Updated: Oct 24
It’s just after seven in the morning and we’re jumping off the jetty. We’re on the sunrise side of the island and the jet black of night has given way to soft swirls of pink and purple pastels, fringed by the jutting green leaves of the coconut palm trees. From the water we look into our ever undulating horizon, and a cloud melts in a moment to reveal the sun in full, decidedly awake. Or so I’m told. I had the presence of mind to remove my glasses just before I leaped. I bob up and down in the ocean, content. The colours are enough.
It was my idea to jump in, but no one needed convincing. We had met an hour earlier on the concrete disc that makes the gallery for the island’s Cinema Paradiso, our feet crossing the blue eye painted in its centre. Bootcamp. We came to work out at what was promised as the equator’s most forgiving time of day, its kindest for the athletically ambitious or the insane. I’ve learned that in the Maldives, it is hot, no matter how early you get up. Afterward I craved immediate immersion in the water, clean and cool.
I’m treating my move to the island like one might the New Year. A fresh start with lots of intentions. With hope. With plans for nobody else but myself. That includes exercise, something I had all but abandoned at home. That includes eating vegetables, from whom I’ve been estranged. That includes an abstention from chocolate, which up until recently had been a twice daily vice. I haven’t touched the stuff in many, many days. Ten, in fact. The longest I have ever gone in my adult life without it. This is partly a testament to my new found self-control, but it’s mainly because I have depleted my Dairy Milk reserves.
When the bookshop has a breath, I can snatch some deliciously sedentary moments. I’d like to think I use these moments wisely, that I do what any bookseller in any corner of the world would forgive me for. I avoid the mountain of boxes that need broken down in the store cupboard, and I read a book, as many pages as time will allow. I find myself inexhaustibly delighted with our titles. I peruse the shelves with the same pleasure of a new visitor, each and every time. I am far from home, and further from my habits. In this new pace, my reading horizons inch outward on either side. I reach for books I never would have before.
The Barefoot Bookshop has an impressive selection of works on mindfulness and well-being. At the moment I’m working my way through The Mindfulness Series from Leaping Hare Press, a body of beautiful cloth-bound hardbacks that offer reflections on a range of subjects. There’s the The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming by Tessa Warsley, Mindfulness and Surfing by Sam Bleakey, Mindful Thoughts for Walkers by Adam Ford. I note that there is no Mindful Art of Early Morning Bootcamp. I don’t wonder why.