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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Healing Power of the Ocean

Today I set aside my paints and canvas and took a friend on a hike to one of my favorite shorelines along Maine's Midcoast. When I woke this morning, I knew I needed to be by the sea. I needed some clarity in one area of my life and knew I needed to be outside to get that clarity. Yes, even though the temperature was well below freezing and a snowstorm was predicted I wanted to be at the shore. To think, to meditate, to do my version of praying, to see what visions might come in response to my questions. My friend Eric called me this morning to tell me his girlfriend had left him so I invited him to come too. I hoped the sea would work its magic on both of us.

Whenever I have decisions to make, serious questions to ponder (usually romantic ones), or need space to allow answers to unfold, I go to the sea. Walking along the shore, paddling a sea kayak, or sailing somehow seems to allow clarity to unfold in my mind. I go to the sea too when I have grieved a loss, such as the death of my father or the end of a long term relationship. My friend Alison tells me I go to the sea during these times because I'm a Scorpio, a water sign, but I'm not sure if I buy that* ;) Perhaps it's simply some form of genetic memory.

Recent archaeological digs have found that the ancient Celts of Scotland and England regularly gave offerings to the sea, rivers, and lakes. No one really knows what prayers or questions the offerings held...we just know that at sacred sites througout Britain, the ancients offered gifts of precious possessions to the waters around them. My lineage is mostly Scot, Irish, and English so perhaps, through some quirk of biology, that urge to make prayers to the sea survived and resurfaced in me.

Eric and I quietly walked the 2 miles through the woods and over the marsh, just taking in the stillness of Nature. I could tell he was hurting, badly, so I just offered support by my presence rather than with words (and for anyone who knows me, that's a feat). We heard the crashing waves about 100 yards before seeing the beach. The scent of the salt water made me feel like I was home.

The beach here is quite sandy, but with a granite outcrop near the trail's exit. Rocky islands loomed gray off in the distance. Gulls drifted and played on the shore breeze and occasionally the silence was cut by one of their shrill cries.

Eric and I walked the shore for a bit, then climbed a ways up the granite hill to contemplate the Atlantic....and our perceived problems. We meditated together, then he talked a little about his girlfriend of 8 months. My heart nearly broke for him, going through a grieving, and at this time of the year. But as we sat and watched the water he began to admit the breakup was probably for the best. She was a city girl, he an outdoors, country guy and they could just no longer reconcile the differences. His love of sea kayaking drove her nuts. Her love of shopping in the big city did the same to him. The glimmer of healing started.

Perhaps the ocean heals us because of its vastness and its age. Physically, it's bigger than we can even imagine, covering over 2/3 of the planet. And its age is perhaps billions of years old. The ocean basins have shifted around, but the ocean itself is almost as old as the planet. The first life appears to have originated in the oceans well over a billion years ago. 100 million years ago, large reptiles like the pleisosaurs swam in the oceans. Its age dwarfs a human lifespan and makes me and my "problems" seem insignificant in comparison.

I left Eric and wandered the shore to ponder my own questions, romantic and otherwise. Unfortunately the lightning bolt of clarity didn't strike me as I'd hoped it would. Instead as I walked along the all-sand beach, I said to the Universe that if I ran into a stone in the next several yards I'd tell the stone my requests and throw it (and them) into the sea. And within a few feet was a lone, fist-sized rock on this beach of sand. I picked it up, cradled it with both hands, and told it my three requests. And tossed it into the sea where it belonged.

An hour later, Eric and I walked the two miles back to my car, both of us somehow feeling better. My Celtic ancestors would probably understand.


*There are actually 13 signs of the Zodiac, not 12, so in reality I'm a Libra!

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