The sea, the sea
The sea is a stirring and passionate force. Its personality is at once forceful and intimidating, at other times, lapping and timid. What is it about the sea that draws us in and evokes such strong feelings, either of calm or of angst? Iris Murdoch’s celebrated novel (the title of this piece) centres on a theatre director who secludes himself by the sea where an old love is reawakened and rejection faced. Virginia Woolf’s allegorical The Waves captures the lives of her protagonists through the periods of their lives from childhood to maturity and death; the book is a testament to their shared identity, yet they are isolated and alone. The Sea by John Banville returns the author to a fictionalised account of early childhood summers by the sea. Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea is a beautiful homage to the sea and aloneness.
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea.”
Yet each of these stories is about love, loss and the pain of childhood. Woolf was subjected to the utmost cruelty and abuse by family members throughout much of her early life. Her ‘madness’ was ultimately the legacy of being sexually abused as a child.
Being fortunate to live by the coast, I find solace on a quiet beach late in the evening when all other visitors have gone. To watch the sun dip and move across the water calms me and makes me feel connected with life. The sea represents our close relationships – strong, awe-inspiring, unpredictable, fun, soothing, calm, ferocious and inviting.
When our internal world is in turmoil and we’re looking for more meaning, or answers to life’s problems, some time spent by the sea can be restorative and healing. Allowing the sea to wash over us both figuratively and literally is a refreshing and freeing experience. I am inspired by the sea and I invite you to experience its elemental power too. Healing is more than simply talking – the therapeutic benefits of being at one with nature play a part too.
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About Michael O'Rourke
Michael O'Rourke is a counsellor with an interest in working with clients who have difficulty in their relationships. He has experience working in addiction and with relationship counselling and sees clients in his private practice, proximity to the sea in Hastings. He is a member of the BACP and adheres to its code of ethics.