For as long as I can remember, the sea has spoken to a place deep within my heart. Some of my earliest memories take place at my grandparent’s beach home in New Jersey, where my grandfather introduced me to the ocean. Supported and protected by his strong, weathered hands, I walked fearlessly into the water and fell in love with it. Throughout my life, I have continued my relationship with the sea by swimming, sailing, canoeing and snorkeling in many locales. I consider the sea a beloved mentor, and turn to it not only for solace and inspiration during the difficult times of my life, but to celebrate the joyful times as well.
I arrive at the beach in Carpinteria, and easily find a spot to park. I get out of my car and unload my beach bag and chair from the trunk. While removing my shoes, I look out at the sky and the ocean. Grey, cloudy skies are reflected in the steel-grey color of the water. There is little wind, but I grab an extra sweatshirt just in case I need it. I head off toward the water while my feet revel in the feel of sand between my toes. At first, my feet sink and seem to melt into the deep sand, but as I move toward the shoreline, it becomes more hard-packed and supports me. The sand is cold but has a hint of warmth, signaling that the sun may well appear while I am here. Walking along the waterline, I trudge to my favorite spot up the beach. Along the way, I notice the tracks of sandpipers, gulls and pelicans that criss-cross my path, and watch them scatter in advance of my arrival. The slight sandpipers are scurrying frantically away, the raucous gulls are taking flight, and the ungainly pelicans are placidly plodding along, following the sandpipers’ path. I plant my chair in the sand and sit, turning my back on the civilized world that holds all of my cares and worries, and face the sea.
Wriggling my toes, I dig my feet into the sand and bury them up to my ankles. I sense the small grains of sand trickling along the skin of my feet and settling in between my toes. I now feel rooted and connected with my surroundings. My attention is drawn to the scene unfolding in front of me. The birds have returned. The sandpipers are scuttling along the waterline looking for food. Their thin, frail-looking legs serve them well as they dart in and out of the surf. The gulls are having an argument about a piece of seaweed. They tire of their disagreement and take to the air. I lift my eyes from the scene at the surf line, and look out at the water. A row of pelicans is flying low along the ocean’s surface, hunting for food. Suddenly, they begin to dive, and surface with their pouches full. As I watch the birds, I realize that I am filled with wonder at how they are each perfectly made and suited to survive in their environment; the sandpipers have the ability to be swift, the sea gulls possess an inborn competitive nature, and pelicans come equipped with built-in fishing nets.
I sit back and try to relax. My senses are filled with the damp perfume of the ocean air, the feel of sand on my feet, and the sounds and view of the lazily rolling waves. I feel the slight breeze ruffling my hair, as if to welcome me. The soft crashing of the waves, accompanied by the hissing of the foam as it dissipates along the shore is soothing music to my ears. I feel my muscles begin to unwind along with my mind. The sea is working its magic on me once again. For moments at a time, I am able to let go of my conscious thoughts and simply drink in the experience of being, feeling, and listening. These fleeting moments contain an elemental, profound connection between me and all of my surroundings. I treasure these instants as I continue to breathe and to watch the waves. My thoughts wander to the countless times I have come to the sea. Whether I come seeking refuge, solace, introspection or celebration, it is always here, waiting for me. It is dependable and each time welcomes me. Sunlight suddenly breaks through the clouds, confirming my feeling of being warmly received. I feel a hint of the sun’s heat that is being borne along on the breeze. The color of the sand turns from a lifeless gray tone to an inviting gentle yellow. The water loses its steely hue and turns a rich, dark blue.
I reflect upon these changes and realize that life itself is not static – it is ever changing as well. While I am thrown off- balance by an alteration to the comfortable rhythm of my life, I now comprehend that change is not only necessary, but that it is also inevitable. Without change, my life becomes complacent and stale; my mind dulls and is not open to seeing the beauty and the possibilities that life contains. I realize that I am learning not only how to be open to, but also how to embrace the changes that come into my life.
I contemplate the sea again and admire the way the sun brings out different tints of blue with hints of green in the curls of the waves just before they break upon the shore. I sit and watch, and find myself caught up in the unending rhythm of the waves. I feel my heart beating in counterpoint to the song of the sea. Each component of nature has a song and contributes its own unique cadence and pulse to the composition of life. I understand that I, too, am part of that symphony.
It is time to leave the ocean behind and head back to the civilized world. As always, I am restored by my time with myself and the sea. I gather up my belongings and begin the walk back to my car. Almost there, I stop and turn once again toward the water, filling my eyes and heart with its beauty and remembering its lessons. It has been good to learn that I have my own song to sing to the world.