We didn’t mean to go to sea.
It’s not a very empowered statement. As if life had somehow happened by accident, which some people believe is the case. I believe a different thing each day of the week, it all depends upon how I feel. I am not a creature of habit, although I think that I would like to be. I currently feel as adrift as my little boat, the waters are calm one moment and stormy the next, no two days are the same. Sometimes I long for order, and at other times I relish the lack of order, the possibility that there is nothing that I have to do. I am more changeable than the weather, and my moods are quicker than the clouds sometimes.
I look out across the sea because that is the only place to look, I am tired of seeing the sea, I never thought that that would be possible. I love the sea so much, I love its curves and its peaks, I love its smoothness and its depth. I love its gentle ripples and its gargantuan waves that lift my boat high and crash it back down threatening to consume us all in one great mouthful.
I once went swimming in a rough sea in Australia, I was with my sister and she came running up the beach and told me to go for a swim, she said it was bracing, or perhaps she said it was exhilarating. Either way I ran into the sea and quickly found myself out of my depth being thrown about by really big waves. Surfers would probably say the waves there were small, but they were bigger than me, and I had never swam in such big waves before. I was quite enjoying myself when a brute of a wave suddenly appeared and before I had a chance to dodge it, it pulled me under. If you have ever been tumbled by a big wave out of your depth you will know that it is one of those moments where two immediate possibilities are presented to you: one, you are going to drown, two, you are not going to drown. Most people who are reading this will have opted for possibility number two.
I really did not want to drown, but it felt for a while that it might be my fate. I thought of my children somewhere on the beach with my sister, and I hoped that they were not watching . The sea picked me up and threw me around and around, it was like being in a giant washing machine. The most frightening thing about this experience was that I didn’t know which way was up, this went on for what seemed like ages, but must have only really been a few seconds, or minutes, who knows? I tried to swim but somehow couldn’t coordinate my body, suddenly my shoulder bumped into something hard and stony. It was the bottom, this was a wonderful feeling because in that moment I knew that I would be ok. I turned myself around and pushed off the ocean floor upwards with all my might and by some miracle I popped out of the water just in time to catch a wave on which I body surfed back to shore. I lay on the sand feeling battered, but I also felt exhilarated, my sister was right, it was bracing!
The ocean is wild, or perhaps I could say she is wild, I do believe that all big bodies of water are female, of course I have no evidence for this, it is just a strong feeling. I love that the ocean is gentle and powerful all at the same time.
My sister is rather good at leading me into exhilarating experiences. While I was visiting her we went to a country fair. It was a very odd event to my mind, there were stalls selling sweets and cakes and cattle being shown in a big ring. It was blisteringly hot and we walked around until we came to a fun fair. My sister decided that we should go on the fun fair, specifically on the big drum thing that spins you around. Of course I didn’t want to go on it, what kind of lunatics invented fun fairs anyway? My sister said something along the lines that if you think you might regret not doing something then you should definitely do it. She must have put it in a more convincing way than that, because these right now I am not convinced by that argument. It must have been a compelling speech because the last time I had gone to the fun fair was in my teens when I was stuck on a malfunctioning ride for twenty minutes listening with great distaste to the dreadful music combined with the person on the loudhailer trying, with increasingly unconvincing tone, to tell the riders that we were lucky to have an extra long ride. When we finally got off the ride none of us could stand up or walk, and most people were vomiting. Definitely not an advert for fair grounds.
So somehow my sister convinced me to get on this bizarre ride with her, we were belted against a wall in a ride that I believe is called the cage. The ride spun around and around and then the floor fell away, leaving us literally splatted against our respective cage walls. While I span around faster and faster I wondered what exactly it was that people enjoyed about being in this weird contraption. The boiling dry heat of the day made it feel pretty much like being inside some sort of industrial tumble dryer. I concluded that it is the relief of getting off the rides that makes people go on them, a bit like waking from a bad dream, or the wonderful bit after you have your teeth drilled at the dentist without any anaesthetic (yes I’ve done that too, but not at the fair!).
In hindsight the fact that I did these things means that I get to write silly stories about them to entertain myself and whoever is bored enough to read them, but I do think that hindsight should never have been invented.
I suppose deciding to do things which provide experiences is better than just letting life happen to you, I don’t want to have life happen to me, I don’t want to be some sort of passive spectator. I want to choose my adventures.
I found myself in Australia zoo towards the end of my trip to Australia, they have a section there that is about raising money to look after Koalas, and there you can actually hold a real live rescue koala. I paid my twenty dollars for my two daughters to hold koalas and have their pictures taken. I still have those photographs, by some strange magic my daughters were given koalas to hold that had similar expressions to them. Both girls looked so wonderfully pleased. The smaller of my two daughters was told to stand on a chair while she held her koala as koalas do not like to be near the ground, and if you put them too near on a person they will climb onto the person’s head using their incredibly sharp claws!
My children were beaming with joy as we walked away from the koala holding area, and suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. What on Earth was I doing? I had had a life-long love of koalas, and here was an opportunity to hold one and for some stupid reason that I can’t even remember I didn’t do it. I turned around and ran back into the room, paid my twenty dollars and held a real live koala, it smelt just like wee, and felt warm and firm and wonderful. I was so happy I could have kissed the strange grey creature in my arms (except that I had been warned against this, koalas they told us can be savage). I still have my picture of me gleefully holding that wonderful koala.
The koala experience taught me that it’s no good at all not doing stuff. Stuff has to be done. Do stuff. I may not have meant to go to sea, but here I am and I am going to do the things that call to my soul, the things that whisper to me at night. Usually these are quite small and attainable. Of course I would like to see the world, but I don’t think that travel is quite what I mean. I mean exploring the world in my immediate vicinity, the stuff outside my back door, or at the stern of my little boat. I am going to jump into the sea and see what it has in store for me.
Wave photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash