A Meditation on the Ocean
Newport Sands, Pembrokeshire’s North Coast
A familiar welcome from a new friend. Pembrokeshire coast fights off the western seas like Cornwall. Big waves, long estuary, craggy cliffs.
Early evening walk to the marina and fond feelings return of that intoxicating sense that we are alive; a feeling that can be delivered best by the ocean.
Why does this happen by the sea? Your shoulders drop, your mind empties, your heart soars and often the overwhelming sense of relief causes an unwitting closing of the eyes and a releasing groan on my part.
It is a common narrative to reflect upon the changing tide, the ever lapping waves and the fascination of seeing the edge of the land where the two elements meet.
However, this evening, having spent much of the last week touring Welsh mountains, I am keen to capture in words what sets that ‘oceanic’ feeling of emptiness and invigoration apart from the glorious effects on the mind by all other landscapes. The feelings, indeed the ‘spiritual experience’ I have by the sea, I have here alone – not in mountains, or in woods, by fires or watching stars.
My sense of being next to the ocean is one of warmth and happy memories, merged with the baron and exposed feeling brought on by the expanse of sea and air.
Exposure of the spirit.
The houses look small, and helpless, teetering on the edge of the harbour and this great expanse. The small town looks almost brave in its attempt to offer a safe haven. A little cluster of brightly coloured dwellings, daily praying that it may shrug off daily this benign but unwittingly clumsy neighbour as it is ever shifting and alive.
Out there, the sea roars, and here, too the mountains loom. The houses are lonely but there is an anticipation in the red-golden light that bounces off of the water in the evening still. The people on the harbour are sea people. Some have been out there to brave the unknown, shifting waters. Others have come here just to be near it, like me. Artists, healers and pilgrims, consciously or unconsciously drawn.
The town is nestled between the mountain and the sea: the roar of the sea, and the imposition of the hill. The houses look like a castle. “We will fend off sister sea in our settlement. You shall not touch us here with our ploughed earth, deep hearths and human love.” This seems to be the words of the harbour town, unheard but defiant as I look down on them from the clifftop.
It is our sense of who we are, and of how we interact with the sea that wakens my senses to the shore. As we cross the threshold into the ocean’s realm, our human needs and desires have to be abandoned. Here, on this edge of madness, this place where all things drop away, stripped of our ego, we are presented before our maker. And here we wish to be, to bask in its honesty and its opportunity to remain honest with ourselves – no destructive habits forming, no internal dialogues – just the invigoration of the sea.
The sea side settlements are like little cacoons. Here we paint it, we collect its souviners, we harvest it, we think it and write it, and it defines how our spirit plays.
Sometimes we venture into the sea’s domain, but always timidly and with thanks. Back to the harbour we go to look again on the ocean with awe and at the hill above.
Here, by the ocean we become once again, beings on a planet. The lonely and invigorating truth of space and emptiness are before us. We are forced to come face to face with the emptiness of the ocean. We cease to hide behind our human comforts and we can come home to our own emptiness and vulnerability. We look upon ourselves as mortal souls, but at the same time we look upon eternity.
And so the sea becomes a good place to bring us home.
By Elizabeth Roper