For the sea-seekers among us, nothing quite satiates the soul like crashing waves, rocky cliffs, sand-duned strands, cascading coasts. Sea settings—those places where wild nature embraces raw emotion, where past and present fade into the distant horizon, itself the edge where the finite joins the infinite.
Who can tell the dancer from the dance? (W.B. Yeats)
The ancient Celts called the edge of the sea a thin place—the site where waves cascade to shore in soul-stirring rhythm, where the sea shifts from hues of green, then blue to glistening white—that transcendent place where the moment and eternity, the literal and the mystical, meld. From here to beyond—
Add a rustic cottage, a castle, or an ancient ruin that invites, intrigues, inspires us to be—part of the setting and the story—where we can live and love in ways that transcend our own experiences and expectations.
The Winter Sea, A Cottage by the Sea, The Wild Irish Sea, Latitudes of Melt —even The Sea Around Us. Whether fictive or not, the passion for seascapes draws us instinctively seaward, all the while progressively deeper and deeper into our own subterranean depths. For author Susana Kearsley, (Sourcebooks, 2009), the castle ruins along the rugged, wild, remote northern Scottish coast beckon her heroine through time to the place of her ancestors—to relive the transformational experience of love and transcendence along The Winter Sea. The very title places the reader in a timeless primeval setting, the realm of the magical, the mystical—the possible. I dwell in Possibility—the words of Emily Dickinson speak to the heart & theme of this romance of the sea.
For it is, (to borrow from Finnegan’s Wake), “at last, alone, along” the sea where we discover the possibility of transformation. We find our sensibilities shifting from feeling “at sea” to feeling part of the seascape—a new way of being.
The sense of oneness with the sea is described in transcendental language by a wise old woman in my novel, Your Own Ones, set along the ancient coast of Celtic Ireland:
“I am who I am by being Here among me’ own ones. Take me away from my place by the sea, and I am nothing more than a poor, old woman—a sean bhan bocht. But Here on me’ own bit of turf? I am the indomitable mountains above, the fertile fields around, and the endless waves below.”
For it is here, among the winter seas and latitudes of melt, that we see most clearly, feel most deeply, live most deliberately—and for the romantics among us—dwell in the possibility of finding our “Own Ones”:
“You must look deeply inside, then out to the mountains and water around you to find your other half.
‘Tis only the lucky few who combine such traits with another person—someone part of the land and sea as much as we.”
The sea as the primal life force, as inspiration, as the thin place from which to step into a new world frames the story of Your Own Ones, just as the sea shapes the lives of those who live along her shores. As the heroine’s father remarks,
“Once born in sight of the sea, ye can never shake off the soulful pining to be immersed in the seascape.”
As every romancer (writer or reader) of the sea knows, it is here by the sea that we step into another world, another time, another way. There, we discover our second sight, our place in the universe—and perhaps our soul mate:
Turning around to take in the entire scene about her, Áine strode over to that part of the strand where the Bradán River folds into the sea. Leaning over to reach in for a small handful of ashes, she stood up, gazed around and chanted lines from Yeats, only fully understanding their meaning in that moment of clarity:
I am of Ireland
And time runs on, cried she.
Come dance with me
Áine ran along the river’s edge, casting bits of ashes into the flowing waters. She ran and ran and ran until her run had changed to a dance. Dancing along with the waves of the sea, she continued to cast the ashes until there were no more into the now crashing waves.
“I am you, and you are me, and I am of Ireland,”
she cried aloud to the gulls ahead and to the shouting waves about her.
“I am of Ireland, of Ireland.”
Looking about her, she spied a stick, and taking it into her hands, retreated from the ocean’s edge to far inland on the sandy strand where the waves wouldn’t reach. With stick in hand, she wrote in looming letters the word, Maeve, and slowly turning around as she gazed all about, she softly spoke,
“I am of Ireland—
and you are of Ireland—
and all of our own ones—
dance here forever—
in Ireland.” (from Your Own Ones)