The wind changed direction to blow from the south and with it came the hot temperatures from Spain. Summer had arrived in England, not just with gentle summer breezes which would dry the cereal crops ready for harvesting but with the scorching temperatures which the residents of Britain hope for but rarely see. The effect was immediate. It was time to be outside seeking every opportunity to enjoy the sun, get a glowing suntan and if possible take some time off.
Two opportunities presented themselves to us this summer. One was planned should circumstances allow it and the other I came across quite unexpectedly.
For a while now we have promised ourselves a short break on Dartmoor, West Devon, should there be a promise of good weather. We found the weather and a visit to celebrate the arrival of a new baby to friends in Bristol coincided perfectly to give us the wonderful opportunity to travel a couple of hours south of Bristol to spend two days on Dartmoor! The moors are our favourite place for a quiet retreat. Unfortunately, one cannot always guarantee sunny weather so we are quite used to finding ourselves braving a westerly gale, snow, driving rain or mist. Twenty four degrees and a warm, gentle breeze were a bonus this time.
Day one was perfect. Walking to the top of Haytor, reading and driving to favourite places to get a different view, an ice cream from the van parked in a layby where the Dartmoor ponies love to graze and an evening meal at Warren Hill Inn where electricity is supplied from a noisy generator. By midday on day two clouds drifted in from the west, obscuring the sun and causing a chilly wind to blow across the moors. Dartmoor is known for having its own weather systems. It was too early to start our journey and, as we were not to be beaten, we decided to drive to Torbay which was only a slight detour on our journey home. A traffic jam and diversion delayed our arrival at the seaside by an hour but did not hinder our enjoyment of the unexpected detour.
The unexpected opportunity arose out of a visit to Dunwich Heath. The Suffolk coast, so easily accessible from where we live, has wetlands, reed beds, estuaries, heathland, a shingle spit, nature reserves and forests for us to enjoy. The cliffs and sandy soil of Dunwich are another of our favourite walking breaks. This year the summer flowering heather came out in June and each new day has seen the stunning mauve of the heather, intermittently broken by splashes of small yellow gorse bushes and young green ferns. It has been stunning. Below the cliffs, the sea is a soft milky green dotted with the grey or black shadows of the clouds as the sun travels east to west across the sea and then the heathland. An artist would be spellbound by its serene beauty. What an opportunity to be grasped on our doorstep. The surprise was to find it flowering so early and at the time of writing, the end of July, not having reached the peak of its flowering season yet.
If we had not grasped the opportunity we had looked for we would not have had our flying visit to Dartmoor. There would have been disappointment if we had not taken a detour to Torbay and left for home early when the weather changed on Dartmoor. Sometimes, we too readily give in to the obstacles that arise and stand in the way of what we have either planned to do or are already actively pursuing. A little bit of effort or rethinking might well enable us to prevent the door of opportunity from shutting. The end result will be one of satisfaction, and having got everything possible out of the opportunity offered to us. We would be rather foolish not to enjoy making the most of visiting Dunwich this summer, whether it be early morning to watch the sun rise and climb into the sky over the sea, inviting family or friends to explore or enjoy good company in a beautiful setting during the day, or to wind down in the cool of the evening. This opportunity will not last forever. It will end as the summer gives way to the autumn.
I wonder, do we look for opportunities to fulfil our dreams and aspirations? We need to be aware of extremes. Do we drive ourselves and everyone around us to the point of exasperation and despair to get what we want and then refuse to accept the door that closes when we are making a mistake? Our frenzied activity and searching could well lose us all our friends. We could also lose out if we deliberate too much when we need to grasp an opportunity. For example, we go shopping, find what we have been looking for and then choose not to buy it but then come back another time to make the purchase. What a disappointment to find it gone! We took too long deliberating, put off making the final decision and lost out. We could just as easily be guilty when we make snap decisions. This is what we want, have waited for ages. We find that have been too hasty and have to retreat sometimes with egg on our faces.
Upon reflection I wonder if opportunities require sensitive handling. Yes, exercise caution that is sensible but it is sometimes better to take the plunge and trust and have the grace to learn how to handle ourselves if we make a mistake. It is not good to hide in the safety of the shadows - that place where we look on but know that we are missing out. It is exciting to take risks, but not so when our world comes crashing down because we did not spend enough time finding out more before we took the plunge. We too end up with nothing. We will benefit by familiarising ourselves with phrases such as, slow down, think first, take your time and hold things lightly. Life need not consist of extremes but rather understanding how we do or do not manage ourselves. It might well take courage to persevere when an opportunity comes our way as much as it takes to close the door on one that we know to be wrong.