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  • Monique Sliedrecht

Clear Silence



Yesterday morning I woke early, made my coffee, and then started rushing around the house to organise and clean up before travelling south from Freswick later in the day. If I was going to check things off my ‘to do’ list, plus spend a bit of time with a friend, I would have to keep going as each hour of the day mattered.


The coffee started getting cold. The porridge was sitting on the stove, getting thicker as the minutes passed.


I was sorting through the laundry, packing up my suitcase, when a warm glow on the wall opposite caught my eye. That kind of glow could only mean one thing. I looked out the window and could not believe the colour in the sky, a strip of almost glowing red/pink, stretching across the horizon and reflecting on the clouds above in oranges and golds.


Without much consideration or thought, I dropped what I was doing.

The only thing that crossed my mind was that ‘I have to get out there’, and I quickly put my trousers and sweater on over my pyjamas, stuck on some wellies, grabbed my wee camera and went down to the shore, all in a matter of 5-10 minutes.


When I got down to the beach, the air was unusually still and unmoving. It was as though all the earth was in a hush, holding it’s breath like I was, witnessing the display. All the action was happening in the light and sky, with the changing colour reflecting on the water. I felt like I was standing in some kind of light show, surrounded by enormous space, yet feeling held, bathed in the glow.


Eventually, after walking the length of the beach on one side of the burn, I reluctantly left the seaside and trekked to the house. On the way back, I noticed some colourful broken buoy pieces and picked them up to take with me, to add to my growing collection. I started this collection of buoy fragments many years ago. Perhaps the habit of collecting the pieces over the years makes me more quickly attuned to them, even when they are tucked away and partially covered by seaweed. Maybe the colours of the sky alerted me to the the pieces that morning. In any case, when I got home and set them on the counter, I noticed the reds, yellows and oranges, having just viewed the vibrant outdoor display. I may need to keep this assemblage together to remember the sky.



It’s nothing like the actual sky was though.


Too often we have visitors at Freswick who have come from the city and take a number of days before they step outside for a walk, or realise how close to the beach they are, and how easy it is to get there. Something holds them back from going - a fear of the unfamiliar perhaps? Uncomfortable wellies? When the time comes to go out, there is often that thought: ‘Why did I wait so long?’


I’m reminded of someone who came up to Freswick to write. She had everything planned out for her trip, and spent her days mainly in one room at a desk, very focused on her work. One day she decided to go for a walk. She put her headphones on, and made her way up the lane towards the main road, looking for the beach — which was behind her! Another visitor offered to take the dog for a walk, but the dog would not go along. Perhaps there was a sense in the dog that the man was too distracted. The dog wanted attention and acknowledgement while she chased the waves, not a distant and distracted walking companion.


The earth calls out to us, trying to pull us from our busy and preoccupied minds and lives, and says ‘Look at me. Look at my rhythms. Stop worrying. Stop doing what you’re doing. Look up.’


I managed to get everything done that I needed to, with time to spare, before my trip south.

On the plane while flying into Edinburgh you could not help but notice the incredible sky once again... two stunning book-ends to the day.



A friend sent me this wonderful poem by John O'Donohue last week. It shares a very similar sentiment, though he says it much better.


To Learn From Animal Being  John O’Donohue Nearer to the earth's heart, Deeper within its silence: Animals know this world In a way we never will. We who are ever Distanced and distracted By the parade of bright Windows thought opens: Their seamless presence Is not fractured thus. Stranded between time Gone and time emerging, We manage seldom To be where we are: Whereas they are always Looking out from The here and now. May we learn to return And rest in the beauty Of animal being, Learn to lean low, Leave our locked minds, And with freed senses Feel the earth Breathing with us. May we enter Into lightness of spirit, And slip frequently into The feel of the wild. Let the clear silence Of our animal being Cleanse our hearts Of corrosive words. May we learn to walk Upon the earth With all their confidence And clear-eyed stillness So that our minds Might be baptised In the name of the wind And light and the rain.



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