It’s glorious here… sun shining, sky hazy and practically cloudless, waves lapping the shore… and I’ve unexpectedly found myself with that ever-elusive-to-parents ‘5 minutes peace’. Realistically I have about an hour, maybe a little more, before Ummi duty resumes… so I have taken myself to the beach and here I am, kid-free and coffee in hand, enjoying the rare luxury of ‘watching the world go by’ as I breathe in the perfect sea breeze.
There’s something about the ocean.
I’m caught somewhere between the lightness of it all and a niggling guilt that I chose not to go with the children today… yet despite this… and the bank holiday busyness of the place it is still so. utterly. peaceful… and I relax into absentmindedly people-watching.
I remember reading with amazement that the initial inspiration for JK Rowling’s whole Harry Potter series was one boy she saw in a train station… I often find myself wondering about the lives of people I see in passing… a railway worker on the tracks as my train passes by… a woman, so broken looking, walking alone along the street as I drive by… a father and child hand in hand in the supermarket, someone standing upright on a surfboard silhouetted against the early morning seascape… just before the light begins to change or the fishermen out on the trawler that has been on the move in the bay for over a week now… I wonder who they are, what their stories are and what gives them their meaning… I make dua for them, silently asking Allah to guide them and to bless them with the joy of Islam with which, from His mercy, He has blessed me. And at this remembrance I’m filled with gratitude. Subhan Allah.
A young couple sit down not far from me, laughing quietly, at ease with one another.
Behind me a sturdy little boy starts wailing loudly… as he is reunited with his mother… at the sudden realisation that, unbeknownst to himself, he had been lost.
A father and daughter arrive and settle themselves nearby, him ‘cursing and blinding’ affectionately at her to roll up her trouser legs before she starts to paddle and, evidently anxious for her to make the most of the experience, goes on to warn ‘If you don’t get in I’ll t’row ye in’… to no immediate effect.
There’s jazz playing away in the distance… Brubeck… ‘Take Five’ if my very limited memory of Junior Cert Music serves me correctly.
Somewhere on the hillside far to my right my children are ambling amongst the gorse and rocks with their grandparents, chattering, carefree, racing one another… perhaps by now picnicking on whatever snacks my mom will have packed for them.
Aforementioned Irish daddy has tired of his daughter’s hesitance by now and has carried her across the stones to the water’s edge. She, apparently unaffected by his gruffness, squeals as the presumably icy water splashes her bare legs. Another man arrives, an uncle perhaps, and drenches the poor kid with water from a red plastic bucket… causing her to screech in delight and surprise… before the two men proceed to lift her between them and make as if to swing her out into the shallows. As her father carries her, still laughing, back across the stones to the towel I’m reminded of my own childhood, my own countless sunny days on this same beach with my own dad and my heart aches a little… I miss the ease with which we played and gambolled about and tears prick my eyes behind my sunglasses as I consider the distance that has grown between us now. I’m not quite sure how it came about.
‘I see fields of green, red roses too, I see them bloom, for me and you…’. The music has changed, the song familiar and not unpleasant, yet, as always, it makes me think only of the road safety advert it was theme for when I was a child… I see the sweep of the hedgerow lined road in my minds eye, recalling only too vividly what horror the driver will encounter on the far side of the upcoming bend…
‘and I think to myself what a wonderful world.’
The young couple near me, French, have narrowly missed being permanently adopted by a toddler with a halo of blond curly hair… at the last moment she opted for her parents… trotting after them calling ‘Mommy… wait’.
The music has stopped without me even noticing, the little red plastic bucket lies abandoned in the evening sun, the trawler is nowhere to be seen and the tide is slipping out almost imperceptibly.
It’s idyllic… but it’s time for me to tear myself away from the sea and make my way back home along the shore.
“Say: ‘If the sea were ink for the Words of my Lord, surely, the sea would be exhausted before the Words of my Lord would be finished, even if We brought like it for its aid.'” Qur’an 18:09