The nautilus shell was exquisite, brown and white and perfectly striped. The math that lay like a dazzling creation spell over all who lived in the sea showed clearly in the spiral, each cell as great as the sum of the two previous sections. Everything in the ocean was a thing of beauty and numbers, even in death.
Mermaids could live for a long time, but their bodies became foam that dissipated into nothing when they died.
The poor little mollusk who lived in this shell had a very short life, but his shell could last for centuries.
Ariel sighed and brushed her fingers over it, feeling strangely melancholy despite the triumph she literally held in her hands. Years of being mute could be swept away in a second. Years of frustration, years of silent crying, years of anger.
And then what?
If she destroyed it, what would it change?
― Liz Braswell, Part of Your World
The sea rose invisibly beneath us and the moon shone smooth and bright. A glossy flute of light, like velvet down a bridal aisle, lit the marlin scales and the backs of whales migrating a hundred miles at sea. The tides surged through the marsh and each wave that hit the beach came light-struck and broad-shouldered, with all the raw power the moon could bestow. Magically, an hour passed and we, ocean dancers and tide challengers, found ourselves listening to the sea directly beneath us as the waves began to crash in earnest against the house.
Imagine all the people you meet in your life. There are so many. They come in like waves, trickling in and out with the tide. Some waves are much bigger and make more of an impact than others. Sometimes the waves bring with them things from deep in the bottom of the sea and they leave those things tossed onto the shore. Imprints against the grains of sand that prove the waves had once been there, long after the tide recedes.
A thousand grandmothers ago
Pyrrha and Deucalion repopulated
the world with rocks, bones of mother Earth,
a generation of my ancestors strained
from the mud of a drowned planet.
But I’m more interested in my earliest
grandmothers, their gills and wetness,
before they crawled from that blue expanse
and learned to carry the sea within them,
in their cells, between their cells, in their eyes.
The buoyancy of ocean has never left us.
It hides in skin’s complex reservoir
where we’re selectively permeable
and our bodies exchange the smallest life.
If we had no need to distinguish ourselves
from others we’d be missing the skin
that defines lovers and enemies
and opens itself to both.
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
There were profound reasons for his attachment to the sea: he loved it because as a hardworking artist he needed rest, needed to escape from the demanding complexity of phenomena and lie hidden on the bosom of the simple and tremendous; because of a forbidden longing deep within him that ran quite contrary to his life’s task and was for that very reason seductive, a longing for the unarticulated and immeasurable, for eternity, for nothingness. To rest in the arms of perfection is the desire of any man intent upon creating excellence; and is not nothingness a form of perfection?
―Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
Redwoods flourish in fog, but they don’t like salt air. They tend to appear in valleys that are just out of sight of the sea. In their relationship with the sea, redwoods are like cats that long to be stroked but are shy to the touch. The natural range of the coast redwoods begins at a creek in Big Sur that flows down a mountain called Mount Mars. From there, the redwoods run up the California coast in a broken ribbon, continuing to just inside Oregon. Fourteen miles up the Oregon coast, in the valley of the Chetco River, the redwoods stop.
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.
There needs be but so little to encourage beauty in our soul; so little to awaken the slumbering angels; or perhaps is there no need of awakening — it is enough that we lull them not to sleep. It requires more effort to fall, perhaps, than to rise. Can we, without putting constraint upon ourselves, confine our thoughts to everyday things at times when the sea stretches before us, and we are face to face with the night? And what soul is there but knows that it is ever confronting the sea, ever in presence of an eternal night? Did we but dread beauty less it would come about that nought else in life would be visible; for in reality it is beauty that underlies everything, it is beauty alone that exists.
―Maurice Maeterlinck, “The Inner Beauty”
I want to learn how to speak to anyone at any time and make us both feel a little bit better, lighter, richer, with no commitments of ever meeting again. I want to learn how to stand wherever with whoever and still feel stable. I want to learn how to unlock the locks to our minds, my mind, so that when I hear opinions or views that don’t match up with mine, I can still listen and understand. I want to burn up lifeless habits of following maps and to-do lists, concentrated liquids to burn my mind and throat and I want to go back to the way nature shaped me. I want to learn to go on well with whatever I have in my hands at the moment
in a natural state of mind,
certain like the sea.