The Beach Today
Usually, on my walks I filter people out and focus on the backdrop to our human activity, reaching out and touching the natural world that holds us at all times in the palm of its hand. Today however, I was struck by the presence of people on the beach, standing out as little silhouettes, individuals, pairs, small groups – dogs. Every day, whatever the time of year, people come.
January 1st: New year is about people.
Human time is not the same as tidal time, nor geological time; the fact that today is the first day of a new year is significant only to us – the waves continue to roll and, the birds, wheel overhead, gulls screaming as usual into the grey skies.
Did you know?
The new year was not always on this day, the 1st of January. Back 4,000 years ago the new year was seen to be the first full moon after the March equinox (when the night and day are of equal length). It was not until Julius Caesar decided to re-write the calendar that the new year was celebrated on the 1st January – about 45BC.
The first day of a new year may seem significant, and can give us good reason to pause and reflect on the year behind. It is often a time to clarify hopes, ambitions and goals for the year ahead. There is a lovely sense of ‘newness’ such as finding a sandy beach after the tide, before anyone has walked on it. We can see more clearly our future as a new, blank page; a sense of being able to re-write a new chapter.
However, every day is a new one: 365 fresh starts. If I were to make a resolution for the new year, it would be to remember that we do not just have one chance a year to make amends, to change, to try something new, to promise to do things differently … every new day gives us that opportunity. The waves on the beach always remind me of this: They just continue to break, froth and retreat, back and forwards, endlessly across the sand – whatever it is I do (or don’t do), feel, think or wish. Every day it provides clean sand for my fresh footprints. Every tide leaves flotsam in a different place to change us.
Every sunrise asks us, ‘what shall you do today?’ and every sunset asks us, ‘how have you used your day given to you’?
Something a little different – a celebration of people and the sea.
In Westward Ho, a small seaside village on the coast of North Devon people gather in the morning of New Year’s day to swim in fancy dress. Why this happens is unknown, but the multitude of reasons that draws people, whatever the weather to run into an icy sea creates a warmth of community, shared experience and accomplishment. Some have said that it is the perfect tonic after the indulgence of Christmas, or that it serves to re-set the clock for the new year ahead. Whatever the reason, it is building positive memories and experiences with the natural environment which will hopefully call them back in times of stress and the need for renewal in the future.
Happy new year everyone!
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