I love the sea.
I have always loved the sea.
As a child I’d play in sheltered inlets, hunting knot eels, baby flounder and sand crabs. Fishing for prawns was an arcane art, guided by intuition, clouds and the phase of the moon.
Rivers would form in the sand with deep canyons and gorges with steep banks, only to disappear in a day. I’d stamp at the edges to create avalanches into the crystal green water below.
On the other side of the sand bar, huge waves crashed directly from the Tasman.
‘It’s time to come back, the tide is coming in.’ A phrase to ward off becoming marooned in an isolated cove.
I’ve stood on dark shores carpeted by thousands of tiny soldier crabs as they swarmed all around me.
I’ve been caught in a rip. I’ve misjudged the depth of a dive and nearly drowned. I’ve fallen off the back of a surf lifesaver’s zodiac in rough water. I’ve sailed, windsurfed, canoed. I’ve slept in a modest wooden hut which opened directly onto an equatorial beach.
I don’t recall when it started, but it must have started somewhere. She began to speak to me. I’d sit on the edge of a rocky pier and we’d talk. I’d ask questions and get my answers from the movement of the waves. Sometimes a playful slap across the face with salty water. Wordless, quiet, knowing.
When I’m overwhelmed, I go to the beach to feel centred. The waves pull, in and out, eternal. There I am the world and insignificant.
Wading into the water up to my neck is to commune with the divine. To sail is to fly.
A whiff of salt on the breeze, or a whisper through a storm water drain, I’m never far from her, my mother. Wherever I travel in the world, she is the same, constant, yet her moods are ever different.
Sometimes black and mild as bathwater, warmer than the midnight air in summer.
Luminescent with billions of tiny lifeforms cresting on the surface of tiny waves.
Glass grey and cold, moody. Knowable only in fragments. Deeper than imagination.
Glimpsed through trees and houses from inland. No mountains draw my eye to the west. Scanning the horizon- always to her. I orientate myself by her borders, not by sun rise and fall.
In dreams I can breathe underwater and feel whole. Awake, I’m not a strong swimmer. Ill health bars me from diving and this causes me great anguish.
Living in a sheltered bay, I don’t often witness her apocalyptic glory. I know, intellectually, why people fear her. I don’t. But wonder is a small step away from terror. Something dark and slimy passes against my leg and I startle. Her other children could kill me easily.
Like glass and stones and shells, she sands off my rough edges. Borders are where I belong. The salt air erodes. Shores change. Nothing stays the same for long.
There’s salt in my blood. One day it will return to the sea. All things return to the sea.