The Beach

Hard going today. I have blisters. I’m longing for a roof over my head, but the road ahead is empty and the horizon is a long way away.

I persevere for a while, wiping sweat from my face and hobbling on the outsides of my feet to spare the blisters, until at last I’ve had enough. I realise I’m treating the road as if I owe it a duty, to tick off my quota of miles in a day. looked at like that, the journey is overwhelming. And I have missed the point.

So I quit the road, following a tiny track almost buried in grass, out towards the sea. The sun is a while from setting, but the shadows are already a little long and the light a little golden. The birds cry their evening song, wild and distant as ever, but a little gentler than at other times.

At the end of the track is a little beach. Not a long white strand, but a neat little cove of pink sand layered with streaks of pebbles. The sea washes it with quiet little waves.

So I sit down, and I take off my boots, and I make a fire. The flames are slow in coming, but with time they are rippling high above the driftwood like long orange flags. The crackle and hiss mingle with the washing of the sea and the piping of the birds, and everything starts to fall back together.

It’s a truism, isn’t it, to say that life’s about the journey, not the destination? And yet, if there were no destination, we wouldn’t be on the road. But the heartland road is a strange place. It’s a road; it leads somewhere in the end, and every beat of my heart tells me that that destination is its purpose; and yet, the road itself is also, somehow, the point. The journey is its own destination? That’s not quite it; and yet the journey, right now, is where I need to be; the longing I feel here is a kind of satisfaction.

Another satisfaction is bread, stuffed with cheese and toasted over a wood fire, and an apple speared on a stick and roasted until the skin starts to fizz. And right now, that’s all the satisfaction I need.

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