Monday, January 17, 2011

THE SEA IN WINTER


When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.
Rilke

Here on the coast of South Carolina, where my wife and I have come for the winter, I devote much of my time to walking the magnificent beaches that define this part of the Atlantic coastline.  Gone are the sunbathers of summer, with their beach chairs, their overloaded coolers, and their colorful umbrellas.  This is now a place where one can find solitude, a place where memory deepens, a place where we can seemingly reenter the womb of nature from whence we began our journey.

From the inception of human thought, mankind has felt a special connection with the sea.  There is something about its rhythm and constancy that is both cleansing and reassuring.  When we stand at the sea's edge looking into infinity, we know in our hearts that we are part of something much grander and more complex than our individual, day-to-day lives.  We hear the surf rise and fall; we watch the tide deposit its gifts and then reclaim them; we see the light rise, then fall, only to rise again — and, like the light, we are born again into each new moment.  Perhaps it was best said by Pablo Neruda in the poem quoted at the end of this piece:  "Every day on the balcony of the sea, wings open, fire is born, and everything is blue again like morning."

While I often walk these beaches with my wife and my Zen master, Derry, I also spend a great deal of time walking alone.  Some might find this a lonely enterprise, but I do not.  Indeed, I find myself in complete agreement with that fine writer and lover of the sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who once said:

The loneliness you get by the sea is personal and alive.  It doesn't subdue you and make you feel abject.  It's a simulating loneliness.

Rilke is so right about the effects the sea on the human spirit.  The "great wide sounds" of the ocean drown out the "anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts," and "impose a rhythm upon everything . . . that is bewildered and confused."   When the rhythm is restored to our lives, we begin to hear the music again — and with the music comes the dance.

Set forth below are a few photos that I have taken during my walks of the past couple of days.  I have also chosen some insightful comments from others on the mystical connection between mankind and the sea.  Enjoy.

The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.
Henry Beston

The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.  One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Every time we walk along a beach, some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.
Loren Eisley





. . . for whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it's always ourselves we find in the sea.
E.E.  Cummings 


The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.
Isak Dinesen


I find myself at the extremity of a long beach.  How gladly does the spirit leap forth, and suddenly enlarge its sense of being to the full extent of the broad, blue, sunny deep!
Nathaniel Hawthorne




Why to we love the sea?  It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.
Robert Henri

Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
Jacques Cousteau




In every curving beach, in every grain of sand, there is the story of the earth.


Rachel Carson


Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.


Emerson


My Wife, Margaret, and the Zen Master at Play

I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because, in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and light changes, and ships change, it's 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.


John F. Kennedy
  
                                                               
It Is Born

                                          Here I came to the very edge
                                          where nothing at all needs saying,
                                          everything is absorbed through weather and sea,
                                          and the moon swam back,
                                          its rays all silvered,
                                          and time and again the darkness would be broken
                                          by the crash of a wave,
                                          and every day on the balcony of the sea, 
                                          wings open, fire is born,
                                          and everything is blue again like morning.


Pablo Neruda


Derry

39 comments:

  1. George - there is no way either that sky or that beach could be in the UK - the colours are all wrong but what exquisite colours they are, and you are so right about the calming effect of the sea. Lucky you to have such access to it.

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  2. I have always loved being by the ocean. It's the sound of the sea in all its moods that I love. I'm fortunate that we have a home near the sea although I don't spend as much time there as I'd like to. Winter and early spring are the best times when the beaches are empty and the sea pounds onto the shore. The western shores of England can be pretty spectacular sometimes when the tide is high.

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  3. i can only pleasingly grin
    and feel very good about your sharing

    and confess
    i am in love with derry

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  4. What a fine and thoughtful meditation on that rhythmic edge line between the now and the forever, the finite and the infinite—the mystery so prosaic and profound of uncountable grains of sand underfoot, unimaginable numbers of stars overhead, and an inscrutable blue horizon that stretches beyond our wildest dream.

