I’ve just come back from Lee Abbey, which isn’t an abbey – but a Christian retreat centre, a lovely community centred place in the depths of Devon countryside, banked by hills and dipping down to coves and beaches of creamy waves and deep jade sea. Very steep hills! After a week of sun I guess I hoped for more of the same, but the valley was pretty solidly rain washed for a lot of the week. I have excellent waterproofs so I was smugly comfortable all week despite needing windscreen wipers for the glasses.
I was booked in for a teaching week on living a reflective life -(which would normally be very appealing to me) but one look at the beautiful countryside made me long to be outside and having a fun week! It felt very positive to tell fellow guests that I was having a holiday while they were inside, being quiet; silence and reflection are fine, but not when I can hear rooks aarghing in the trees, see fritallaries in the grass and have waves to stare at and chase up a beach. And primroses, violets and new emerging beech and hazel which spatter the hillsides like a pattern on a grey green shawl.
I realise, this week, how much guilt I can carry – I am a book lover who always reads the books I buy. I spoke to folk who buy books and never get round to reading them, who have not the faintest flicker of guilt. If I have a passion in life, it would be sharing good books with people to encourage them. Yet, I feel guilty when I buy books I don’t need – maybe it’s a childhood spent in a public library, where books were presents for birthday and Christmas? Two new books make the rucksack of returning feel heavier!
So this week is learning to live a little after a fairly dark few months. Mornings out in the sun or rain, walking through mud and up and down the lovely Devon hills and cliff paths, drinking coffee and sneaking cake (because we are well fed already) in small shops instead of costa, afternoons repeating the walking but with company. I guess that’s the kind of holiday that feels renewing for me. Little pressure, lots of weather, gentle silence, and a backdrop of water – seascapes, streams, and standing pools of the stuff all over the roads on the way home.