I haven't been down to the beach this winter, quite as often as I'd like to. Partly because I haven't felt the call as strong as usual and partly because its been so damned busy down there. The mild winter we've been enjoying has meant the beach, *my* beach, has rarely been deserted. While it has sometimes been nice to sit and listen to the happy shouts and laughter of children building sandcastles or flying kites, it seems a little odd to see it at this time of year. It is far quieter than in the summer, obviously, but even so it has not been still, it has not been silent. Dotted here and there across the sand are family groups and friends joking, laughing, picnicking, all bundled up against the wind blowing in from the sea. My uninterrupted shore, my quiet time, has been hard to find this winter.
Yet still I went, when I could, to pick amongst the great line of tangled seaweed for bones and stones and shells. My kitchen window ledge is littered with driftwood and crab shells and tumbled polished bits of pot; a piece of broken plate, discarded and worn smooth in decades of ebb and flow. Bladderwrack hangs drying in the place of summer herbs and a winter sun casts tatters of colour across my wall from the glass floats hanging in my kitchen window. The sea, the shore, was not a distant thing to visit and admire, its spirit followed me home and sang to me. The shouts of long dead sailors and the crash of breaking waves, the gentle lap of warm tides and the roar of winter storms were familiar, soothing, expected, welcomed.
I would stand on the tide smoothed sand and wait for that one rogue wave to race further up the beach than any other, just where I stood, in welcome. And with my wet feet blessed I would, in that liminal place, feel the essence of the sea within me. I talked. She talked. Problems were cast to the waves and solutions rolled in on the breakers. Dreams were set loose on the tides and she ran with them, adding her might to them, holding them afloat to weather the storms.
And then one day, she said Goodbye.
'You are not of the Sea', she told me. 'You are of the woods, and hills and freshwater streams, it is there your task lies.'
I will always be welcome at the shore, I am told, and She will always listen. But there are no answers anymore. I need to seek those in steep, wooded valleys and high on the hills; no more can I feel the vast depths of the sea.
She is gone, but I don't feel empty. I don't feel alone.