The North Sea – my first love.
I’m in Normandy, in my childhood holiday home and my spiritual home too. I’ve been swimming in the sea the last two mornings.
“Is it cold?” asked an elderly couple standing in their anoraks on the sand.
“Not after the first few minutes,” I replied.
“But I love the water.”
And they nodded and smiled at me, and I smiled at them – as if that one sentence explained my seeming madness.
I could make a list of all the things I love about the sea – maybe especially a cold sea.
I could describe how, when I’m in it, with only the seagulls and the waves for company, I feel both infinitely huge and infinitely tiny – a speck in the ocean and the centre of the world.
I could write of its endless mystery – how, for example, does the seagull know precisely where to dive for its single shellfish when I can hardly even see my own hand beneath the surface of the dark water?
But none of these things are It.
Its not just about the sea per se. It’s my relationship with it. It’s how it makes me feel. Sometimes, I think it’s the only place in the world where I feel truly free – even though, in many ways, I’m not.
I’m so aware of the respect that is due the sea – how quickly it will swallow up those who are careless and fail to listen to and work with it – those who forget its immense raw power. And it forces me to go with its flow – I am not strong enough to fight its strong currents.
But my freedom turns out not to be dependent on going wherever, or doing whatever, I want. It turns out not to be dependent on being in control. It’s something more to do with the way that the sea mirrors me and reminds me who I am. The wildness I have pushed down. The courage I forget I possess. The ability to connect with the natural world around me, which means I am never alone. And the freedom to be an undefined, maybe even unformed – in a liquid way – version of myself. Because there’s only the seagulls and a surprised elderly couple on the shore – and they don’t mind at all.
New mum, old soul… Finding beauty, wisdom, spirituality, and opportunities for learning in the everyday (hopefully)…