I think there are two types of people: those born or have lived a long time within sight, sound and smell of the sea, and those who have not.
I have always been a sea person. I was born in a hospital on a hill within sight of the ocean, and the sea was never far away. In my first days of life in the afternoon sou'easters on the hospital's verandah, I would have absorbed the salt-laden air and integrated the ocean with my being.
This created my world of three elements – sea, land, and sky. Sea to the east, land in the western half of consciousness and the dome of sky above. Yin and yang, you might say; and, well... Jung. A new day began with the sun climbing out of the ocean, and it ended lost in the trees to the west.
The sea always represented a psychological "out". I can't describe it any other way. It was limitless. Beyond the waves breaking on the sand, it stretched infinitely to the east until it met the sky in a perfectly straight line separating two differing blues. I don't know the painter's name for the right shades but everyone knows those colours. One surely must be Greek Blue.
The one thing it had in common with all the others of the same genre was that it was awful. How pained my artist mother must have been to endure its awfulness, particularly when she and all my sisters were much better at painting than I. Or when guests came and maybe thought the painting was one of her efforts. But no way would she hurt my feelings and take it down while I was living under her roof.
Although I have never lost this yearning for the sea, I've lived the longer part of my life away from the coast, up here on the New England plateau. What I noticed most keenly when I first came here was that hills surrounded me completely. The eastern segment of my elemental triangle was gone. Sometimes I felt a kind of suffocation by this loss.
At least in places like Armidale, we can drive off the edge of the high country to the east and be at the seaside in two hours. Psychologically, that's as close to home as I feel, though I've got used to the Tableland now and couldn't bear the humidity of long summers by the sea.
|Sappho. c. 600 BCE|
Lo, where the white-maned horses of the surge,Plunging in thunderous onset to the shore,Trample and break and charge along the sand!
Do you think where we are born has a lasting effect? I was born in Canberra but have lived formative years in Cooma and it's mountains, Broken Hill and its deserts and the city that holds my heart, beautiful Sydney. I am now by the majestic sea. They all hold something magical but different.ReplyDelete
(PS. I am still very interested in politics.)
Interesting question, Anne. I suppose it would be unreasonable to make a statement that would apply to everyone, but I imagine the effect of living in sight of Uluru or the great inland ranges would be just as powerful.Delete
There may be a birthplace one would want to forget. Then again, the length of time spent there as a child would be another influence, as would experiences of other places. Mine was based on an entire childhood in the one spot, in a happy family, with no insecurities.
As a general rule, I'd be fairly sure that birthplace has a powerful effect, as those first few years really imprint upon psyche, wouldn't you say? [You're the expert there!] Whether it would extend to politics related to being born in Canberra, I wouldn't like to say. The cynic might claim that your continued interest in politics should indicate the reverse effect!
I'm being unkind. I quite like Canberra and there are some people special to me living there [from time to time].
Apparently, as an under 5 year old on my first holiday excursion on Sydney Harbour from Canberra, I enquired, "Did God put all this water here or was it the Department of the Interior?" The influence of politics starts early. Sadly I must confess, this predated Lake Burley Griffin.Delete
Like you I had a happy childhood in a loving family and so I suppose I was privileged to be able to enjoy security, even with family relocations, and thus could relish the experiences and the places. My parents both hailed from WA so we also enjoyed some remarkable holidays there.
But even so, as you do, I think there is something special about the ocean. In times of trouble or doubt its very immensity and power or alternatively its immensity and absolute stillness makes one, and therefore one's problems, seem less significant. And for thinking, there is no better place.
(I am totally unqualified to make painting comments but I have one of my late mother-in-law's paintings hung here after her direct descendents spurned it!)
Definitely too long in Canberra for a five-year-old to be asking such a question!Delete
I've no double that the sea is a meditative place when it's fairly restful. There's something almost hypnotic about its rhythms - and the different qualities it has according to time of day, tide, and weather.
When we first went down to the sea at Tannum Sands – in those days nothing more than a few weekender shacks – we were more used to swimming in the creek on the farm. So we found the sea very salty! And I remember my mother's being amused when, after a first swim in the briny, and some food, I asked her, "Can we get back in the waterhole again?"
Bloody big waterhole, the Pacific. And no use at all when the cows wanted a drink.
Oh Den, yes, it really does feel like a suffocation by this loss, loss of the sea in ones spirit. Thank you again for putting it all into words.ReplyDelete
Over the years you get used to its not being there – until you go back to the beach. Maybe a hit of beach now and again is enough. Well, it has to be....Delete
I often have healing dreams about the sea. Sometimes it's just the purity of the crystal green water, sometimes it's wondrous giant sea creatures seen in the waves. I slept hearing the sea murmuring or roaring all my childhood and sometimes worried about tidal waves. The sea was different each day and would send up gifts -fish or shells or patterns or seaweed - and was both intimate (those tiny wavelets lapping on the sand, on your feet) - and mysterious (where did it go, to what far off lands, to what depths?). That ozone smell,the salt on my skin, the wildness of a storm, the utter heavenly beauty on a calm, glittering day. Sigh.ReplyDelete
The infinite ocean.
Julie M xx
PS I love your words about your birth in the hospital over looking the sea -well I love all of it.Delete
I really think it should be you who's writing this part of the blog about the sea. Beautiful and apt description. It often used to be part of my dreams too, mostly benign but occasionally threatening. I don't recall one involving the sea for a long time.Delete