Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lessons from the Sea by Emily VanLaeys

The Sea by Peter van Laeys
I have seen the ocean in all of its moods: angry and tumultuous, happy and playful, calm and serene. When I was a child, I hated the huge, haughty waves that caught me unaware and tumbled me over and over in the sand until I could fight my way out' coughing and trembling with relief that I had escaped the powerful grip of my enemy. Still, I was lured back to the ocean beach again and again. After all, the sea was my friends when frisky wavelets darted in and out, splashing my legs with tingling salt while I leaped among them.

When I was growing up, my family lived on the Great South Bay, just a ferry boat ride from the Fire Island shore. I could go as often as I could pay the three dollar fare, or beg a ride over one of the bay bridges. In later years, I moved away, and a trip to the ocean became a rare treat. When I visit the shore with my husband and children, the exhilaration of the fresh, damp wind sends me sprinting and twirling over the crunchy sand, like the child who once feared and loved the ocean with equal passion.

I crash through the breakers until I reach calm water, where I lie on my back, rising and dipping with the rhythm of creation. The sea is my grandmother when her ancient waves roll majestically, holding me afloat as I gaze up at cloud-embrodiered skies.

After a day at the beach, I lie in bed with my eyes closed and feel the whole room undulate around me, gently rocking me to sleep. Or I might feel that I am still stnading on the shore, where the great waves finally end in a thin film of water that ripples under my feet. The sand shifts beneath my toes as the ocean sucks in the foam. Another frothy breath replaces the first as it recedes. Ebb and flow. The ocean never takes back without returning its life-giving breath.

The year after I graduated from college I worked in a dead-end job where the bnoss made me shorten my name for the convenience of our clients, and my first love stopped answering my letters. Feeling lost, I drifted with the flow of life to Yellowstone Park where I worked for a summer and met my future husband. The sands shifted and I was happily married, following my mate to a city I didn't want to live in. There I found a satisfying job, good friends, new knowledge.

The waters of life carried us to another state where we bought our first house and planned to start a family. Our spirits ebbed when years of infertility and miscarriage shattered our dream. Gradually we picked up the pieces and found hope in the adoption process. Again the shifting sands, the flow of spirit-filled life, brought a successful pregnancy; a healthy daughter.

And so life has continued. Intervals of frustration or disappointment are followed by periods of fulfillment and joy. During those joy-filled times I'm a child again, finding a channeled whelk or a bit of polished glass that a wave brought to me. When I stand at the water's edge, the sea is my teacher.


  1. amazing painting. and the text somehow seems to be narrating the painting, metaphorically, like everything else, if any of that makes any sense at all.

    masterymistery at cosmic rapture

  2. Thank you! My son is the artist, so I will pass the compliment on to him!