The Norfolk coast is such a beautiful and fragile place. We walked there again, close to cliffs that seemed to be sheering away into heaps of sand. I tried to keep the recommended five meters from the edge. I am not afraid of heights, but I was afraid of these cliffs.
Living in East Anglia we are very aware how precarious we are, with the power of the North Sea beside us, with the ground under our feet seeming sandy, and uncertain. I feel the threat of that sea driven by north winds, rising as the ice melts. These places, and the creatures that live there, like the sand martins, like us, are in uncertain times. And although it may be tempting to despair of what is happening to our world, what our systems of greed have done and are doing to the world, I feel our sense of beauty and fragility offers us a note of hope, too. The sorrow for what we have lost, and what we are losing – all those precious creatures, plants, places – can bring us to our senses, can help us wake up, and treasure what is close, what greets us every day with a soft, green welcome.
Sheringham Park is full of bright colour in spring – first the azaleas, then the rhododendrons. There is a tower you can climb to look over the tops of these extraordinary banks of pink, and purple, and red.
What caught me, though, what filled me with wonder, what made me feel a part of this place, was a beech tree, and some pigeons. The startle as they all flew away made me feel that moment, and that place – a sense of awe, of connection, of being one with a place.
It seems such a small thing in the face of potential global catastrophe – to love a place, to be awed by such ordinary things as a beech tree in new leaf, as a crowd of pigeons. I wonder if it is such a small thing, though. I wonder if that sense of love and connection can open us to another way of being in the Earth – humbled by its hospitality, aware we have gifts to offer in return, walking softly.
Sheringham Park Pigeons
At the top of the ridge –
from here the land slopes to the sea –
from the top of the tallest beech tree
singing with new green,
shining with life,
the pigeons fly
away in clattering waves,
circle after circle of them.
My steps disturbed them,
although my shoes are soft.
How could there be so many,
crashing through the blue air
in tens, in hundreds it seems,
in circles that grow wider and wider
their flights the spokes of a wheel.
And here, this smooth old grey trunk
its very centre.
Where I stand,
the very centre.