As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Every wife had seven sacks
Every sack had seven cats
Every cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives
How many were going to St Ives?
On Sunday, I passed a man walking along the path on the dunes above Porth Kidney beach. The one that runs alongside the little dodger train track that links St Erth to St Ives. Actually, he was going to St Ives and judging from his backpack (packed with clothes I discovered and not kits, cats, wives and sacks), he was no ordinary walker. He told me he was about a third of his way around the South West Coastal footpath, a distance of some 630 miles having begun his journey from Minehead 18 days ago.
The traveler kindly let me take this photograph of him. I would like to have talked to him longer but he was already 3 hours behind his schedule. What should have taken seconds to hop across the spit of beach that connects Godrevy to Porth Kidney at the mouth of the river, he had decided to circumnavigate the estuary via Hayle after being informed by beach-goers he could be drawn down by quicksand on either bank, so decided not to chance it. I felt I could not delay him further but I would like to have asked him what had prompted him to undertake such a journey.
As we stood there briefly chatting, I became vaguely aware that this meeting was significant for some reason. (that brain blink moment just before the light bulb goes on, see previous post). A few moments later, it dawned on me! And what a moment. This was the prompt that I was looking for. I now had a subject for my research project. Why had I not thought of it before since it made such perfect sense? Suddenly that vital missing piece of the puzzle had just fallen into place. The modern pilgrim – as spiritual quester – will be my metaphor for taking a stream of consciousness on a journey through the landscape.
You know those moments in life which are pivot points on which the rest of your future lies? This whole chance(?) encounter could not have taken more than a couple of minutes, at most, yet I had the feeling my life for the past few years had been leading up to this precise moment. I went home and rewrote my proposal from scratch without hesitation, as much for my own clarification as anything else. Job done. This feels so right and my new project starts from here. So a big thank you to my guiding angels, and to the coastal path walker, for gifting me with this insight! Unless he happens to see this, which is highly unlikely, he will be blissfully unaware of the impact he has had on me!
I am wondering now if the number 7 has any significance as it’s the theme of this little ditty about going to St Ives? Any ideas?