Shed a skin and make a fisherman's friend
Descending the causeway that declines steeply to the pebbled beach, I encounter the remains of Beer’s fishing fleet that still braces the sea every day. Past charming Lillie May, bearing the same name as my grandmother and about the same age too I imagine, I admire her colourful beach garden.
I’m in Dorset here for a weekend of Sumara meditation and dance-movement in the landscape. The plan is to spend the mornings in the studio awakening our bodies and preparing them to move outdoors in less familiar terrains. We round off the day seated in meditation.
I'm now toggled up in outdoor clothing expecting to roll, glide, slither, crawl over damp rocks revealed by the rapidly retreating shoreline. The sun has already broken through the patchy clouds and the temperature is rising. I reach for the zip of my jacket that’s sealed around my neckline and find it won’t budge an inch. I’m trapped inside this waterproof, windproof skin and I've already broken into a sweat on the inside. If this continues I’ll be throwing myself into the cold sea.
And then I remembered the fisherman … sitting outside his stone hut selling the catch of the day. Surely he’d have a knife to cut me loose!
As so it was Alan, captain of the fleet, who came to my rescue but using a large pair of scissors. Quite an intimate operation it was. And thankfully I was saved the large knife that removes the heads and tails of fishes and splits their guts open. In all his years Alan admitted he'd never had to perform this procedure before and alas my jacket didn’t survive the surgery.
Once liberated I join the rest of the group to crunch across the pebbled beach. I gaze longingly at the tea drinkers sitting sedately under umbrellas in the afternoon sun, past Barbara Ann who’s hanging out with the bad boys having clearly thrown in her lot with the pirate boats. Arriving at the far side of the beach, under cliffs strewn with fallen rocks worn smooth as a baby’s bottom, I drapes myself over a sugar loaf mountain wait for the moment when the urge to move arises from within, led by my body and not my head.
At the tail end of the afternoon I wind through a verdant valley of wild flowers towards neighbouring Branscombe. This village is enchanting and quintessentially English. It would seem that thatched roof cottages be-speckled with flowers aren't just reserved for chocolate box covers.
I round off the day with Sumara, the Javanese meditation. Nothing special about how I should to sit in the chair or on the floor - just not lying down. Giving my body plenty of time to settle and come to stillness, feeling my weight drop down through my bones, supported by the chair. I feel like I'm shedding a little more of life's debris.
No need to follow my breath, a sound, or a mantra. Thoughts and feelings come and go as I sit here like this for 45 minutes. If I need to move, cough, mutter, shift position I do so. My mind wants to dance me around but I reign it back in to where I am seated on the chair with my friends around me, accompanied by birdsong. The ordinariness of this is completely luxurious.
On the drive back to Beer I track a deer slowly down the lane until he finds a suitable gap in the hedge. I then encounter an out-of-control bonfire threatening to take the hedgerow with it. I summon a rather drunken homeowner from his deck chair and hope he'll succeed in extinguishing it with his pitchfork without falling into the firey inferno.
If you’ve yet to discover the rural delights of Jurassic East Devon I highly recommend you do so. It’s the perfect place to make a fisherman friend and shed a skin or too.