A summer storm

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It arrived unannounced at roughly eleven- thirty in the morning. Before then it had been a quiet silvery morning, still silver sea, and pale grey sky. The wind built up, the clouds lowered, and rain flew in the wind. By evening it was a fully fledged storm and too good to miss, and I decided this was the day I tackled the hundred and fifty- seven steps up and down to the harbour, a trial of strength I’d avoided for too long since I twisted my ankle.

They led down through a ravine of tangled woods, and at the bottom as I stepped onto the wet sand there was a Buddha-like figure, a girl in a  faded pink jerkin sitting in the lotus position, meditating on the rocks. With this blessing at my back I carried on round the edge of the water, past a few old fishing cottages, now expensive sea-side dwellings.

Being a holiday, most of them had their families snugly tucked inside against the weather. Where they had their lights on in the grey day, I peered inside, approving when I saw walls of book- shelves, and enjoying a family gathered round a table eating their supper. A teenager was sitting on the branch of a pohutakawa leaning over the water, and when I waved, he waved back, his long arm a great wide semi-circle of  greeting.

The path wound round the edge of the harbour, sometimes deep in trees and woodland, and sometimes looking straight over the water with fishing boats at anchor swinging around in the wind and the waves. Promising myself to complete the circuit the next day I retraced my footsteps, and returned to the foot of the staircase leading up to the road.

A young man was now kneeling in front of the meditating girl, and as I approached she gazed at him with a look of such tender love that I flicked my eyes away and hurried up the steps so as not to disturb them.  Not that I could, even in bright red jacket and black trousers I was un-observed.

The hundred and fifty seven steps were not as bad as I feared, and I strode back along the road bent into the gale. Back to my end of the peninsula, where the shelter of the harbour no longer protected us, the great pohutakawa trees ringing the cemetery and leading out onto a little rocky peninsula bucked and swayed in the tempest. It wasn’t even high tide, but huge green waves were surging onto the rocks and white spray flying through the air.

As I looked down onto the rocks, and leant against a tree trunk to avoid being blown off myself, watching the hungry waves hurling themselves against the rocks, and the boiling white water swirling around them, it truly felt like ‘the cruel sea’.

The sound of the water and the trees was deafening, and mesmerising. There was nothing else outside this circle of wind and waves and sound and solitude. Impossible not to be totally present to the wild beauty and magnificence.

Finally the wind became so furious that I felt I had to make a dash between lulls. But there were no lulls, so I made a dash anyway, and  wandered back through the cemetery – which is still full of the stuff of life – one grave –stone facing out to sea inscribed:  “ He loved life and his fellowmen”,  another, saying: ”Sleep on grumpy” and another, telling passersby that this man had left Scotland for this new world, in 1865. His gravestone was at one end of a miniature cricket bowling pitch, with three stumps set in concrete the other end.

Reluctant to leave the aliveness of the storm I stood on the edge of the cliff, and wondered where had all the birds gone – no gulls or pigeons, tuis or doves. Somewhere dozens and dozens of birds were silently riding out the storm in places that no human could see.

We don’t have to worry about ‘those in peril on the sea’ these days. Fishing boats stay at anchor when they get the weather forecast and the big ships can ride out the storms. This storm, unlike so many others around the world, caused no harm or hardship. So savouring the elements is a guilt-free pleasure, and those like me, far from city pavements, are so privileged that we can. But maybe more importantly, this pleasure has a spiritual dimension,  since it’s also an acknowledgement of our beautiful and irreplaceable planet.


Food for threadbare gourmets

I’ve had so many people dropping in for various reasons, that rather than make a cake I’ve been making a succession of scones- fresh out of the oven, melting in the mouth, served with unsalted butter, strawberry jam and cream, they always disappear quicker than the proverbial hot cakes. They’re so simple to make, and I never add sugar, currants, cheese, or chopped anything. They are perfect just as they are.

Put six spoonfuls of self raising flour in a bowl with an ounce to an ounce and a half of softened butter. Rub it in, break an egg into a well in the centre and add half a cup of milk. Just mix it altogether with a knife, adding more milk if needed. It should all come together into a soft dough. I simply press it down on the pastry board, at least an inch thick, and cut it into squares. Half an hour in the fridge, covered is good for them. Bake on a floured or greased tray in a medium to hot oven for ten minutes or until raised and slightly brown. The trick is to serve them at once !


Food for thought

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.

George Eliot  1819 – 1880  Great English novelist

(New Zealand readers might be interested to hear me being interviewed on Kim Hill’s programme on Saturday morning, choosing favourite records and talking in between)







Filed under birds, environment, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized, village life

24 responses to “A summer storm

  1. The ‘like’ is for the scones, too. Yummy!


  2. I remember a typhoon (cyclone) in Vanuatu–how after we rolled up the rugs and Chinese scrolls, moved the furniture away from the windows, and prepared candles, flashlights, and extra tubs of water, we drove down to the waterfront to enjoy the waves. You spoke of the “aliveness” of the storm. A stormy ocean is really something to behold! We don’t want to miss it, and we only hope this storm won’t be worse than we expect–not a tsunami or a killer typhoon.


