A Moment to Reflect

30 June 2020

A Moment to Reflect- 55

Mediterranean waves in Southern Spain

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea [Psalm 46:2]

I was born in a tenement slum that was unhealthily steeped in dampness. The source of that dampness wasn’t difficult to locate. Our tenement had been built very close to the high rocky cliff of a former quarry and …right next to a waterfall. The stream from the base of the waterfall ran along the side of our building and through a culvert underneath the road. Of course, not all the water made it through the culvert as the walls of the tenement soaked much of it up into the house. However… one of the things I really loved about the waterfall was the constant sound of the rushing water. It varied in its intensity with the changing seasons but it was always soothing and reassuring.

We left that house when I was seven years old and it was not until about five or six years later that I realised just how much I had missed that sound. What rekindled the memory was going to a Scripture Union Camp at Scoughall, just outside North Berwick. It was a canvas camp—old ex-Army bell tents, set up in a farmer’s field. The camp was very close to the beach and all through the day, and even more through the night, you were conscious of the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, the restless, relentless energy of the sea meeting the land. (It would have been soothing at night but for the revolving light of the nearby lighthouse, which gave it more of the air of a Prisoner of War Camp in a Second World War movie!)

As Wikipedia will tell you, “The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson spent several boyhood holidays at Scoughall.” (though presumably not at an SU camp!)  “It was here in front of the farmhouse fire that the young Stevenson first heard the story of how folks in these parts on dark stormy nights, when winds used to lash the coast, lured sailing ships onto the rocks by displaying misleading lantern lights.”

And I’m sure it was here that his imagination was set alight, providing the basis for stories like ‘Treasure Island’ and lines such as, “Seaward ho! Hang the treasure! It’s the glory of the sea that has turned my head.”― Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island.

But I have always loved the varied sound of the sea on the shore— the gentle lapping of a receding tide on the sand, the rhythmic pounding of waves on shingle, the crash of breakers on the rocks.

Even in stormy weather, from the safety of dry land, it can be a soothing, reassuring sound.

A few days ago, I remarked on the fact that one of the things that Martin Luther did to fight against his frequent bouts of depression was to keep saying to himself “Baptizatus Sum” (I am baptised) finding reassurance in this reminder of his true identity as a child of God.

So, it seemed to me that this quotation from the works of the English art historian, novelist and journalist, Ian Pears, was very appropriate: “Being by the sea is like a permanent baptism; the light and air hypnotizes, and your soul is washed by vastness.” ― Iain Pears, The Portrait