Tuesday, 7 August 2012

It's always ourselves we find in the sea

What is it about the sea that attracts me, drawing me back to it again and again with the inevitability of the tide ...

For a long time I have loved and hated the sea with equal measures.

I come from a fishing family and every Sunday morning, and sometimes Saturdays too, we'd wake up at 5am and travel an hour or two off the coast to fish at the reef.

Crystal clear days. 

Hot burning days.

Some of my finest childhood memories are of dolphins swimming alongside the boat as we sped towards the horizon; peering over the edge and seeing colourful coral many metres down through clear water; a school of hundreds of mackerel passing us by; jumping into the salty water at Pelorus Island after being stung all over by angry wasps.

Then the hate of the sea comes from terrifying memories such as skirting the edge of a massive storm in the Roberta Jane, the boat almost tipping as it was hit side-on by a monster wave, with cups and plates crashing to the floor of the cabin.

I was so young then, and these memories have rubbed love and respect for the sea into my skin forevermore...

Some of the most joyous moments of my life have been while body surfing. There is nothing on earth like the feeling of being picked up by a wave and carried tumbling forward to the shore. You realise the power of the surf in an instant and do your best to stay on top for as long as the sea allows. And when the wave dumps and drives you into the sand head first - it's just a reminder of who's the boss.

My love for the sea is not limited to the physical and experiential.

There is something awesome and profound about standing on the ocean edge and looking to the horizon. It's both empty and full at the same time. There is also something very special in the way the sea reflects back all that is around it - clouds, sky, birds, people. It's as if the sea knows how beautiful the world is, so shows it to us as reflections. And this also allows the sea to keep its mysteries hidden, in the depths, in a treasure chest.

I think e e cummings sums it up best in his perfectly-formed poem maggie and milly and molly and may, where the girls go to the beach and find a shell that sings, a stranded starfish, and a smooth round stone, and which ends with the great lines - 

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
It's always ourselves we find in the sea

The next time I lose something, I'll head to the beach straight away.

I'm sure I'll find it there.

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