top of page

99. What Can We Learn From The Waves?

It's holiday time and, as many of us will be by the sea at some point, I thought the topic of waves might strike a chord. There is a tide in the affairs of men,Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.On such a full sea are we now afloat.And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. William Shakespeare I've just come back from two wonderful weeks in the Algarve; sun, blue skies, alfresco meals, and of course, sea. If you go to the Algarve with an idea of the still, warm bath that is the Mediterranean at this time of year, you'll get a shock as of course down there in the south of Portugal it is the cool, wild waves of the Atlantic that you'll find. Look southwards over it and you can feel the warm winds of Africa blowing on your face; look West and you can only begin to imagine the thousands of deep, wet miles to America. But you don't spend much time thinking about distant lands once you set foot into the sea, as then it's the chilly immediacy of the waves that demands your attention. And it was especially rough this year. Take a young child into the water and you'd be mad not to hold their small hand tightly in yours; a sudden wave will knock them flying. We were all adults yet still a cavalier attitude could find you quickly in trouble. Amidst shrieking and laughter, the five of us, two oldies and three young ones, jumped and ducked and swam and battled and generally tried to outwit the ocean. The usual human survival mechanisms quickly clocked in: vigilance, observation, learning, avoiding action. You quickly learnt, for example, that the closer you were to the shore, the more vulnerable you were. The waves there crashed ferociously onto the sand, easily taking your feet from under you. If caught, you fell heavily, the grains of sand grazing your skin. Counter-instinctive though it felt, it was wise to strike out through these turbulent shallow waters into deeper parts. The waves were still strong there, but your legs and half your torso was safely anchored in deeper and calmer water, so their ability to knock you off your feet was much reduced. Nevertheless, waves came at head height, often well above, and casual chatter was reliably punished with a sudden wall of water crashing on top of you. But vigilance was rewarded. Vigilance enabled you to see trouble coming from afar. You could gauge the height of the wave, its speed, and how likely it was to break as it reached you. The medium ones that didn't break, you could jump over, your head safely above the water. The medium ones that did break you could often jump as well. But some, as my cousin said, were unbeatable. They rose several feet above our heads, we looked them in the eye and we knew we were defeated. My cousin would stand her ground while these waves crashed over her; her drenched tousled mop would eventually reappear, her startled blue eyes bright with water. I discovered ducking. If I dropped under the water just as the wave arrived, for the sake of a few disorienting moments of dark, watery anxiety, I would miss the force of the wave altogether. Armed with a surf board, and impeccable timing, you could ride the waves and be carried swiftly to the shore. On days when the sea was a little calmer, you could float; the salt water buoying you up, your body gently riding each wave as it came and passed. Try this: How do you live your life? Are you a jumper or a diver or a surfer, or do you stand still and wait? Do you keep to the shallows of your life, and yourself, or do you go into deeper waters? Do you dive into life, or do you hold back? Do your survival mechanisms run your life, or do you just use them when the sea is rough? When the waters are calmer, do you rest and go with the flow, or do you look around for more excitement? 'Give up to grace. The ocean takes care of each wave 'til it gets to shore. You need more help than you know.' Rumi, Words of Paradise, Selected Poems of Rumi. Have a good week! love Anita

bottom of page