn’t really thought about that before I left home – and the carpark was full to capacity when we got there, which could have been a major setback. Yet somehow I just knew that if I asked the attendant at the gate if I could use their toilet and took my time walking back to the car, a space would suddenly become free…and so it did!
The Snow Falls themselves (the one waterfall that I really wanted to get to) was packed with visitors this time where we had had it to ourselves last summer so all of the imagined intimacy was lost in the moment that I realised this…and yet, with surprise, I was fine with this. Somehow, the fact the small ceremony of completion I had painted for myself was set amongst other people…hoardes of them, taking turns to step gingerly over the wet rocks where we were standing under the water…seemed apt and fitting, this time around. The opportunity to smile and be humorous, to wait my turn and to offer others their’s, to accept a helping hand from a stranger and to gladly take his photo, arm wrapped around his partner, when asked all seemed “just right” in ways I can hardly explain. Stood on the precarious ledge beneath those torrenting waters, there was a comraderie and shared buoyancy, a willingness to meet each other’s eyes and hold out a hand to a stranger that is so often elusive in our shopping malls and other communal places. The energetic dance of the very particles of air around that living water source; the sparkle, slip and splash of it projected itself as an effervescence of mood that was quite contagious, irresistible…in fact, everyone was smiling beneath their shiny wet cheeks. I still had my ceremonious time of inner stillness, of affirmation, awareness and deepest gratitude beneath the tirade of tumbling water-crystals…more than…yet I was surrounded, utterly, by all the reminders of my humanness and it felt quite ideal. Perfect, in fact.
In amongst all of this I had somewhere along the path forgotten all about “how bad” I had felt on waking that morning. My aches and pains were superseded by the expectable ones resulting from very long stretches of clambering over knotty tree-roots or loose gravel, tackling mud sliding ascents and avoiding (as far as possible) the inevitable sodden boots. Like the meeting of jagged rock and overspilling water that creates waterfalls, I was reminded that life is a meeting point of all these contrasting experiences and that it is so often in the places where the most friction is caused that we experience the most profound sense of being beautifully, perfectly, most glisteningly and dynamically alive.
This is the second post of a week-long series written (by hand, in a notebook…quite a novel experience for techno-minded me) during a week spent in a cottage in Wales. Others in the series:
For once, I had left all the wired gizmos at home to give myself a much needed break, I didn’t even pack paper and pens; so the interesting thing was to find that the impulse to write was even stronger than ever, especially on waking in the mornings. As “luck” would have it, the owner of the cottage gifted us a notebook (decorated with unicorns!) and this quickly became my new best friend…along with art materials borrowed from my daughter and a few more art supplies purchased in Abergavenny. My week of “no activity” quickly became one of my most productive…reams got written (some of which I am about to share, in instalments, here) and quite a few sheep sketches came home with me too!