“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”John F. Kennedy
Water is in our fabric. Literally. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we’re made of the same balance we find in the sea. Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water: unconquerable, uninhabitable, and untamable by man, for the most part. And bodies of water have been a source of great reflection throughout history.
We need it, we’re made of it, it’s made for us. And some (or most) of us need to be in it or near it regularly. I do. Quite literally, I thirst for it, which is why I take a glance at Lake Michigan most every day or drive the hour to Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho for just a momentary take-your-breath-away dunk in sparkling sapphire glacial waters. I do the same in shark-infested waters on the little island in Florida I’ve frequented all my life. A friend laughs because, when we go for a dunk at the end of an evening beach walk, mine’s in about 18” of surf. I love the ocean, I need the ocean, and I respect what lies beneath its surface.
Good fortune gave me some time by the water today; the soft breeze and lapping water was magical. I sat there really appreciating the quiet, knowing it wasn’t going to last, enjoying every moment. A couple walked by and, as they did, the man said to the woman, “I like him, I just don’t think he’s son-in-law material.” Then came some college kids, phones in their faces, taking selfies. They settled close enough for me to hear about a few of their not-so-romantic lives. Good Lord. And they were really loud about it, but you know what? I didn’t care, because we were all just there, hanging out in this beautiful presence.
Water, especially the salty kind, is a great equalizer. We are humbled by its magnitude, awed by its beauty, and intrigued by its “moods,” as my mother called them, which reflect our own in many ways. There may be choppiness on the surface, but deep, still waters lie beneath. Deep water serves as an analogy fit for meditation and reflection.
I have a few friends with boats who graciously take me out when I need the water. We’ve had some great escapes together. One friend lost his brother last year. He cruises out a few miles offshore in the early morning, where he communicates with him. Aloud, or otherwise, I am not sure, but it’s where he feels connected to his brother.
“Hark, now hear the sailors cry. Smell the sea, and feel the sky. Let your soul & spirit fly into the mystic,” sings Van (the Man) Morrison.
After my mom died last summer, the frenzy of her funeral was over, and I’d dropped my firstborn at college, I was spent. In my heart, I knew I needed to get away and find the water. I beelined to Michigan and made a plan to get on the lake right away. I’m infamous for sleeping through early morning waterski plans, but not that trip.
Instead of staying in bed, I got up and out before the mystical fog, which hung over the distant shoreline, had lifted. (Pictured above.) Five girls on tubes screamed with delight, which added to the ambience, as did a restorative swim offshore. The whole scene was sheer bliss.
I am thankful for friends who feel the same call of the water. I’m thankful for friends (with boats!) who invite me out when I need it most. Do you have opportunities to be on the water, or sit on a shoreline, or just to catch a glimpse, or have a reflection? All great ways to meditate.
Enjoy this excerpt from a poem called “In Praise of Water” by John O’Donahue:
Let us bless the humility of water,
Always willing to take the shape of whatever otherness holds it,
The buoyancy of water
Stronger than the deadening, downward drag of gravity,
The innocence of water,
Flowing forth, without thought of what awaits it,
The refreshment of water,
Dissolving the crystals of thirst.
Water: voice of grief, cry of love,
In the flowing tear.
Water: vehicle and idiom of all the inner voyaging
That keeps us alive.
Blessed be water, Our first mother.