    Love the final shot…

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  5. George, I don't know if I have tears because you posted and I missed your posts, or because every word is part of a rhythm of sea-ness, or seeing your Margaret and Derry playing, or the final photo of Derry being cleansed, stimulatingly alone, listening to the music and ready to dance, at the edge, where nothing at all needs saying. This is just beautiful, and it does me no end of good . . . a sea of good. Thank you.

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  6. Hi George, What a wonderful respite from my snowy, blowy day to visit the sea with you. The immense power of the sea has always both enthralled me and frightened me. The sound, the force, the surge both pull and repel me. I guess I'm both in awe but also quite respectful. Derry, however, seems right at home!

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  7. To Pat,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Pat. The color of the sea changes with every passing moment here, depending upon the angle of the sun and the movement of the filtering clouds. It's always beautiful, however, and we are lucky, indeed, to have access to it.

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  8. To Nance Marie,

    Thanks for your kind comments,d and your love of Derry is most welcomed. She is loved by many and she returns that love to all she encounters.

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  9. To Rowan,

    Thanks for your comments, Rowan. I know all to well how beautiful your coastlines are in England. Your coasts are beautifully rugged in a way that we seldom see on our Atlantic coast, except perhaps for Maine. Nice that you have a house near the sea. What a gift that must be.

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  10. To Grizz,

    Thanks for the generous comments, Grizz. It's the sea today, but it could be something else tomorrow that fills my heart with awe and wonder. Everything — every day, every place — is a revelation.

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  11. To Ruth,

    Thank you, my friend, for such kind thoughts. I'm delighted that you found a "sea of good" in all of this sea talk. I'm also quite sure that the sea has more work to do on me in the next couple of months. Stay posted; there is more to come.

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  12. Damn...like a trip to the shore w/o even leaving my house!! 'cept for the smell of ocean!

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  13. A terrific, inspiring post. I spent five weeks on the Atlantic, at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, last spring. Off-season is the best time to be there. I can so understand how it feels to be where you are. The "gifts from the sea," are magical and life-affirming. Enjoy every moment! Derry looks like a happy soul.

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  14. You're making this Midwestern girl feel very land-locked. Beautiful post.

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  15. To Barb,

    Thanks for your lovely comments, Barb. There is, indeed, both a push and a pull to the sea. We can be either frightened or enchanted, depending on the place and circumstances. It is that way with all of nature, however, no less in the mountains where you live than in the sea. And therein lies the magic! Instinctively, I feel that we come from the sea and it is to the sea that we shall return.

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  16. Hi Karin,

    Glad to oblige on providing you with a trip to the ocean. Hopefully, I saved you a fistful of dollars without depriving you of the smell of the sea.

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  17. To Tersa,

    Thanks for your kind comments, Teresa. The Maine coast is fantastic any time of the year. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the "gifts from the sea," and, yes, Derry is a happy soul, who, incidentally, brings a great deal of happiness to my soul.

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  18. To Tess,

    Thanks, Tess, and I do apologize for making you feel landlocked. From what I have been able to discern, however, you are landlocked in a very beautiful place, made all the lovelier by you myriad acts of creativity. As for the sea, it is always there for us, even when "there" is in our minds.

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  19. I'm going to return to reread the quotes again...
    but I feel as though I've been away,
    and been home.

    and that is priceless.

    thank you George.

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  20. To Deb,

    Thanks for such a lovely comment, Deb. When you return to read the quotes, make sure to read the quote of JFK. Very interesting, this fact that the percentage of salt in our blood is the same percentage as the salt in the sea.

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  21. George this is a lovely post and it speaks to me as the sea does. I live where I live because it is so near the sea that I can easily visit when I need a walk that will give me a lift, an opening of spirit.

    I have noticed over a lifetime of walking, hiking, paddling, and sailing along the California coast that it has become more lonely, though. There are more people, yes, but fewer birds, whales, fish. I miss their company when I go.

