You Never Know What You Might Find

by David Bigwood

“Come on, David, get your Mac on!”

My mother’s words floated back through time as I stood, cup of tea in hand, by the beachside hotel’s window staring at the gloomy scene.

“Come on! You never know what you might find.”

Then it had been the Atlantic sweeping into a North Wales beach, now it was the Pacific pounding the Australian east coast. Then it was a family holiday and holidays meant the beach and never mind the weather. Now it was a short break from work with nobody to urge me out into the storm. Mother knew a thing or two about children, after all, she was a teacher and what better way was there of encouraging children to walk a beach in the rain than to suggest that they may find something exciting?

To a boy, of course, this was a magical invitation to gather widely. I remember dragging a fine specimen of seaweed for several miles to where we were staying as someone had told me that it would help forecast the weather. If it was damp, it would rain and if dry then it would be fine. The trouble was that it quickly began to smell and if it was damp, it was raining!

I half smiled at the memory and carried on viewing the murky scene outside. The only concession to dawn was a lightening of the grey lowering clouds hanging above the rolling white-capped waves in the east. The gale-driven sea surged onto the sandy beach well above the usual high water mark even though there was still an hour or so to high tide. God, it looked bleak.

I turned away and headed for my room. A morning’s reading was on the cards. A comfortable chair in the warm lounge beckoned. As I crossed the foyer heading for the lounge a family group passed me well wrapped up against the weather and I saw my parents, my sister and me all those years ago and I stopped in my tracks.

Why not? If it’s too bad you can always come back, You never know what you might find.

My spirits lifted and in no time I was back in my room swapping my book for my wet weather gear. As I returned to the foyer I admit to having second thoughts — ‘you’re going to regret this’ rang through my head and as I stepped through the doors I almost turned around and headed back into sanctuary.

But, I pulled up the collar of my waterproof jacket and, head down, set off along the beach. Here, seagulls swooped over the breaking surf then climbed and hung almost motionless as they faced into the wind while there groups of their kin stood imperturbably, feathers ruffled, upon the wet sand.

Mother would have called this ideal beachcombing weather. She would have pointed out the clumps of seaweed that had been ripped from the ocean floor and wondered if they hid a message in a bottle perhaps or something that had floated half way around the world. In my boyhood that was all that was needed for me to start hunting.

One day I did unearth a bottle but the message had only come from a holiday maker in the next bay. And the coconut husk which I fondly imagined had come from some South Sea island had, in all probability, been tossed overboard from a ship just off the coast.

That was then when finding odd things was fun but this is now when the sheer joy was the feel of the wind and rain in my face reawakening the love of nature in my soul.

Mother was right, you never know what you might find.

copyright David Bigwood

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