Snatched phrases (on the sea)

‘[I] stare at the water.
It’s shot with moon, silver leaking all over the surface.’

from ‘Words in Deep Blue
by Cath Crowley

Okay, so I don’t have any photos of the sea in moonlight, because I have as yet to figure out night-time photography.

But the words above reminded me of one of the things I love about the sea, and one of the reasons I so frequently post other people’s words about it, accompanied by my own photos: I love how the sea changes colour, depending on the season, the temperature, the weather, the time of day, the tide. The colours you see below — blue, green, pewter, turquoise, gold, silver — are just some of the many colours of the sea.

You may recognise some of these photos from earlier posts on this blog. Forgive the repetitiveness. That is one of the things about the ocean, I think: the wonder it instils in you, each time you see it, each time you visit it. It repeats itself, over and over.

Snatched phrases (on the sea)

‘The sea was getting its gnarly face on,
looking a little dented and chipped.

There was a bank of gray clouds in the distance … ‘

from ‘This is the Story of You’
by Beth Kephart

A shock of pleasure

Other people’s words about … the sea

The narrow trail I had been following came to an end as it rose to meet the old grey asphalt road that runs up to the missile guidance station. Stepping from path to road means stepping up to see the whole expanse of the ocean, spreading uninterrupted to Japan. The same shock of pleasure comes every time I cross this boundary to discover the ocean again, an ocean shining like beaten silver on the brightest days, green on the overcast ones, brown with the muddy runoff of the streams and rivers washing far out to sea during winter floods, an opalescent mottling of blues on days of scattered clouds, only invisible on the foggiest of days, when the salt smell alone announces the change. This day the sea was a solid blue running toward an indistinct horizon where white mist blurred the transition to cloudless sky.

from ‘Wanderlust
by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit’s words remind me of my own jaunts to and from the sea. So, no more words from me today — just a gallery of pictures I’ve taken over my own years of oceanside ramblings. You’ll recognise many of these pictures from earlier posts, no doubt, but collected here they convey, I hope, the many moods of the sea.

(Hover over the pictures to see their connection to the words above.)









How (not) to surf

Other people’s words about … surfing

He tried to show me the basics [of surfing], but he made it look too simple. Surfing was in his muscle memory, in his blood, in his thoughts. It was like his shadow, simply part of him …

We got back into the water one more time, and the sea tugged me under and tossed me around under a wave, like a plaything, like it was laughing at me. I came up ready to go home, mouth full of salt, hair full of sand.

from Season of Salt & Honey
by Hannah Tunnicliffe
( p. 134)

My partner is a surfer. In his fifties now, he started surfing in his teens, catching a ride to the south coast with an older friend who had a driver’s license.

Though I love the sea, I have a fear of waves, of getting dumped. Still, when the two of us first met (nearly twenty years ago now), I wanted to give surfing a go. I wanted to see what made him love it so.

So he took me out into the salt water at Yorke Peninsula, he on his surfboard and I on my boogie board, paddling hard. He set me up for a couple of waves. Each time, when the wave rolled towards me, he said, ‘Now!’ and then, when I froze, he gave my board a push, and away I went. I rode the wave towards shore, lying flat on my belly on the board as he’d shown me, and it was fast and terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

And I got it. I got what he felt out there in the ocean. I got the magic of it. The awe.

Yorke Peninsula waves
Yorke Peninsula waves

But I’ve never attempted it again. I can’t read the waves or the currents. I’m afraid of getting caught in a rip. I don’t understand the sea. I love it; I’m awed by it; but I don’t know it.

She gives me that sad, hopeful look that says [surfing] can be for everyone, should be for everyone. That surfing is the best thing in the world. Her strange, blue-grey eyes fix on me, like she wants to explain. I imagine her in the sea, like a fish, moving as though made for the water. She would know where to put her feet, how to balance, how to fall without hurting herself, without drowning. She’s probably one of those girls who rides the waves as though she’s dancing with the whole of the ocean; her and the water taking different roles, moving in different ways. The ocean leads and she simply responds.

(p. 134)

I think, for me, the sea will always remain a beautiful, mysterious, unknown quantity. There are different ways of loving it, perhaps. Mine isn’t the way of the surfer, but it’s still there. It will always be there. I have lived by the sea for twenty years or more now, and the sand and the salt and the sea are in my blood.

And that is enough for me.

Storm approaching, Yorke Peninsula
Storm approaching, Yorke Peninsula

Roll and thunder and hiss

Other people’s words about … the sea (again)

I could see the sea from the terrace, and the lawns. It looked grey and uninviting, great rollers sweeping in to the bay past the beacon on the headland. I pictured them surging into the little cove and breaking with a roar upon the rocks, then running swift and strong to the shelving beach. If I stood on the terrace and listened I could hear the murmur of the sea below me, low and sullen. A dull, persistent sound that never ceased. And the gulls flew inland too, driven by the weather. They hovered above the house in circles, wheeling and crying, flapping their spread wings. I began to understand why some people could not bear the clamour of the sea. It has a mournful harping noise sometimes, and the very persistence of it, that eternal roll and thunder and hiss, plays a jagged tune upon the nerves.

From Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier

I’ve quoted from Rebecca before. It’s one of my favourite books. The unnamed narrator’s character — shy, very English, young, terribly lacking in confidence — is exquisitely drawn. The plot is an absolute cracker. And if you want to find out how to use short sentences to build suspense (and I mean short! sentences), read the last half of the book. I have never seen them used so effectively. Stop reading at your peril.

The sea looked grey and uninviting
The sea looked grey and uninviting

And then there is the sea. It’s almost a character in itself in Rebecca. Here in this quote, and elsewhere, the sea is a dark, brooding presence. We’re not talking sunshine and sun tans and happy childhood memories here. This is a sea that threatens and menaces, that fills the reader with a terrible sense of foreboding.

You know me by now. These won’t be the last words I quote about the sea. But honestly? I think they will always be, for me, up there with the best.

Imagining the sea

Though I live by the beach —
walking there in winter, swimming in summer —
I have never enjoyed travelling by sea.
I loathe getting sea-sick.

Our house north of Adelaide is close to a marina.

Sometimes I like to wander near the shore,
looking at the masts,
listening to the water bobbing against the rocks.

I picture another life — a seafarer’s life.

I never stay long, though.
It’s enough just to imagine.