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Posts Tagged ‘sea’

Come down to the sea and take your imagination with you.  Never mind the rain and don’t distract yourself with the usual finds of beachcombers:  broken lobster traps, lone sandals, bottles, cans and driftwood.  Sometimes the stormy seas bring something far more wondrous to our shores.

Of course, it’s not every day you get to see a mermaid.  Such enchanting encounters occur so rarely that it’s difficult to know what to do when you do at last catch sight of one on the shore.

You wouldn’t want to get too close.  Only half human, the wild part of their nature would likely make them quite skittish and easy to scare back into the water.  It’s best to keep a safe distance for both your sakes.  After all, mermaids have been known to lure humans unwittingly into the depths of the sea, never to return again.  Even Blackbeard the pirate feared their charms and kept his ship away from waters where they had been sighted.

Mermaids likely visited Nova Scotia’s shores long before Europeans settled here.  Thrown off course by strong currents during storms, there’s little record of their short stays on our beaches.

They linger only long enough to re-arrange their hair, untangle the seaweed from their tails and sing a haunting song or two before returning to their homes in the deep.

Though this one’s fingers weren’t webbed and she wasn’t sitting on ‘the mermaid stone’ (perhaps the algae made it too slippery this time of year), she was genuinely enchanting.

When will she return?  Mermaid visits are as unpredictable as the weather here in Nova Scotia.  One can only hope it will be soon.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

For more on mermaids, see Where Mermaids Arrange their Hair and Calling All Mermaids.

 

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The mermaid stone hasn’t seen much action these days.  With surfers riding the waves in recent years and more dogs running along the beaches, it’s no wonder that mermaids are going elsewhere to gather their thoughts at dawn and dusk.

 I, for one, would love to catch a glimpse of a siren arranging her hair while singing a haunting melody.  Even one of the mermaids’ legged cousins, the sea nymphs, would be a delight to find strolling along our shores, gathering shells.

mermaid stone
Sadly, rockweed is all that’s covering the mermaid stone these days.

 Maybe it’s all the garbage that’s dumped near our shores that’s putting them off.  Or perhaps they don’t bother visiting Cow Bay because there are fewer and fewer shells to find here.  The ones that do wash up on our beaches are quickly gathered by tourists and local beachcombers like me.

Sea Nymph by William Symonds

Sea Nymph by William Symonds 1893

 We don’t pause to consider that seashells and sea glass are the only adornments mermaids and sea nymphs have available to them when the seaside flowers aren’t in bloom. 

There are probably uninhabited islands not far from here where mermaids don’t have to compete with anyone for the treasures that wash ashore.  Seals are likely less intimidating than dogs from their point of view as well. 

I’m going to start leaving the seashells where I find them on the shore instead of taking them home.   If I take anything back from the beach, it will be the garbage I find there.  It’s not much, but it’s a first step in attracting these wondrous creatures back to our shores. 

I must be a mermaid… I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.
― Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)

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Waves can pull you in without getting you wet. One moment you’re looking at them from your vantage point on the shore and the next you’re tangled in their frothy curls.

With mist on your face and the roar of the sea numbing your ear drums, you’re soon set adrift.  As each wave rolls forward, you’re taken under into the mysterious deep.  Long forgotten memories are churned up and float on the surface like sea foam.  

Let your heart look on white sea spray
And be lonely…
~ Carl Sandburg


It’s a wonder how some of Nature’s most sensory experiences can take you so far away from the present moment.  You might recall long forgotten days at the beach, swimming or surfing.  Or your thoughts might drift farther away from the shore, re-examining what was and what might have been at any point along life’s journey. You might even surprise yourself by applying new solutions to old problems.

…  a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought… alone.
~ William Wordsworth

You needn’t go far or stay away long.  And herein lies the greatest gift the sea can offer.  Wherever you go when you look at the sea, as with all the best voyages, you’re always more in tune with yourself upon your return.  

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Perhaps it’s because there are so many foggy days in springtime in Nova Scotia that each blue sky is considered extraordinary.  We can’t take any for granted and each one is a wonder unto itself.

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reflected in the water, skies here make an impression both above and below the horizon line.  Some days, the blue is mixed with grey, some days with pink.

The sky is one whole, the water another; and between those two infinities the soul of man is in loneliness.
~ Henryk Sienkiewicz

Right after taking the above photograph at dawn, I saw a young couple still in graduation dance attire drive by.   Going to the beach at dawn to see the sun rise seemed like a fitting end to an already memorable day.

We all see something different when we look at the sky, projecting onto it our feelings of either loneliness, sadness, joy or contentment.  Some of us look to the sky and dream hopeful dreams while others feel the weight of regrets and mourn past losses.   Regardless of the land-, sea- or sky-scape, nothing matters as much as our point of view.