  3. Aaah. As always reading your stories is such a pleasure. Afterwards I felt like plunging out into the snow and just walking (well, almost). I loved the teenager’s “great wide semi-circle of greeting,” the lovers, the cemetery, and finally, just giving yourself up to the storm itself. Thank you.
    And yes, scones must be eaten hot. It’s one’s duty to finish them, since they won’t keep!


  4. That was an amazing piece of writing Valerie.You took me there completely. Many’s the time I’ve watched the hungry waves throw themselves over the promenade in Colwyn Bay or Rhos on Sea towering over the street lights to crash down on cars whose occupants have come to see the force of a storm. I’ve seen rocks thrown that would kill as they hit. The Insurance claim adjusters must have had fun from the claims of some of the drivers.
    There is a certain Majesty in the storm but it’s totally wild and untamed no matter how many concrete groynes are placed to break up the waves.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx


  5. Oh, thanks for the tip about your interview on Kim Hill. I will be listening 🙂


  6. Perhaps I will have a nice hot scone whilst I listen 🙂


  7. Lovely soothing post…nature at its best 😉


  8. Good one. I have decided to try the scone recipe, my first in a lifetime baking experience.


  9. Wind and waves and sound and solitude among the wild beauty and magnificence. What beautiful description, Valarie. For a moment, I was there. What impresses me is that instead of taking shelter in the comfort of your own home, you are in the midst of this, savoring every moment.


  10. For several years I lived in a beach community in New Jersey. I would love to walk down to the beach in a storm and watch the fury. Summer storms are the best!


  11. MisBehaved Woman

    Thank you for taking us along on your walking adventure. You have NO idea what a treat it is for those of us who are landlocked and can only dream of the sea…cruel or otherwise! 🙂


  12. Valerie, being out in a storm such as you describe is indeed a wonderful experience. In the city, storms are often viewed as simply annoyances, although they can also be devastating. For farmers and ranchers, what a storm is varies wildly, depending on what needs to be done, what might be destroyed and so on. I loved the tombstone inscriptions you mentioned. Cemeteries are so much fun to explore, especially old ones. One of my favorite inscriptions is from Tombstone, Arizona and reads, “Here lies Lester Moore, Four slugs from a 44, No Les, No Moore.” 🙂

    Regarding scones, here’s the recipe I use and that gets rave reviews. It’s not really “mine” but I’ll share, since you gave us such a lovely one: http://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/dinner-and-scones/.

    Blessings on your day,



  13. My mind was there, slipping along behind you, seeing you as you walked here and there. I saw the young man wave and then I too dipped my head an walked on.

    Beautiful writing, Valerie. You take us with you and let us see and taste and smell what is your world.

    *♥´¨) ¸.-´¸.-♥´¨) Happy Valentine’s Day¸.-♥¨) (¸.-` ♥♥´¨


  14. Beautiful writing as always Valerie. I’ve just finished reading ‘The Sound of Water’ and so feel I can ‘see’ your world a little better – your night walks in that same cemetery with the cat, listening to the waves crashing below. I loved reading more of your writing in a longer form and your descriptions and stories were just as evocative as your blog.


  15. Beautifully written Veronica. I loved it. Almost blown away !! 😉

    Are you still getting those annoying comments ? If you are I have a solution. I have had nearly 5000 over the last few days and only 2 got through into my notifier.

    Have a lovely …calm……weekend my friend. Ralph xox 😀


  16. You walked through the storm with all your senses awake and your spirit expanded, and you received the energy of the elements. I love the description of the meditator and her beau. Beautifully told; thank you Valerie.


  17. How so wonderfully you put everything into description — truly you have a gift — and beyond that, thank you for the sharing the recipe of the wonderful scones —with unsalted butter, strawberry jam and cream. Truly one of joys of living!


  18. I have my tea in hand. I measure your posts by the number of teacups it takes to read your brilliant thoughts, and read the brilliant comments that come after. Tonight, you speak of the wind and the waves, the oceans, love and adventures, even manage to get a fashion statement in (bright red jacket and black trousers) between thoughts. And then the reminder that when we begin another life, a journey that we will all come to eventually, some token or memory should remain.

    The first thought that came to mind was one of the first poem’s my son recited when he was 7 years old. Somehow the last verse fits perfectly into your thoughts – I just have to add it!

    “There’s tempest in yon horne´d moon,
    And lightning in yon cloud;
    But hark the music, mariners!
    The wind is piping loud; 20
    The wind is piping loud, my boys,
    The lightning flashes free—
    While the hollow oak our palace is,
    Our heritage the sea.”

    A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea by Allan Cunningham (1784–1842)


  19. Beautiful writing as always and I am now going to try the link to your programme. I save your posts for a lie in on a Saturday morning and today find I have an extra treat. 🙂


  20. Thank you for the walk to the stormy harbour. An enjoyable read, as always Valerie!

    And, yes, scones! Great idea!

    Much love.


  21. Amy

    Thank you for the pleasant walk. Hundred and fifty- seven steps up and down is a long walk, Glad your ankle is better, Valerie. Beautiful capture!


  22. You make me feel guilty at having spent a far less adventurous day!
    I hope the romance blooms.


  23. Such a walk, I have always loved storms at sea they are primal. Your writing, I will always here it now with your voice now (I am listening to you now).


  24. You certainly do live in a beautiful place.


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