Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Finding a spacious place

Morning, Lord. 

And a miserable rainy one it is too, if  you don't mind me saying. I have heard it said that there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, but I disagree. My mood seems to be closely linked with the weather and the time of year and today it's windy and rainy and dark and it feels as if summer is over and here comes the slow, grumpy slide into winter. Hmmph.

I need to get past this as it's September now and a long way till spring; I can't be harping on about dark nights and dark mornings and the cold and the wet and the leaves falling off the trees for the next six months. If I have to shut up about it I'd just as soon find a way to feel better about it, if it's all the same to you. I need to find joy every day whether the sun is out or if it's hidden behind impenetrable banks of cloud.

On holiday I saw the sunrise a couple of times. It involved getting up before dawn and making my way to the beach (less than two minutes walk) and then walking along or sitting and waiting for the sun to come up. 

Yes, me. I bet you were surprised to see me up and about at that time of day, weren't you? This is the 'me' who is constantly complaining about lack of sleep or interrupted sleep or the necessity of getting up too early. Funny what holidays can do to me. The chance of seeing something special and taking a few good pictures and there I was climbing out of bed at 5am.

You didn't let me down. It was a special time. Nobody else about. Seagulls and rabbits on the green and on the beach. Only the sound of the waves and the shingle and the slow majestic emergence of the sun. The light before the sun rose was beautiful. Soft and  pinkish; turning each everyday object into a thing of beauty. There was a moment when the first rays shot forwards towards me across the sea in a glittering orange stripe before becoming more diffuse as the sun climbed over the horizon. It almost could have been accompanied by music, it was such a startling moment. 

As every minute passed everything changed. The sky, the light, the reflections, the atmosphere. From the muted half-light to the glow on the horizon to the bold splash of orange and gold and red to the yellow and white and silver. 

On the second time out I met another human being; a man with a camera. I said good morning and made to walk past and as I did he commented that he had thought that this morning would be an amazing sunrise, but it failed to materialise and he was disappointed. I smiled politely as I lifted my own camera again and I marvelled that it was possible to look on the spectacle and be disappointed. I don't get to see enough sunrises to make many comparisons - until this week my experiences of dawn have consisted of desperate wishes for day to arrive as I've sat up all night with a newborn baby. This was quite different. 

It was very very beautiful. Words are too small to try and capture the hugeness of your sunrise over the ocean. I'm quite sure that many and more articulate people than I have tried to pin it down but when it comes to it there's nothing to do but watch. Even staring at it through a camera lens doesn't do it justice, although I had a good try! 

It made me think about my Dad. He was a photographer; it's what he did. He loved taking photographs and he was never seen without a camera over his shoulder. I used to take my photographs to him when they were developed and if he admired one then I felt a particular sense of achievement. A compliment from my Dad about the composition of a photograph was high praise indeed. I wanted to be as good as he was at spotting the good angle, composing an exceptional shot. I have a long way to go, but as I was crouching on the beach to put a sea groyne in silhouette in the fore ground of a photo or changing the focus to make the picture different he was in my mind and I wished that he could look at my photos and tell me where they could be better. He would have loved it. 

I found on both mornings that I went out early that I walked along the seafront taking pictures and then took the same ones on the way back because things looked so different in the new light. If I'd been there an hour previously when it was dark I guess they would all have looked different again. I'm sure there is a metaphor for life in there - darkness and murkiness and shadows and the scene looks one way, then the promise of light casts a much warmer more positive glow; a sense of anticipation before the grand event where light breaks forth and makes everything shine and sparkle - blasts away the shadows and shows us the beauty and truth of what we have only half seen in the pre-dawn half-light. 

I'm living somewhere between the murk and the half-light. Definitely some point after dawn has dispelled the darkness but the full glory of the sun hasn't lit everything up yet. Sometimes I can see the glow on the horizon and even a dramatic, attention-grabbing streak of gold across the sky heralding some wonder to come but mostly I am walking in the soft light of promise, beyond blackness but not quite at the point of sunrise. 

So...is sunrise just when we get to Heaven? Or can I somehow grow up out of the haze (subtly beautiful though it is and well worth a few photos) and find myself bathed in sunlight in this life? I don't know. 

Maybe that analogy was a load of rubbish. What do you think? Are you listening to me with an indulgent smile as I fiddle about with words and ideas? Do I ever get closeish to the mark or are you planning to nudge me back into the fold at some point?

The sunrises were beautiful. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. Simply inspiring. Spirit lifting. Our holiday was so good - I had numerous opportunities to feed off your wonder-full creation and let it nourish my soul. Thankyou. And thanks that I have a good camera and a decent eye and that my Dad taught me enough to capture tiny parts of it to gaze at when I need to refill. 

Lord, I need to find a way to let my spirit dance as it did watching the sun come up over the expanse of the sea when a) I'm not on holiday, b) I'm not in a relaxed and optimistic frame of mind already and c) when I'm not near the sea. I love the sea and when I drive to the coast my heart lifts when I can see it. Coming home was a problem for me as I felt as if my world was shrinking again. I watched the ocean in the rear view mirror for longer than I should have done. 

So here I am in Derbyshire and I love the scenery. I love the hills and the rocks and the moors and I love that it's my home. I'm not complaining. Maybe I love the sea so much because you can't get much further inland than Derbyshire and so all my life a trip to the seaside was a treat, but I do know how blessed I am to live in a county so rich in beauty of its own. I need to get out more, don't I?

I need to find a way of finding the space in my head as I did watching the sunrise on the beach. To find the spacious place. To find room to breathe and focus on you. Not to get so bogged down again in everyday life that there's no elbow room. Things get too claustrophobic. I only had a week at the seaside and after it took me a couple of days to unwind and relax I only had a few to enjoy the relaxation - it would be a shame to throw that away so soon.  

Please would you teach me how to find that peace without requiring a vast seascape and a 4.45am start? 

'He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.

He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.'

Psalm 18:16-19


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