We headed north towards Anglesey by car and came to a wild and beautiful spot where two rivers meet. I had never experienced anything like it. I was on a family holiday in Wales, age 9. My memory is now thin on detail, but I have an overwhelming sense of an ancient bridge, rocks, massive boulders and air moist with spray from the cascades of crystal water thundering down over falls that seemed huge, dangerous and exciting.
We picnicked and I clambered on the rocks, settling after a short time to sit, enthralled by the magic and energy of the water as it found its chaordic way between the rocks. It seemed to swirl and leap as if powered by a hidden force and I became mesmerised, drawn into an expanded sense of myself merging with that force. It was a feeling that seemed both perfectly natural to me and yet deeply formative.
I don’t remember saying anything to my family and have never spoken of it for 5 decades since. But recently my sister reported to me that our 89 year-old mother had suddenly recalled that holiday and the name Betws-Y-Coed. She said to my sister, “Paul was entranced by the waterfalls there and when it was time to leave he said, “ I don’t want to leave, I want to stay here and become the waterfall”.
I am touched to know that my mother had held in her memory, words that I never knew I had spoken. She must have sensed that the experience was having a profound effect on me and it had become a special memory for her too.
I have always felt most at home and most alive when surrounded by nature, where the sights sounds and smells are an urgent reminder of the interconnectedness of all life. Time can seem to stand still and the ego melts, as it did for that brief hour at Betws-Y-Coed, whose name conjures my memory of being at one with the water, with its wildness, its freedom and the sparkling clarity of the very essence of life.