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!