i smell the kelp as i prepare the big pot of lentils. i love to make dal, the traditional indian dish. i make good dal, people say. to me, it’s better than the stuff i find at indian restaurants. turmeric, cumin, curry, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and today, kelp, are the spices i add into this hearty nourishing tonic of a meal.
i smell the jar of kelp powder we bought from mountain rose herbs. it smells like the ocean and i am brought back to this time last year, living on the coastal waters of maine a stone’s throw from the penobscot bay. last year i was getting over a fear of the ocean. i have no fear of water; i love to swim & do so buoyantly. but the ocean, that terrifying, powerful, uncertain, unfamiliar world – i have harbored a fear of the ocean since childhood, ever since my dad stepped on a shark when we were in the pacific’s summer beach waters off the coast of california. my dad stepped on a little shark, i was on his back. he grew up in california and laughed it off, but i was terrified. my dad stepped on a shark. there are sharks in these waters. i am going to get bit- my leg will probably get bitten off.
and so the deep-seated fear set in me, creating an irrational unstoppable bodily-emotional reaction near the ocean. now this hasn’t stopped me from kayaking with sharks, scuba diving with barracudas, rays and sharks, and swimming in the ocean. but i only go so far when i am in the water: at first sign of a large fish or unclear waters, i panic. it takes a concerted effort for me to slow my breathing and remain calm in such instances because my first reaction is to jump out of the water, propelled skyward like a rocket.
with this in mind, i brought my wetsuit to maine. i had my 5 fingers shoes i use for running to wear so i could wade into the waters easily from the pebble-bottomed bay and not get scared at something slimy or moving underfoot that i might encounter on my way out. for days, i walked from my house to the ocean, a mere 100 yards. i circumnavigated the bay. i climbed and sat on rocks, meditating and watching the gorgeous sunsets, dancing in the clear light and amazing ocean air. i collected bladderwrack, a prominent seaweed left in the bay as the waters recede and dried it from the cross-beam in my room. i watched the ocean & waited for spring to pass so i could jump into its cold waters.
the ocean, some say, is our primordial home. i know this as i smell the kelp. i feel warm & held by my mother, my Great Mother, the earth, and her womb, the ocean. I feel a lifetime of creatures surround me and tell me, we’re your kin! the ocean is your home, and i know this is true. i remember this first womb of my ancestors and i feel nourished- nourished down to my cells which mirror this ocean womb in salinity and form.
that summer i jumped in the ocean time after time, mostly alone. i read accounts of the house’s previous inhabitants lying on their backs in the bay, giggling and uproarious, as sea otters do. i made friends with brother seal one afternoon and i felt so especially singled out, as if a great gift had been given to me, that this wild sea creature would take part of his day to look at me and exchange information. and i did “get over” or at least confront my fear of the ocean and its sharks & creatures of the dark who can swim faster than i, are longer in tooth and more skillful in pulling me under than i am of swimming away.
i swam four hours one day after running to one section of the bay and swimming the long trek around the bend back to my cove. i had panics at times during the swim, and honestly the way i made peace with them was by making peace with death. rationally i know my fear of sharks may be overstated, so i calm myself by saying, it’s unlikely you’ll get eaten. i convince myself to swim by saying, this swim, if i die in this swim, was was worth it. i can’t hide myself away under a log in order to live forever- i must do the things i want to do, even if i am afraid!
and i felt empowered through this experience and strengthened in this process. for the ocean is a metaphor for life and the womb is the symbolic and literal nest from which this life is birthed. over and over; again and again. it is that primordial stew from which we are all birthed. and, though i may have fears founded & unfounded, i must keep living, exploring & at times keening this great song of balance as long as i live.
what is the essence of a plant? its personality?
what’s in a name?
reminding us of fractalizing patterns everywhere
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.