Sunday, 20 March 2016

Ah, the Sea!

The past few days I've walked beside different parts of England's coastline. From its most northerly coast, at Berwick, to its southern shore, at Folkestone. And along Kent's northern coastline, which goes inland to form the Thames estuary.

At Berwick  the clifftops were misty and cold.

I went down to the beach. The sea was my favourite colour, grey-green. The damp air was cold but it wasn't windy. I walked on the sloping sand that the waves washed smooth, over and over, hissing and sighing, a love that repeats itself, over and over, folds and smooths, foams and blanches, retreats into grey-green, rises into translucence, and breaks on the sand into a thin layer of moving foam.

The white bubbles are left behind, wink out into the wet sand while the clear water returns to the ocean like a stamp to an ink-pad, to be stained with identity.

I imagine living by the sea. Which sea, which stretch of coastline? Would it cure my restlessness? What colour would it be? Ah well, the turquoise waters of the Ionian, Aegean, Mediterranean, come to mind. But these waters too can change colour – to deep blue, purple, slate blue. The sea has so many colours.


On the promenade at Folkestone, an artist has placed a circular palette of possible sea colours, so you can turn it to see which fits the colour of the sea right now as you look at it. Every shade imaginable through blue. grey and green, including white and black. Today, the sea is – white!

But down on the pebble beach it is a little darker, yet neither grey nor blue. And almost motionless.


From Tankerton, on Kent's northern coastline, we walk along the beach to Herne Bay.

Beach huts on the way to Herne Bay

I was there as a small child, I know because there was a photo of me sitting on Muffin the Mule. I remember nothing of the visit or even of Muffin who apparently was a puppet on TV.

There's a fierce and icy wind blowing in our faces as we walk along, but the mist thins a little as we approach the town. Once a popular seaside resort though less so now I imagine, it has retained a dignity, similar to Folkestone's broad Victorian-era buildings. The façades of these are clean, many of them are white, some are pastel colours. And on the main promenade, the wide pedestrian space of the Central Parade, there is a coffee shop, catering to all clients and conversations. There are day-trippers and local teenagers, there are beachcombers like ourselves, weary from struggling against the tearing wind, a bora from the Baltic; and two backgammon players sitting at a table next to ours, with a large board set out between them, elegant and polished. I compliment them on the beauty of their board.

And think of the backgammon players in Greece and Cyprus, sitting under the shade of spreading trees. Here, I was so thankful to step into the warmth of this café, like a glass-house, its huge windows catching and reflecting all the sun's warmth.

The sea in this country always makes me think of other seas, warmer ones. The sea is like an ocean of memory itself, where they are stored, where you can access them, one memory leading effortlessly to another association.

We return along the beach, all the way to Whitstable. 

This time the wind is at our backs, the sun is out, the sky is cloudless and the tide is coming in, the frothy waves coloured with sediment from the estuary bed.

Beach at Kent Coastal Path, near Whitstable

With the sun in the sign of Pisces, it's a good time to be beside all water and especially the sea. The waves smooth you out, release you from the compact kernel of your life, its solidity, its density and demands for regularity and punctuality, deadlines to be met and duties to be fulfilled. The sea teases out the knots of thought, clustered around the unfulfilled, time's barbs and splinters. The ocean eases you into a simpler rhythm.

Of course, there is always something to be let go of, something to release, to say farewell to, at the end of this cycle of the year, and seasons, Pisces being the twelfth sign of the zodiac. Being close to water helps maybe, that process of loosening, spreading out across the ocean surface of the world, one sea leading to another, no boundaries between them no edges to negotiate, no borders to be crossed.

Perhaps only in retrospect will we know what has been let go of. We can of course make our own decisions. But in the deep oceans of the world and currents of our being, there are larger patterns at work. To align ourselves with these is perhaps 'the best luck we could have.'

Just to be held by the ocean
is the best luck we could have.


Mediterranean off the south coast of Cyprus


 Rowing in Eden —
Ah, the Sea!
Might I but moor — Tonight —
In Thee!

Emily Dickinson

Off the south coast of Cyprus

And in this surprisingly hot sunshine, we enter a new cycle at the equinox as the Sun enters Aries and all the growth that's been moving invisibly through trees and flower-stems pushes up and out through the surface of earth, trees, bushes – tiny flowers, buds anticipating leaves. All these new beginnings are visible in the external world of nature. And what of the new season rising up within us?

Canal at Bisley, Surrey


Today I clear away dead grass, leaves and pine-cones from the garden. Just beyond it, there's a wood, the ground covered with pine needles. So many birds are singing. A woodpecker tap-tap-taps. A more distant, fainter one, replies.


Linda said...

Beautiful images!

dritanje said...

Thank you LInda!

Vagabonde said...

Your photos of the sea, in all its color, all its splendor, are stunning. You also write beautifully = together it makes for a beautiful post.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Fabulous post....I love everything about it...thank you!
Yes I see the connection. I've put a link on my post....maybe a bit late. We were out all day yesterday and I'm just catching up with comments.

am said...

Thank you so much for this post, dritanje. It speaks to me on so many levels. Love the idea of the palette of ocean colors. It's been too long since I've been to the ocean, but I dream of it. The ocean is never far from my mind.

dritanje said...

Thanks to you all Vagabonde, Ruby and Amanda, the sea, the ocean seems to touch a chord for so many of us. I wasn't thinking of the sun being in Pisces when I was by the sea or even when I started writing the post it just dawned on me as I wrote that it was the equinox and so the sun was moving from Pisces to Aries. And the water theme was echoed in your posts am and Forest Dream Weaver!

Joy said...

I often imagine you living within a canal barge, I think that would both settle you yet allow you some movement too.

Unknown said...

I was thinking, similar to what you said about the sea, but not as poetically of course, that looking at natural landscapes is relaxing and healing because in general you are looking at long distances instead of pouring over the details of something close by. By analogy, identification or some such mystery, my brain starts to do the same so I get a more overall, holistic view on life.


Tes photos de bord de mer sont magnifiques. Je suppose que les tempêtes sur ces côtes doivent être redoutables, mais par beau temps, même avec du vent, c'est un paysage dans lequel j'aimerai pratiquer le land art. Belle soirée en amitié.


dritanje said...

Thanks Artemis, that is interesting the idea that looking into the distance instead of close up, is inherently more relaxing, more inclusive and holistic. I've noticed that with taking photos, I often tend to look at a large landscape, into distance, though I admire people who can photograph details. I have a great difficulty in seeing what is right in front of me, I am forever gazing into distance. Maybe seeking relaxation and expansion?

Et merci Roger, j'aime tant l'ocean, je cherche toujours la mer, ca me fait sentir paisible, d'entendre les sons sussurant de la mer, les sons de la mer respirer.