Thin Space

There is a poetic injustice to praising open spaces in a pandemic. They have always been there but we had chosen so far to live in narrow cities, grey roads and walls, determinedly tiring from the ceaseless endeavors we were sure we are meant to pursue. Next to me now, the Atlantic stretches in swathes of blues, blacks, greens and grays as the sun rises and even on days with gales of wind like today, I find spaces to sit on the side of the cliffs, my face lifted to the sun like a bird. The Celtics have a term “Thin Places” for places where a person can meet God. For me, I found my thin space on the side of the ocean in Cornwall. The surf rises and crashes on the narrow strip of beach near the place we have rented and it is too cold for me to bear sometimes but then the sun comes up and the wind and ocean spray sting my face and eyes and I let myself learn how to find stillness. The children play in the sand, the dog chases after them and then finding a dry cuttle fish bone gnaws at it. There are a few brave surfers in the water throwing a frisbee to each other, near me on the sand the remains of a dead seal decomposes gently, every day a little bit more of him gone. Often in the distance, a rainbow frames the sky until it fades from view. Earlier in the year, in a lull between the lockdowns, we had travelled here and found a place of peace, in the turmoil of my mother in law’s death from ALS, our migration to England and then Covid-19. Can these open spaces, as swept as they are in the wind, gales, rain, mud and ocean spray, protect and heal us? The children slip and fall often as we walk bits of the South West Coast Path, England’s longest national trail, 630 miles long. As the sun lights up my computer screen from behind me, my eyes are drawn away from the computer to the seagulls and kites floating on a wing in the wind. If there is a meaning to our lives, if there is a way to learn how to live deeply and truly, surely it has to be here somewhere on these cliffs by the ocean. We throw our stale bread to the gulls and I stand watching them circle us and the crumbs on the ground. For them, perhaps both are the same?