One of my favourite beaches, Aramoana - 'gateway to the sea' - is about half an hour's drive from my front door. I walk there often. Each time I go there, the ocean expresses a different side of her personality. Perhaps my perception is affected by whether I'm alone or with someone, what mood I'm in or who it is I might be walking with. Whatever it is, there's something about the ocean that has me imagining we're in conversation together; we take turns to reveal something new about each other each time we meet.
Several months ago, I drew a circle in my diary around two weeks in September. Earlier in the year, my very dear old (though not so in age!) Cape Town friend, Nan, expressed a full-hearted wish to come to Dunedin. We agreed to hold the idea in light hands, since life is full and unpredictable, but I wanted to make sure that whatever happened, she and I would have an uncluttered, undistracted time together should she go ahead and decide to buy an air ticket. Well, she did! She's here! Sharing time, space and new/old friendships with her in this place I love is deep joy.
Yesterday, we went for a walk out at Aramoana (Nan in the bright orange windproof jacket her daughter bought her specially for this trip).
It was a moody day; the sea, not exactly tempestuous so much as agitated, as though she's doing what she must to shake off the energy of Saturday's earthquake (there was another unnervingly big jolt - 5.6 - yesterday morning)...
I really don't know what we can do over distance to be of practical help to our friends up in Christchurch but one of my strongest impulses is to turn to the Earth, not away from her. It seems to me that times like these call us to more nurture - to nurture more. Each other. And the Earth. Perhaps if we all put our hands into her soil, dig and plant and express our appreciation of her, she - mother earth - will feel affirmed, valued, tended. Perhaps it will help her settle back down? When someone we love - brother, sister, friend, child, parent - is in the grip of trauma or a violent seizure, is not our instinct is to hold them, to stroke their forehead, to speak soothing, loving words to them? We want to be in physical contact, to reassure them this too will pass, that everything will be alright, calm will be restored? Apparently the plants Rue and Witch Hazel have healing properties that would nourish both the planter and the 'plantee'? (Rue is considered an effective antispasmodic; Witch Hazel helps with bleeding and reduces swelling in knotty veins.) I don't know... am thinking aloud here.
The passage down to the beach has elements of a birth canal... a walk over tussock-covered dunes, through a narrow gap then out onto a whole other landscape. As if she knew a lovely woman in an orange jacket would be visiting her for the first time that day, the sea offered up a collection of beautiful orange treasures. . .
On our way back to the car, the sea's signature - also in orange. . . kelp script, written casually onto the flank of a dune.