But no-one was awake

Other people’s words about … the sound of the sea

Sometime after midnight the rain and the wind stopped. The room filled with the sound and smell of the ocean, both amplified somehow, as if it were about to pour through the windows, full of storm debris — ground up shells, rotting wood, seaweed, the husks of marine animals, endless other fragments suspended in the salt water, all of it caught in the roar of the waves. But by then there was no one awake to hear.

from ‘The Restorer
by Michael Sala

Having lived in various houses by the sea ever since my early twenties, I’ve noticed how the smell that drifts towards my house from the beach differs not just from day to day, but from house to house. Where I live now, my house is pretty much at sea level, and though it stands several streets back from the beach, on days when the wind is westerly, blowing straight off the ocean, the air that drifts into my yard is rank with the smell of salt and damp sand and rotting seaweed.

The sea is shallow here, too; you can wade out for quite some distance from the shore, heading towards the horizon, without the water rising much above waist level. You can see this, I hope, in the photos illustrating this post, all of which I took a few weeks ago on one of my early-autumn strolls along the beach.

But it’s the sound of the sea I’m thinking of right now, rather than the scents or the sights. As I write, it’s three o’clock in the morning and — unlike in Michael Sala’s description, quoted above — I am awake to hear the roar of the waves.

I’ve always been a light sleeper. Sometimes the sounds of the house wake me in the middle of the night — the rattle of my window, the sway of an open door. Sometimes it’s my dog who wakes me, sleeping on his blanket in the laundry, sighing and licking his chops, letting out a little snore.

I don’t always get back to sleep easily once I’ve woken. On nights like this, it’s the sound of the sea through the window that comforts me in my sleeplessness, connecting me to something outside myself, outside my house, outside the long, dark, lonely night.

In the morning, the sea will sound different — more distant, somehow, less intimate. But we’re not there yet.

Not yet.

2 thoughts on “But no-one was awake

  1. Beautiful descriptions, Rebecca. Like you, I’m an insomniac. I no longer resist it – sometimes I read, others I just lay in the dark, think and listen. At night, the sounds are much more amplified with no ‘day’ sounds to compete with them.
    I love the sea, but live a couple hours away and am lucky if we get a single beach day in August. Once I camped within hearing range of breakers and it was so soothing to listen to them as I drifted off to sleep.
    Your photos are so enticing – the water looks heavenly.

    1. Thanks, Eliza. I think the trick is definitely not to resist insomnia, as you say. The night can be very beautiful, though long 🙂

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