Midwinter

 

Dawn comes late in these the dark days of winter.

It was a night of howling wind, driving rain beating against weather worn creaking windows. The dog remained curled tightly in his basket ears creased and eyes crinkled, shut to the possibility of morning’s arrival.

Magic Seaweed  – the surfer’s oracle, proclaimed 30mph onshore winds with messy fierce waves battering the rugged South West Coast but to those who know, there are always waves to ride, tucked in the unpromising corners of the dusty, fading, genteel Victorian resort towns that line the shores of the East Wight, or more rarely, stealing  into the shallow sandy bays of the Northern Coast, which in the Summer play host to toddlers taking first shaky steps on sand, squealing with delight as gentle ripples tickle pink toes.

We were not alone when we arrived, the surf bush telegraph is hyper optic it appears and a handful of wetsuit clad figures were already laying seal like awaiting the next set. We made our way through the flooded carpark, sharing jittery, short, conversation as we stood watching the conditions from the shore. The swell rolling in was smooth and consistent – a legacy of stormy weather far out in the channel, shaped by the wind’s fetch – a geographic term which describes the amount of open water over which a wind has blown.

When hesitancy begins to creep into my psyche, my modus operandi is to leap into action before the fear becomes paralysing, so within minutes, I’m paddling out from the beach heading “out back” into the unbroken water, through swirling surging white foam, totally immersed, watching for gaps between the wave sets which give an opportunity to paddle out, avoiding the washing machine effect of battling through the breakers.

Once in the water I’m hooked on the complexity of riding the raw energy of an ever-changing wave. It focuses the mind like few other activities do and even after a couple of hours in the cold sea it’s still difficult to tear myself away despite aching shoulders and the promise of a hot cup of coffee. It is a completely entrancing experience, providing an intrinsic reward which closely resembles, for me at least the concept of “flow”that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as:

“an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing”

It requires persistence, curiosity and teaches humility – all characteristics which I’ve found to be helpful in creating a life that is joyful and peaceful independent of external circumstances.

I’m writing now by the fire, it’s evening, dark and quiet. The dog lies with head on the hearth and the only sound is the gentle creaking of the wood burner, flames dancing hypnotically in the darkness. One more journey outside to put the chickens to bed and then the day will be over.

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