“Life is a beach, not a box of chocolates, this isn’t Forrest Gump. I’m not named after anyone famous, the band didn’t work but the medication did and I’m still here.

Anyway, enough of me, life is a beach. A big beautiful flat expanse of wet sand at sunrise after the tide has gone out. The surface reflecting the patterns of the early morning clouds above stretching out to the horizon, a straight line of the receded sea abutted to a distantly hazy headland. (If you remember the episode of Dr Who where The Doctor travels to a beach in Wales to catch an echo of Rose, that’s the sort of beach I’m imagining.) Though it’s not the periphery that is important, it’s where we are standing at any moment in time, the clean flat mirrored surface we are travelling across. The beach is beautiful in itself, and we should appreciate that.

And we perhaps question whether there is more than the beach. But our experience is simply the beach. We have not experienced anything other than the beach so we cannot imagine anything beyond that experience. The beach is beautiful, and if we are healthy we appreciate that.

However, as we travel along our beautiful long flat beach there comes a time when we see a stick. This stick stands out from the sand. The stick interests us, it appeals to us as it’s different from anything we have ever seen before on the beach by a scale of magnitude. It stands out from the sand, it is physically different in characteristic, in texture; and items might even cluster around its base that in themselves appeal to us. If we are lucky, then we spend time enjoying that stick, its uniqueness, its beauty as we see it, how it looks, perhaps its weight in our hand, or how it feels to our touch. Or just being there, with the stick, appreciating that stick for what it is.

If we’re lucky, then we might find many sticks on our journey along the beach. Each catches our attention and perhaps appeals to us in a different way. Though we might not get the same shock as the first time we found a stick, from each stick we might take something different, building and carrying with us a sense of who we are and what may be for us an ideal stick.

As we travel further along the beach further sticks may stand out from the sand, for us they differ from what’s around them in many different ways, and attract our attention. Each demands our attention.

Some travellers on the beach may move from one stick to another, experiencing each in turn, others try to hold more than one stick at a time. Surely the former might benefit from a period of reflection to fully appreciate the new experience; the latter will fail to perceive the full depth of beauty in each individual stick. But who am I to judge.

If we are lucky we get to spend time appreciating the stick we have discovered. There are times when our stay is long, others when our stay is shorter. We hold simple thoughts but there are times when we might wonder whether there is more to this stick than we perceive; or when we might question whether there is more on the beach than a series of successively interesting sticks. But our experience is simply the beach and the sticks. We have not experienced anything other than the beach and stick so we cannot imagine anything beyond those experiences.

Some parts of the beach hold many sticks, and on those parts of the journey we may find ourselves distracted.

However, we become richer from each ‘stick experience’. So as we walk along the beach we grow.

Then, perhaps much later in our journey along the beach we look up from the sand at our feet. We see the tree-house. The tree-house is different from anything we have ever seen before. It stands out from our only experiences, of the beach and of the sticks. It differs from them by a scale of magnitude, both in its complexity and strength. We realise that we have found what we imagined was more than the stick, where we were travelling to without knowing it. This, we realise, is the place where we will be safe and fulfilled, where we can lay our head down to rest when night comes.”

Agatha Bagshot 2014

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