Pebble Allsorts: Magical Time Capsules

The Beach Today

Looking closely at the pebbles along the ridge this morning made me hungry. They reminded me of sweets. Many of them seemed to have a layer of mint or cream through them, reminding me of Humbugs, or the black and white Liquorice Allsorts, or the sweets that are actually called ‘pebbles’….!

Did you know?

According to the ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ website ( these stones, rounded by tumbling against each other under the force of the waves, are 300 million years old! An age that is hard to make sense of, but a wonder to reflect upon. To hold a smooth cobble in the palm of your hand is to touch back in time – who else touched this rock? How many times has it felt the touch of the endless (300 million years is endless to us) tides?

Reflective Moment

Imagine sitting on this pebble ridge for a while today, to look out to sea. Feel their bump and bruise on the bottom and back as they nudge us with so much age and ‘time’ etched into their shape and pattern. What does that feel like for you?

Just to marvel a little more on this assortment of time capsules at our feet: They are grey sandstones, which are sedimentary rocks, which means that before they were the rock we see today, they were sand or sediment. As these fragments they were laid down in layers, compressed under pressure creating the sandstone. Sand and sediment are tiny broken pieces of rock swept down to the sea by rivers, or from cliffs by the waves. So, before they were sand they were other rocks – maybe igneous or metamorphic rocks. They were eroded and broken into tiny pieces to travel from other parts of the globe along rivers, and in sea currents to arrive here. Recycling and upcycling in perfection.

What does time mean to us? Clocks ticking, things to be done, not done, a measure of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Do we feel we have too much time? Or is it running out like sand through our fingers, making us clutch fearfully at every second? Probably a bit of both, as our relationship with time is as complex for each of us.

I invite you today to take a few moments to relax against the knobbly pillows and be a pebble too: You have nowhere to go, nowhere to be, you are a rock. Time has no significance and rolls out and over you in every direction. You rest where the sea throws you, you roll under people’s feet, you feel the light touch of a gull’s toe, you get wet, dry off in the sun. You soak in the warmth of the sun and then feel it radiate through you back out into the cooling day, setting up a small shiver in the air as the warmed layer rises upwards and cooler wafts from the sea to cool you again. You have no fear, no will to be anywhere else, no worry about what will happen next – you just are – a smooth round cobble in the moment of today.

However old the pebble is, and however young you are in comparison, you are the same age in the moment. Time has no meaning in the present moment.

The Sound of the Sea Today

“For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde, Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde.” 

Geoffrey Chaucer (Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale 1395)

Chaucer poses an interesting additional thought this morning. After considering 300 million year old pebbles above it makes me think that, Chaucer was right; Time has meaning (urgency) to Man(kind), but not to pebbles (nature) – they relax in their bonds of time measured by our spinning pace in space.

Further thought: Perhaps my view above is ageist? Young people do not feel the urgency of time in the same way older people do. I recall Dylan Thomas expressing this sentiment eloquently:

“Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”

Dylan Thomas: Fern Hill (1953/1953)

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