On apparently calm seas

It will not surprise those of you who know me that, as a Cornishwoman, the sea is in my blood. I have always found watching it restorative, somehow setting right in me all the complex emotions that so frequently swirl around just under conscious thought and therefore unreachable to process. The first time that we were able to make a day trip to the sea after the first lockdown in 2020, I cried with the enormity of relief at seeing it again.

Apart from the personal settling in my psyche which it engenders, I’m always fascinated by the sea’s moods: the calm caress of the sand of one day being replaced at another time on the same shoreline by a furious lashing as tides, weather, and sometimes indefinable and unseen changes occur. In many ways the sea is at its most beautiful in those wild times – albeit dangerous to those who underestimate its power.

This week however I witnessed something which was new to me, even as a seasoned wave-watcher. On this particular day, there was little wind, the sun shone, and I expected to find the sea flat, its ebb and flow barely noticeable. In part, I was correct. There was no sign of movement across the calm surface at all.

Yet this was not the whole story. Though the surface betrayed nothing of what was about to emerge, from this smooth yet ultimately deceiving exterior, from time to time an enormous wave would, with no warning, emerge, rising to a great height and then noisily slapping the stones as if they had committed some unseen offence, sucking tiny pebbles into its vortex with extraordinary power. It was breath-taking, the two aspects of its life seemingly so at odds with one another. No picture could do it justice.

It made me think how often in our lives things are not as they appear. It is true of course at an individual level. The pandemic has perhaps taught us a humility about our health, both physical and emotional, and the way that none of us are exempt from its potential disruption. And so much of the time we readily accept the smiles of those around us with little appreciation of what potential turmoil lurks under the calmest of personas. It is just one reason why we should always be kind. We rarely know each other’s private struggles.

However more widely, the unseen is also a reason to hold on to hope. Just as the power of the sea that day was under the surface and waiting to erupt, so, I believe, the God of love is often at work in ways that we may not see at the moment. Yet, perhaps when we least expect it, he is always capable of surprising us with an act of powerful love.

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