Nature’s Medicine (Day 3)

Many of my strongest childhood memories take place in the ocean:

  • As a very young child, I begged my parents to “take me in” so I could face the waves because it was boring to play at the foamy edge of the shore.
  • At seven or eight, I spent hours with my friend Joanie, jumping and diving and riding the waves, having to be dragged out for lunch and then again at the end of the day.
  • When I was ten, an old man burst forth from his beach chair to help my sand-covered, gasping-for-breath self reorient after a rogue wave had tossed and turned and thrown me to shore.
  • At thirteen, my newly mature woman’s body stood all the way up after body surfing and my friend informed me that I’d lost my bikini top.

There are lots more moments, but I won’t bore you. The point is that as a child, I loved the ocean: its wildness, its unpredictability, its power.

When I moved to the Massachusetts coastline in 1995, my love did not die but my perspective shifted, changing the nature of our relationship.

In the past, I only saw the sea during warm weather. Now, with it at a mile’s distance from my home, I see it almost every day, whether it’s snowing and bitter cold or chilly and muddy or hot and humid during our short 2-3 month blast of summer.

Instead of the thrill I associated with the ocean when I was a child, now it is something much bigger to me. I’ve seen it beast-like and blustery during storms and calm and flat on sunny, dry days. While I used to mostly go into the ocean, now I spend a lot of time observing it from a short distance, whether on a boat or in a car or from the beach during a Spring or Fall walk with my dog.

My favorite time at the beach, though, is the wintertime, on a milder day, when I can sit on a rock a few feet away from the water and take it all in: the salty smell, the rhythm of the waves, the vastness of its body. No matter what my mood is, if I allow myself the luxury of sitting alone by the ocean, my entire being fills with joy.

There are many things in nature that have an awesome power over my state of being, but the ocean is the one to which I’ve always felt a deep, enduring connection. Knowing this, I’m trying more and more to go to the beach when nobody else is there and to sit and breathe and feel the contentment. (Although this winter with 7 feet of snow and single digit temperatures, it has been more difficult than I’d like it to be.)

I’ve never thought to ask my local friends about whether the ocean has the same effect on them that it has on me. Or if their deepest source of inspiration and sustenance comes from the mountains or the forest or something else?

So tell me . . . is there something that sustains you the way the ocean does for me? Do you give yourself permission to take time to be quiet and let nature inspire you?


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10 thoughts on “Nature’s Medicine (Day 3)

  1. I have always been afraid of deep water. That said, I have found a calming pleasure in sitting, as you do, on a New England beach and enjoying the sensations of those surroundings

    1. For me, part of what makes the ocean so entrancing is the depths and the darkness and my own fear. Sitting with that opens me up to so much. Thanks for sharing, Joan!

  2. I try to walk to the water every day too! (And I seem to do my best thinking on these walks.) I use my dog as the excuse, but really I’m the one who needs this particular destination. Though I’ve lived near the beach for almost twelve years now, I’m still awed by the beauty, the sounds, the smells, still grateful that I somehow ended up here, by the ocean. It’s so easy to stress and say, “I just don’t have time today” but those are the days I end up “off,” cranky, uncentered. Even on my most hectic days, it really does all fit in, and life feels so much less hectic after watching the waves for a moment or two, or ten, or twenty…

    1. . . . or thirty. Yesterday, I really needed some beach time, and since I was out and about, I tried to drive to one of the beaches. Didn’t think about the fact that parking lots and street parking are almost non-existent. I drove around for awhile and finally went home and walked the dog around the neighborhood. Too treacherous to risk walking to the beach from home right now. 🙁

  3. I have always felt a calling to the sea. Funny though, I don’t feel the need to swim in it, unless it’s really warm! What I do feel is the need it to be near it, to see it, smell it and put my feet into it. I have always felt a calmness, and a deep connection to the sea, but never knew why, but pondered it. This year one of the advertisements at the Super Bowl caught my attention and moved me because it provoked this inquiry I have always had. It was the Carnival Cruise advertisement with JFK’s America’s Cup Speech about the Sea. It really wasn’t the ad per sea, because I am not a fan of Carnival or cruises, it was JFK’s voice speaking his passionate words about the sea that moved me toward what I think is the core of my connection. His words are as follows: “I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.”

    I now feel for me this is the true underlying essence of why I am drawn to the sea, is because it is like coming home to my true self and feeling at peace with my soul.

    1. A moving quote, which certainly resonates with many of us. There are so many levels to why the sea is so much a part of us but at it’s most basic, I don’t doubt that it could be that coming home of which you speak.

  4. “Mother, mother, Ocean. I have heard your call … wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall …… “.

    “I’m sailing away …. set an open course, for the Virgin sea ….”

    “If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing, it is the time that I spend alone, sailing on the cool and bright clear waters ….”

    “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a start to steer her by;”

    Ok. I think that’s enough. Reading your words, and thinking of the passages above, I am reminded that the love for the ocean and the pull of the sea is, perhaps overstated, a universal truth.

    (Happy Belated 50th, enjoy reading your words …)

    1. How can it be overstated when it is such a powerful and meaningful symbol for so many people? Thanks for stopping by and next time, I’d love it if you’d use your actual name.

  5. The beach is where my soul is at peace and my body revels in the sensory joy it brings. Especially when I am there alone. While I love the woods, the mountains, lakes, rivers, creeks, and acres of open pasture or fields, it’s the beach that is my home. I say the beach, and not the sea, because it’s from that perspective that I’m happiest. I love the sea too–sailing and kayaking–but I’m less at ease and contemplative on the open water.

    Thanks for bringing back my memories of childhood (my actual childhood and my 2nd and 3rd childhoods with my children!) My dad taught me to body surf in Maryland when I was around 5, and I loved it, but the joy of boogie boarding didn’t overtake me until my son started. It’s really fun!

  6. We were probably body surfing side by side on the Maryland beaches all those years ago!

    For me, the beach is a contemplative place but I find that when I am in the water (not on it), I feel as though I am a piece of something so much bigger and as odd as it might sound, I feel like I am the water as much as I am myself. It’s one of the reasons that being in New England has been hard at times: the sea water is far too cold most of the year, so I am left to sit beside it and not become a part of it.

So what do you think?