The ocean helps me remember 5

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The character in Alison’s piece has trouble remembering anything at all – but the ocean takes her back to where she needs to be.

I don’t remember anything much these days. Life has become a kind of haze, where nothing starts or ends, it just suddenly is – then, is not. People loom into my view – my eyesight is not so good now – they give me food, or a drink, or pills… and then they fade away, and as often as not I feel sleepy and close my eyes for a bit. This woman in a blue cardy came to see me, said she was my niece. Well, she might have been and she might not, how can you tell? Truth has become a thing that bends and fades round the edges.

I still remember my lovely boy Connor though. Connor comes to visit me a lot. And sometimes he pops me in a wheelchair and makes a joke about me being behind the wheel of the Jaguar, and don’t go too fast Mum, the cops’ll be booking you for speeding. He wheels me out to the garden and we have a lovely chat out under the trees. He tells me all sorts of things I don’t remember now – but he’s such a lovely boy. He’s so kind.

 It’s daytime. We’ve had lunch. And now I see Connor striding into my room.

“Off to the beach we go, Mum. Are you ready?”

I look startled.

“I told you yesterday, Mum, I’m taking you down to Bronte for a bit of a look at the sea. You used to be a swimmer, Mum, real fast. And a surfer.”

Some pictures drifted through my muzzy head. Water foaming up around me, getting up my nose. An ice cream on a stick, with chocolate to lick off the outside. My pink bubble swimmers.

And my arms slicing through the water, strong and brown.

“I swam?” I say.

“Mum, you were a champ. Remember?”

And, weirdly, I do remember.

 

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The ocean helps me remember 4

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Jane remembers the feel, the physicality of ocean, her own history with it, and its relationship to all of us.

The ocean helps me remember to breathe. That might sound odd, especially if you’ve ever been caught underwater, the astounding pressure of water above, the inconsequential grains of sand below. It is the rhythm of the tide, rolling in, pulling out, relentless and seemingly without end. It reminds me of days spent in blinding sunshine, water eddying and eroding moated castles built with care a distance away from the ocean’s edge, but there’s the trick. There is no singular defined limit of an ocean, no perfectly marked boundary. Just as no breath is quite the same as the next.  

How I love to look at the horizon, that very slight curve far off in the distance that makes me realise the transitory nature of existence, how the ocean goes far beyond what I can see. The sheer scope of it. The hidden depths, the dangers and delights contained within. It reminds me of boat trips, fishing expeditions, even plane trips. How being perched up in a seat, high above the ground with a bird’s eye view didn’t make the ocean less magnificent. If anything it made it more so.

It makes me think of long journeys, centuries ago, across oceans melding into one another, no clearly defined frontiers, just endless blue horizons with occasional interruptions of land. It reminds me of journeys taken by boat, the vague sense of unease as moorings are left behind and we chase the horizon. The relief as land finally comes into view, the toss and tumble of the ocean’s passage soon becomes a memory.

 

 

 

The ocean helps me remember 3

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The ocean helps Raewyn remember childhood holidays at the beach.

The ocean helps me remember endless days of childhood freedom.

Long summers at the campground just across the bitumen from the beach. At first in the blue bubble caravan, later in the bigger tan one with the striped annex. Being the eldest I was allowed to sleep out there on the canvas stretcher with the grey steel frame. This was Ohope in the seventies. Not crowded at all, with families of kids from all over who had the similar beach dream. Come evening, the bikes, scooters, and roller skates, and later skateboards, came out to play and the gaggle of all-age kids formed a tribe.

My mother always ensured we had these two weeks at the beach, mostly to get my father off the farm, but for our good as well. They both loved the beach. Dad was a one for body surfing, or blowing up the long blue lilo and thundering in on the huge swells that were common in those summers.

Mum’s joy was endless reading on a low fold-up beach chair in the breeze under the beach umbrella, its white tassels beating a wild, windy dance.

“Make sure you don’t drift, keep in line with the umbrella”, was always the instruction whenever we entered the surf. It was easy to allow the tow to take you sideways as you beat an endless path in and out of the broiling shore-bound waves.

I am grateful to have become a life-long lover of the endless summer beach and the deep, quiet blue ocean. The ocean helps me remember my childhood self.

 

The ocean helps me remember 2

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The narrator in Richard’s piece associates the ocean with quite different memories, and we sense a political context here.

The heat is worse than usual, and the flies are relentless in their search for moisture, swarming at my eyes and nose and mouth.

This track I have chosen goes through the stink of the piles of garbage that have built up over the years, so the flies are inevitable. But that, I hope, makes the path a safe one, and I trudge on, drawn by a distant susurration.

I hear voices ahead – loud, arguing voices – and I slip off the track and crouch in the bushes.  The beer-fuelled argument stutters along the track towards the camp from which I have come, and I am thankful they have found something to argue about.  I glimpse a bottle being waved about, and can see that at least two of the four men have bush knives strapped to their waists.

When they are gone, I resume my trek towards that soft sound. It grows louder as I creep through the last trees and out onto the gritty beach.  There is no one in sight, so I can walk to the edge of the beach and let the tepid salt water surge around my ankles.  While sea-birds wheel and dive beyond the reef, as I stand, searching the blue expanse.

The Ocean helps me remember where I came from, and where I hoped to go, before they put me on this island, in that camp.

 

The ocean helps me remember…

Recently our writing group considered the thought-starter “The ocean helps me remember.” We decided to blog the interestingly different responses to those five words.

Therese’s response is poetic, philosophical.

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They say that life began in the ocean, floating around in the Earth’s own amniotic fluid, so the ocean is where everything came from. We can all trace our ancestry back and back and back through time to some unicellular organism whose whole world was water, that eternal blue, sinking down into the black depths.

Perhaps everything is held there, all of evolutionary history, so I imagine the ocean as a place filled with memories. My own as well. All of the world’s memories mingling with flashing schools of sardines and echoing with whale song.

It is not often that I get to stand by the ocean, living inland as I do, but once or twice a year I hear the call, and I cannot help but respond, as if the whales themselves are summoning me. Their song can travel vast distances underwater; but on land, I think the ears of the heart can hear them just as well, can feel the deep vibrations of their sea voices. They call, and I go, finding some quiet corner of a beach where I can be with myself, and no one else.

The smell of salt water and rotting seaweed, the sound of gulls. It all reminds me of summers past, childhood holidays. Sitting on the beach shivering after taking a dip only to be wrapped in a towel baked warm by the sun. Sand stuck to my shins. Fruity ice blocks and fish and chips.

But these are only skin memories, some moving deeper, into flesh, being powerfully felt in the body; but most light on the surface, shallow. What I want is bone memory, and the ocean gives me that, transferring stories, histories, as if by osmosis. When I wade out into the water, and I feel the pull of the waves around my ankles, the push and suck of the tide, the gentle swish of seaweed against my leg, something deeper comes. Bone memory. Ocean memory. Something so ancient it cannot be put into words.