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  22. To Dan,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Dan. Fortunately, there is still abundant wildlife near the winter beaches here in South Carolina — pelicans, terns, gulls, spoonbills, curlews, sandpipers, and the occasional porpoise swimming in the distance. When these creatures are augmented by the summer tourists, however, I would rather be somewhere else. "Far from the madding crowd" could well be my motto.

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  23. There is nothing more conducive to peaceful thought and contemplation than a solitary walk on an empty beach, with the rhythm and sound of the waves and the wind becoming one with the walker.

    Kennedy had the right of it: we come from the sea, all life comes from the sea. Perhaps, finally, all life will return to the sea.

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  24. HI
    oh your pictures are wonderful - I could smell the salt air and feel the sand on my feet. I heal through my feet and it is the best if I am in water - I go in my brook when weather allows - and we live 10 miles from the shore of Long Island Sound - and we are soothed and calmed and stimulated there, always. I loved your words, expressions, knowing, "thank you"
    Love Gail
    peace......

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  25. Truly a spellbinding post, George, the magnificent photos and the sea song commentary of your thoughts and the quotes you have strung together for us today. From the very beginning I could hear and feel the tides, and in the second photo, I felt I could see the earth's long luxurious curve on the horizon... after that, it was like surfing a dream. Bravo.

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  26. To Friko,

    Thanks, Friko, for your comments. Nothing brings perspective to one's life like a solitary walk on an empty beach, and I agree with you entirely about our connection with the sea. We come from the sea and it is to the sea that we shall return.

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  27. To Gail,

    Thanks so much, Gail. You are lucky to live so close to the Long Island Sound. For several years, my wife and I visited friends who were living on the sound in Connecticut. It was such a beautiful and memorable place. Peace to you as well.

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  28. To Lorenzo,

    Thanks, my friend. If my little posting on the sea sent you surfing on a dream, I have succeeded beyond any expectations. Your comment on the curved horizon in the second photo is interesting because, when I noticed it myself, it occurred to me that we live in such a small and fragile world, a world so small that one can stand on the beach and actually see the curvature of the earth. One would think that the nearly seven billion people who inhabit the earth would treat this place with a little more kindness. And speaking of kindness, thanks, as always, for yours.

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  29. Having lived at the shoreline of Lake Michigan for 7 years, being in central NC is killing me. My girls and I are taking a long weekend SOON and driving the 3-4 1/2 hours (depending where we go - either NC or SC (I LOVE Charleston) before spring break to see the coast. I hate all the jam packed vacation beaches and I said just the other day that NOW is the time to take my camera and explore. I love, love, love getting up before the sun and walking the shore watching the sun rise. My daughters love hunting for all that has been washed in from the tide.

    I thought JFK's words were beautiful. I hope they were his and not a writers... And Anne Morrow Lindbergh's words too. Thank you for a well put together post!

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  30. I grew up on the east coast of the UK. I have spent time on ships but I am no sailor, I much more identify with these walks along the shore. I can really identify with the comments about loneliness walking along the shore. As Weaver said these views are very different to what we know in the UK but they have the same meaning Grizz mentions.
    As well as long walks along the seashore, part of the unique Tramp makeup comes from 2 Antartic winters. During one of these our doctor got involved in medical research on our reaction to lack of sunlight. One of his theories went something like: when we lose the stimulation of the sun we return to our primeval state and we are stimulated by the tidal cycle which is longer than the 24 hour diurnal cycle which we nomally operate on.
    Living today in a country far from the sea I am glad that I have technology that allows me at least to watch and listen to it. (And blogs such as yours and good old SW of course).
    I try to explain to Lady about salt water and waves and tides but she tells me that I must be playing without a full deck. (Now there's another theory that might have something in it.)
    The pictures and words you have given us have stimulated some wonderful thoughts. Thank you, my friend.
    ...Tramp

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  31. Loved the post and your thoughts on the 'stimulating loneliness' of your winter strolls. I feel the pull of that empty beach and that blue horizon - the emptiness, the simplicity, the blank canvas, the shimmering surface, the hidden depths. As you know, I spent a month last year walking the cliffs on the Atlantic edge, seeing the ocean in all its weathers and moods. As well as the sea's attraction, I'm also conscious of a healthy respect for, even a fear of, the sea. Its potentially destructive force was never more apparent than in Cornwall.

