The sea is calling
The sea calls to me, I dream of being gently rocked by the waves or on anxious nights trying to avoid them as they eat away at the dunes I am running across, the wind in my hair, dark stormy clouds at my back.
I grew up by the ocean and have come to live near the ocean again, albeit in a different hemisphere. As I have gotten to know myself better, I have come to accept that the sea, the ocean and waves, the sparkling sunsets and windy dunes are almost as important to me as breathing, or writing.
It’s the same through history — not always the sea, but certainly water — has played an important role for us, humans. We’ve baptised ourselves and taken new paths to spiritual wholeness with it. We’ve committed swords and precious items to it to please our gods. 75% of our cities are by the sea and around 80% of the worlds people live within roughly 60 miles from the coast. Health and well-being specialists espouse the benefits we garner just from drinking it, or gazing at it, and some of us even choose for our dead to travel to the next world on it, just as The Lady of Shalott did in Tennyson’s poem.
Of course, water is also the basis for life and it makes up 60% of our bodies. According to the NASA scientists who just discovered a cluster of planets in the Goldilocks zone of a not-too-distant solar system, it’s one of the things they will be looking for as they take a closer inspection of their discovery. Exciting times and further evidence of the importance of water to humans and life as we know it.
Yet we’re busily chucking plastics and spilling chemicals into our waterways all over the world. Prioritising convenience and money over water and environmental health, twistedly thinking that we are putting ourselves above the health of our planet. Sigh, I know we’ve heard it all before, but it hasn’t stopped us doing anything major about it.
Personally, water calms my mind, lifts my spirits and fires up my enthusiasm for life. Heading to the beach when I’m not at my best (or even if I am) for a walk, a day out with friends and family, a volunteer or even solo beach clean, lifts my mood and has me thinking a little more positively and creatively than I may have otherwise done. Actually getting in the sea is even better, surfing or just being rocked by a wave is magic and that good feeling can last for days. I find that getting down to work after being by the ocean helps me be way more productive — even when I compare it to walking in the wood near where I live — my words fit together easily, the ideas for an article come without even trying, the need to revise my work is reduced.
It’s not just me who feels this either. Studies by European Centre for Environment and Human Health(ECEHH) and the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have conclusively shown that our proximity to water positively impacts our health. The closer people in the UK lived to the coast (or other bodies of water) the better their physical and mental health was. These studies haven’t come as far as explaining why this is so, but others suggest it is because we are hardwired to respond to water and looking at a large expanse of it gives our mind a rest from over stimulation.
The whys don’t matter that much to me anymore, not now that I have recognised my own personal need for the sea and near coastal living. I’m still interested to know the why if they ever work it out, but in the meantime, I’ll carry on enjoying my time by the ocean, lakes and streams of England and doing my best to take care of one of the earth’s basic elements that takes care of me in turn. I’ll listen to the call of the sea with a warm smile, patiently waiting for the winter to end and spring to take hold so I can once again brave the sea in my winter-grade wet-suit and power up my creativity, enthusiasm for life and just increase my mental, emotional and physical well-being.