The past few weeks have been somewhat busy and disruptive, with a lot of different projects on the go at work, and renovation work on our bathroom at home. As often happens at times like these, I’ve been daydreaming about calmer, more serene times whenever I’ve had a moment or two to myself. I kept finding my thoughts going back to a particular experience on holiday in Pembrokeshire.
In contrast to most of the days during that week, the skies were overcast and it was raining. We had been out walking most of the other days, maximising our time in the fresh air, but the weather had constrained our activities a bit on this day. We had driven to St. David’s in the morning (one of the few times we used the car), and picked up some food supplies for the remainder of the week. It was nice to potter about, but by the afternoon when we returned, I felt the need to stretch my legs a bit and get some sea air.
I planned a short stroll down the road to Trefin beach (a small, rocky cove, overlooked by a ruined mill), and then back over the cliff path to our cottage. With the hood up on my waterproof coat, I felt as if I was walking about in a portable cave, the sounds from outside distant and my own breathing amplified. By the time I arrived at the beach, the rain had softened to a gentle, cooling mist, so I lowered my hood and enjoyed the feeling of the dampness on my face and closed eyelids. The overcast sky wasn’t hard and oppressive, as grey skies can often be, but soft and enveloping. It gently diffused the light in such a way that I felt I could relax my sight. Everything was gentle and slightly flattened, but had a luminous, faintly magical appearance.
I stood for a long time on the pebble beach, breathing in and out with the little waves that plashed on the shore, my face cool and damp and my eyes relaxed, inhaling the sharp scent of seaweed. For once, I was not waiting for anything, expecting anything, or looking for anything, but just being. I don’t know how long I had been standing there when I noticed a grey head appear in the water, 15 metres or so from the beach. The seal’s head was like a sea-smoothed boulder set with two wet, black pebbles. As she looked at me steadily, her nostrils flared and closed, and her stiff, curved whiskers scuffed the sea’s surface.
We stayed that way for quite a long time: me looking at her and she at me, each from our different worlds. She didn’t seem wary. After all, an easy flick of her body would curl her into the currents, carving a confident path through the slate-coloured sea, away from my looking. For my part, I was content to quietly observe her until — in between two heartbeats — she slipped without a ripple below the surface and was gone.
I watched a little longer, then set off for the cliff path and a warm fire, deeply grateful for a quietly magical encounter.