Over the last month the northern part of our country has been inundated: literally. Some unfortunate folk in the Lake District and Yorkshire have been flooded repeatedly; unimaginable devastation of lives and livelihoods which has left them reeling, as the rain continues to fall across the land. This week Scotland is awash, and as I write this, rivers to the north and south of us are threatening to over-top their banks. Even here, in our little coastal corner of Northumberland, near Bamburgh, where the rain is never that bad, it is pouring as I write, down on to the cold, wet garden where the sparrows huddle for shelter. All over the Christmas period, thousands of people have been walking on water, their consciousness subsumed within this powerful and symbolic element. As someone famous once said:
Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing . . .
Where is there an end to the drifting wreckage . . .
There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing . . .
To the movement of pain that is painless and motionless,
To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage.
Though the forecast shows the rain will soon move over our little patch, these last few days we’ve had to forgo our morning run: the wind has simply been too strong, too relentless to contend with and the murk too persistent. Sea foam, thick, deep and extensive, has coated the beach and flown in our faces, causing Nico to jump out of its way. Huge tree-trunks have beached themselves as the giant waves receded, seal pups have died of exhaustion and been dragged back to the depths under cover of darkness. Across huge stretches of the smooth, shiny sand, the froth extended, making us feel as though we were walking on water.
Tomorrow the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany, which is not – as it has become in the western tradition – the coming of the Three Kings , but the coming of the Holy Spirit on the occasion when Jesus was baptised by John the Forerunner in the waters of the River Jordan. Tomorrow, throughout the world, Greek Orthodox communities will follow the priest to bless their nearest river or stream. For some, they won’t have to move very far. While others across the world watch their cattle and crops die and their forests and houses burn, because of drought, longing for the waters to fall, we long for everything to be in balance again.The waters of life – giving and taking – transforming everything.