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  32. To Margaret,

    Thanks so much for your comments, Margaret. By all means, try to get to the beach before the summer crowds. It's quite wonderful to walk for long distances on the beach with little more company than the birdlife and occasional porpoise.

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  33. To Tramp,

    How great to hear from you, Tramp. I was beginning to wonder if all is well with you, given that fact that I haven't heard from you or seen a posting on your blog for a while.

    Thanks so much for your comments. I'm fascinated by your two winters in Antarctica. Those memories must be some of you most interesting. I'm also fascinated by the doctor's research, especially on the way our bodies return to the tidal cycle when deprived of sunlight. That seems to fit in with this notion that we carry the sea within us. As the late President Kennedy observed in one of the quotes in this posting, the percentage of salt found in our blood is the exact percentage of salt found in the sea.

    My your walks inland be just as memorable as any you ever experienced on the edge of the sea. Have a good week.

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  34. To Robert,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Robert. Yes, I thought you would relate to Anne Morrow Lindbergh's reference to "stimulating loneliness," which essentially creative solitude. I well remember those photos of your walk last summer on the South West Coast Path. It must have been fascinating to witness the changes in the weather and the seascape for that many days in a row. And yes, the sea always carries its potential for harm. Eight to nine months from now, these relatively halcyon beachs of South Carolina will be threatened once again by the viscious hurricanes that originate off the coast of Africa and make there way to the United States before the onset of the following winter.

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  35. Hi, George! It's so good to be back to read your wonderful words again. My first thought when the page loaded was, as always, the word "joy." What a joy it is to see your beautiful pictures and read the quotes. My favorite quote came from you:

    "There is something about its rhythm and constancy that is both cleansing and reassuring. When we stand at the sea's edge looking into infinity, we know in our hearts that we are part of something much grander and more complex than our individual, day-to-day lives. We hear the surf rise and fall; we watch the tide deposit its gifts and then reclaim them; we see the light rise, then fall, only to rise again — and, like the light, we are born again into each new moment."

    Your words are so beautiful--and wise. I am never, ever lonely on a deserted beach. It is stimulating and peaceful at the same time. I have a friend who says the winter beach "bores" him, because there's "nothing to do." It makes me feel sorry for him. He's missing out on so much.

    The landscape is a work of art. It's also an ever-changing work of art, which makes it even more spectacular. No two beach scenes are ever alike. The sand moves, the sunlight moves, the tides shift. Yet at the same time, there is a constancy to it all. We are a part of all that beautiful humming.

    You capture the feeling so well in your pictures. I love the foam in the third picture and the ripples of sand in the first. What a sculpture! The pictures of you, your wife and the Zen Master, Derry, are also lovely. Thank you, George. You've given me another awesome place of peace in the middle of a busy afternoon. It is rejuvenating.

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  36. To Julie,

    Thanks so much for your generous and thoughtful comments, Julie. Too bad that your friend finds the winter beaches to be boring because there is "nothing to do." As I'm sure you are aware, it is in "being," not doing, that we find and express our lives, and there is no better place "to be" than on a winter beach — or, for that matter, any place where one can be free from the distractions of people who are doing so much that they forget how to live.

    For the record, there are no pictures of me in this posting. Those guys of the bikes were strangers; I just thought it was a nice example of how the winter beaches offer joy and excitement to the intrepid of heart.

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  37. Excuse me, George! I should have known that wasn't you. Silly me. But it is a great picture and does show the joy of the beach.

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