Portland Circuit (13.2 miles)
Distance from Minehead – 588.1 miles / Distance to Poole– 56 miles
The day I walked around Portland the country experienced a heat-wave. There was bright, hot sunshine causing numerous cases of sunburn, heat exhaustion and lots of sun based fun. Portland however was encased in thick fog. It was literally the only place in the UK that never got a glimpse of the sun, or anything further away than your hand in front of your face!
Portland Bill is the southern most tip of the attached island and hosts 3 lighthouses…or so I am told as to be honest I saw the bottoms of structures which could possibly have been lighthouses, but that’s about it! Instead the presence of these features made themselves known in another way – the fog horn. I will forever link my day on Portland with the continual sound of the foghorn blasting out into the depths of the fog and mist, and the occasional reply from passing ships. The sound so loud that at times it could be felt throughout my whole body.
At one point I stood on the edge of the cliff looking as hard as I could, desperate to seek out some shape or distinction to show where I was. No matter how hard I squinted I could see nothing. Every which way I turned, the view was the same thick, white cloud, obscuring my view. It is incredibly disorientating and disheartening. It made me think of points in my life when it has felt as though a fog has descended around me. Whichever way I turn there is nothing which helps me to discover where I am and where I should be going. I could be stood facing things of great beauty, surrounded by people I love and that love me, stood on the precipice of great hope and opportunity and yet all I can see is nothingness. And it seems that the harder I seek in the depths of this life numbing fog, then the more my eyes ache and I become disorientated and disheartened.
Then in the background, cutting through the thickest fog comes the deep resonating sound of a foghorn. As I stand staring into nothing, I wonder how far out to sea the foghorn can be heard. I wonder how quickly people living on Portland become accustomed to the sound and oblivious to its message. The constant, steady, unwavering sound of safety, comfort and protection. A message of love. Once again I am transported back to my own personal fog and I realise that it was on these days that God’s voice cut through the blankness. You don’t need a foghorn in the bright sunlight – you can see the dangers, see the lighthouse, see the rocks and the bright shining sea. It is at times of despair, loss, depression, hopelessness, thick emotional or spiritual fog that the reassuring, constant, steady and unwavering sound of safety, comfort, protection and love sounds from the heart of God. There is nothing that it cannot cut through, resonating deeply in our hearts. But we run the risk of all too quickly becoming too accustomed to the sound, that we blank it out. We may hear the words of love but think that they are not for us. We may know them but not own them.
As I leave the foggy Isle of Portland behind and step blinking into the sunshine of Weymouth once again, my prayer for you is to retune your ears to the voice of God speaking love and reassurance, and calling you to a safe place in his arms. And once you hear it you will feel it throughout your very being, and wonder how you missed it before. May the foghorn of God forever sound in your hearts!