sadness and the sea

The hillsides

get pulled down by the ocean

and made into sand.

the sand, made into glass

glass, to hold water, or rice. or both.

rice, which feeds the body.

the body, which acts in the world

then dies.

merging with the land,

which turns to sand.


When I am at the sea, I sometimes get sad. I always have. I love the ocean. The primal push and pull. The sounds of the waves in steady unending cadence. Perhaps that is part of what it is saddening: all the while my life is continuing to tumble forward, the waves are a constant. I come back, and they are still doing their thing. The ocean may be wilder or calm and composed, but the movement is there. I am instantly prompted to reflect on my life since the last ocean visit, and often go to the mourning places to take in the watery womb of myself. 

I was surprised what came up this time, traveling along with a new camper home, the first real personal space I've had that is all mine in a long while. I didn't talk to anyone or hardly see anyone for days. I didn't have cell or internet service. I had myself to myself with the flowers, the rocks, the unpredictable weather and the loud and continuous sea. I found myself writing again finally for the first time in months, drawing again, and working on sewing projects gaining dust. I took long meandering walks along the shore up on the cliffs overlooking the sandstone formations at Salt Point, coastal plants in full glorious bloom. As I tromped by lush springs headed to the ocean, to merge with the salty horizon, I gain new pairs of muddy socks or sludge splattered calves. As I skip over puddles, often failing to miss them, I think about loves lost. The loss of once shared tenderness and closeness. I did not realize when I was younger that loving really did mean you took loss with it, too. I thought about unfinished mourning, interrupted by the lists of daily tasks and the life I've chosen- moving, wandering, and constantly taking in new stimulus. The long hikes, no music, nothing to distract but the land itself. The stillness and time with myself, faced with the primordial truth that the ocean embodies so fully and dramatically, is comforting and yet fear-inducing. It reminds me of those that have done me wrong and I did nothing to remedy it, of my truest emotions easy to bury in busy days. It reminds me of those that have passed and merged with the truest essence of it all. See, the creek merging with the ocean is like my grandmother dying, and the words I left unsaid. Tears that come are like the muddy puddles; messy and eventually dry up. 

I know that it is all transformation. That nothing really dies. I can't help though, but to feel the roller coaster of emotion that comes with facing the inevitability of death. I hate to be so melancholy, but at the same time, the suppression of sadness in our society is part of the problem. Every moment is a little death. Because every moment is different than the one before. I feel it deeper and more fully immersed in nature, especially when every wave is born and dies right there in front of me. Since this oceanside trip I have found myself in other wild places where the lessons are the same. The self merges with the landscape and every bird flying or limb falling, flower blooming, is a reflection from inside. The land changes and I watch. Parts of me fall away like water in sand, and parts of me rise up tall like the mountains as I am reminded listening to a fellow wild wanderer sing similar lines a few days ago by a campfire at the Buckeye Gathering. 

Time spent in nature, is a cumulative meditation. Every time, something else emerges and is faced. Longer periods go deeper. Shorter periods are a grounding reminder. 

 Something else that is saddening I think, is the reminder that we live in a constructed world that is not built for our bodies and minds to feel at ease. Like the plants that are intricately adapted to a specific place sometimes with a specific pollinator or home for a particular bird, we humans have evolved to fit the land too. Even tend the land and be tended by the land. When we are not doing that, things go wrong. We are forced to try to adapt more quickly that we can really handle. We are traumatized by the constant stress. We create deeper cavernous grooves of dysfunction in our inner landscape that become incredibly hard to reroute as time goes on. 

As I walked with Corinne, a local Pomo native woman, at the Buckeye Gathering on her plant walk, I sense her sadness as she explains how the Oaks are dying out. How they need humans to do control burns to alkalinize the soil, need offerings of shells to break down slowly. They need us to eat their acorns. To process our food under their shaded canopy. I can't help but to feel suddenly like all we white folks should leave and just let the native folks have their trees back. Of course, it is not that simple. She explains how one tree that has been in her family for hundreds of years is now dying. And that her people are dwindling. And she, one of three basket weavers left.

What I actually can do, is tread with care. To feel the feelings. To listen to the heart of the matter. To leaves some things alone. To spend time with plants and get to know their moods, personalities, and emotions. When I am alone out there, every day the messages get stronger from the land. The inner landscape becomes a vast maze of navigation. 

What the ocean tells me is that no matter who I love leaves or dies, or what I care about that is wiped away, something will come back and the land will persevere. The ocean is harsh. It is cold, salty and will wipe you away against sharp rocks. It will make waves even after we pollute the earth to no end. Our ancestors saw the same ocean and the same waves, the music of life and death right in front of us is the string that holds time and continuity together. Life is too short to waste. I am reminded that I can be better with my time. Speak my truth. Tell those I care about how I feel, even if they feel distant and gone. Not worry so much. Enjoy happiness and the present moment. Take in the lessons of the land, and the sea. 


Photos from: Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin Coast, Sonoma Point State Park, Sonoma Coast, Mendocino Coast, Salt Point State Park. Northern California.