Coming to Water

 Carlisle to Barrow trainline, approaching Whitehaven. Photo: Stephen Burns.

Carlisle to Barrow trainline, approaching Whitehaven. Photo: Stephen Burns.

COMING TO WATER (Nicola Slee)

Come to water.  It may be lake, river or sea.
It does not matter, so long as the source is clean.
Each makes its own kind of poultice for sickness.
Here you will find healing,
though it may not be in the form you are seeking.

You must build a necessary hunger before you get there.
You must be needy. You must be hurting.
You must be lonely as the seabird’s cry
far out near the horizon.

After arriving, you must wait for a long while.
You will still be arriving.

Walk and walk and walk by the water’s edge.
Sit for long stretches at a time
gazing out at its many surfaces.
Think of nothing.
Let time and the passages of daylight and darkness
pass over and under you.

If it is dry and the sun beats golden on you,
close your eyes and bask in the miracle of warmth.
If it rains, whether sweetly or fiercely,
let your face be turned upwards to receive its blessing,
Your skin be covered in wetness.
If a storm should holler and range and shake the skies,
walk out in it, let your body be blasted
by an energy that knocks you sideways,
emptying your limbs of all resistance.

You must go to the water.
You must take what it offers.
You must yield what it asks of you.
You must submit to its tenderness.
You must leave when it is time, though it is never time for leaving.
You must walk away still thirsty,
with the sound of its pouring ringing in your ears. 

From Nicola Slee, Praying Like a Woman (London: SPCK, 2004), p. 137.

 Images: Whitehaven harbour and Derwentwater Lake, Keswick. Photos: Stephen Burns.

Images: Whitehaven harbour and Derwentwater Lake, Keswick. Photos: Stephen Burns.

(Thumbnail image: Michelle, Lydia, Eleanor. Photo: Kenneth Burns)