“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” -Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
We celebrated the ten-year mark since we set off on our nomadic journey just before we said goodbye to the boys as they started their university journey in two different Dutch cities this past summer. In the last four months, our family of five moved 14 times, between two continents and four countries. By the time we said goodbye to the boys and arrived at the seaside, we needed to not just ground ourselves but figure out who we were as a family when we were spread across countries and cultures.
We were together always… and then apart.
We each left parts of ourselves with our parents, friends, and extended family in the USA, we left parts of ourselves in cultures the world over, and we left each other which felt visceral in our parting after spending so much time in the world together for the past 10 years.
When the three of us arrived on the shores of the Mediterranean in September, we knew it was time to stop and “sea” how we may begin again. We were not looking for a fresh start as our past has been so fulfilling. We were looking for renewal and from there a way to move forward.
We came to the sea because of the physical and emotional health benefits of being near the ocean. We felt the effects of the abundance of minerals and vitamins that help reduce muscle tension and inflammation, contribute to improved sleep and even boost immunity almost immediately. We connected with the earth through grounding practices (laying in the sand), as feelings of joy and connectivity bubbled up. The ocean’s “state of mind” brought us home to ourselves simply by being blue and full of water molecules. We felt all of this profoundly, but we knew something so much bigger than us was at play.
The basic elements of water transformed us as the gentle waves lapped the crystalline waters. Water is full of polarities, it has uneven elements that tug at each other and yet because of this, it is universal. Water is content-heavy and undergoes reduction and reaction. Some objects float in water, others sink due to things like tension and density. Through a process called cohesion, water molecules hold onto each other to keep each other afloat. With adhesion, water molecules attach themselves to other molecules and surfaces to travel and re-bond. Human blood is 92% water. The brain and muscles are 75% water. Human bones are 22% and we can’t live without water. As we jumped into the sea, unsure of our next step, we realized we are not just in the ocean, we are of the ocean.
We worked, studied, cooked, and cleaned as we wandered along the Italian coast. We made a commitment to at least jump in every day, no matter the weather and we didn’t try to force or coerce reflection or action beyond what we needed to get done. As the quote above says, “Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” With each passing moment, we felt stronger, more connected, clearer, and less distanced geographically as individuals and as a family. We found a rhythm of connecting with the boys virtually. We clumsily figured out how to bond and play with one child living at home because water taught us how. Did you know the water on earth today is the same water that has been here for five billion years? It goes through processes that change and transform it of course but it is still here and still traveling back to itself every moment of every day, as are we.
As the waves rocked us back and forth, we understood water, and therefore ourselves, in a new way. We realized that we can’t catch a wave in our hands, but if we float on our backs the ocean will support us. We pondered the ease with which water transforms from a solid to a liquid to a vapor. We thought of the sheer power water has to flood, wash away, carve new landscapes, and also breathe life into… We reflected on the fact that isolated water stagnates but the water that flows purifies itself.
The sea gave us the courage and peace of mind to take the next step in this new decade for our family. We know one thing for sure, we are overflowing with gratitude for every opportunity we have had together exploring over the past 10 years. We feel comforted knowing we will always be traveling back to one another no matter where we are on this beautiful earth because …
“You didn’t come into the world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.” – Alan Watts