The Natatorium

An emporium of oddities from around the world, complete with somewhat informative plaques that almost never match the item they are meant to be describing.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Standing at the Edge of a Great Expanse

Last weekend I went "Pony Trekking" in Wales. It was a school-organized trip, which is good for me because it does wonders for my stress level when everything has already been taken care of and I go with a group. We took a train from Paddington to Swansea on Friday, which was a 3.5 hour ride. A little long, even as much as I love train rides. I will take the train over flying any day. The good thing about the train ride (as with all trains rides) is that I got to see a lot of countryside, a few interesting sights, including the crazy looking Newport City Footbridge. We finally arrived at an old country house outside Swansea, where a kind old Welsh lady served us a delicious dinner. We rested from our journey and I wrote in my journal in a charming sitting room with a warm fire until it was time for bed. The next day we met our Ponies. I was assigned to William, and was immediately informed that I was lucky by one of our guides, because, as she told me, "This horse is the love of my life." She said he was the sweetest pony and loved affection. William was definitely sweet and well-tempered, but he was also enormous, and it took a lot of strength to communicate a clear message to him in the reins, which meant my hands grew quite sore from keeping up the tension all day long, but other than that he was perfect.

We rode our Ponies first through a bit of forest and across a field down to the local "heritage center," which was like a very small-scale Silver Dollar City. We ate lunch there and then set off to see the ocean. We rode up the hill between hedgerows that demarcated fields of sheep, climbing upwards over the land until we could see rolling Welsh hills spread out to the North as we approached the ocean. We arrived at the ridge overlooking Three Cliffs Bay and rode down the hill a bit, getting a great view of the beach, the bay, and the sea. We could see far out to the horizon in the distance where the sea and sky seemed to melt together in a blurry boundary line between the earth and the ether.

We didn't ride all the way down to the beach, so after we returned the ponies to the paddock by the house and removed the tack, a few other girls and I went back to the beach and went all the way down to the sand. The results are posted on flickr. It was so amazingly exhilarating to run across that vast expanse of sand, towards the outstretched ocean. Because of the structure of the bay, the sea flowed in gradually in such a way that the sand and the water just barely seemed to shift into one another on a level plane, and there was no obvious barrier of waves crashing against the shore, just a gentle in-and-out shallow flow of water across the sand flats. The effect was such that it looked like I could just keep on running forever, out onto the water and away to the vast horizon, into the bright, fading-white rays of the late afternoon sun. There was a strong wind on the beach, but I was too thrilled to be cold, and it only served to heighten the feeling of freedom as it whipped my hair around. The wind felt like an tangible manifestation of some great and wonderful force present in the waves, the horizon, the cliffs, the expanse of sand, and the pure-white sunbeams that pierced the hazy, swirling, white-gray clouds.

I liked it.

The second day we rode over hills again, up onto another ridge, this one overlooking Oxwich Bay far below. Oxwich Bay is even bigger than Three Cliffs, a huge half-moon shape with an even larger stretch of flat sand reaching inland. The wind was high up on the ridge, but again didn't mind. I could feel the rhythmic sway of William beneath me, anchoring me, his massive bulk shifting with each step and I shifting with him. Dear William. He was quite a sensitive Pony, and on this particular weekend had troubles of his own. His long-time girlfriend, Polly, was stolen by a young hot shot on the first day of riding, and poor William was heartbroken. For the rest of the weekend she went back and forth between the two of them, and William's moods fluctuated by the hour. It was like the OC with Ponies.

Altogether a wonderful weekend. I loved the riding, I loved Dear William, I loved, perhaps most of all, the sea. I never realize how much I crave the feeling of endless space until I find it again, but standing on a high point, or on the edge of the ocean, with the whole world seemingly stretched out before you, is definitely among my top-ten feelings of all time. I highly recommend it.

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