The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.

~ Edna St.Vincent Millay

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Like a golden eye, the sun rises above the horizon.  Summer is still almost a month away, but already the warm sunshine is drawing crowds to the beach to bask in its glow at midday.   Victoria Day traffic near Rainbow Haven Provincial Park was crazy enough.  What will it be like by Canada Day? 

Places where the sea meets the sky refresh the spirit and provide an escape from the worries of the world.  The appeal is universal.  Some of us just prefer to avoid the crowds and take our refreshment earlier in the day than others. 

Whether on the sea, a lake or in the marsh, sparkling waters make it easy to forget the busy world that’s left behind.  The sound of waves lapping on the shore quenches our thirst for calm.

Last year, summer in Nova Scotia was dismal and short.  Could this year’s beautiful spring be a promise of a splendid summer ahead?  For now, it’s enough to enjoy the days just one by one, making the most of each opportunity to feel the warmth of the sun on one’s face and happily squint one’s eyes while gazing at sparkling waters.

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.
~ Celia Thaxter

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Nova Scotia’s woods beckon in May.  They coax you outdoors and do their best to keep you engaged.  Apple blossoms call out for your undivided attention as you walk along the path.  ‘Look at us know’ they tell you, ‘we won’t be in bloom for long.’

Farther off the beaten path, bog rhodora wave at you in the breeze to come have a closer look at their petals.  Their delicate beauty is short-lived too. 

The soft white blooms of elderberry trees wink at you from a corner of the woods where mountain ash are also thriving.  These elegant trees have cropped up in large numbers since Hurricane Juan downed most of the large firs and spruce.  The lacy elderberry flowers wish to be noticed now too before they must give way to the berries.  

Down by the seashore, the story is different.  The whispers of the woods are drowned out by the ongoing moan of the ocean.  The seaweeds sway with the current below the surface but remain silent.  They want to be left alone in their muted sadness.  Only the waves seem to relentlessly rush to the shore. Are they finding comfort among the rocks that are waiting for them there?

Whether large or small, the rocks have become rounded stones, worn out from listening to the waves’ endless refrain of sadness hour after hour, year after year, age after age. 

The woods are never solitary–they are full of whispering, beckoning, friendly life. But the sea is a mighty soul, forever moaning of some great, unshareable sorrow, which shuts it up into itself for all eternity.

~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

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Beyond Nova Scotia’s ocean shore lies the world of inner space.  This marvelous world is seen by few except divers, who brave our cold waters for just a glimpse of its wildlife inhabitants.  The rest of us only see evidence of undersea life when it is washed ashore or edible forms appear on our dinnerplate.  Yet, how far these experiences remove us from the pulse of life beneath the surface of the waves.

The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.

~ Jacques Cousteau

The spiny sculpin, shown at top, is an odd-looking fish that can survive out of water for hours at a time as long as it stays wet.  Another bottom dweller is the flounder shown below.  Amazingly, one of the flounder’s eyes gradually drifts from one side of its body to the other.  The body of the fish eventually turns on its side, where both of its eyes come to rest on ‘top.’ 

 

Crustaceans, such as this spider crab, are also found on the sea floor, scavenging for food.

Hermit crabs search the sea floor for empty shells that they may use to protect their vulnerable bodies from predators.  They don’t possess the hard exoskeleton common to most true crabs.

The seafood section in Nova Scotia’s grocery stores often hold live lobsters in a tank.  The trapped  lobster, shown above, seems destined for such a place.  Like many crustaceans, it possesses the magical ability to regrow its asymmetrical claws.

Among the most attractive creatures to be found off our coasts are the carnivorous sea anemones, which look deceptively like plants.  

 

Many thanks to Wayne Joy and my son Simon Bell for granting permission to share these beautiful photos taken on a recent dive.  Both Wayne and Simon are members of the Shearwater Scuba Club.

Images copyright Wayne T. Joy / Simon Bell.

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The sun is rising.  Quick!  Come down to the sea to witness the dawn of day.  Birds are already calling out to one another and singing their wake-up songs.

A male pheasant crows from beyond the alder bushes.  Sparrows are already in flight across the path to the shore.

The view of the sky and ocean open up just beyond the spruce trees.  It’s not far now to the rocks and stones below.

From the shore, the view is clear across the water.  The sun is being coy and staying out of sight behind the clouds.  The tide is neither high nor low, half revealing the wave smoothed rock where mermaids arrange their hair in warmer weather.

Waves pound the beach as the sky begins to darken.  Rain is on its way.  The sunrise show is coming to an end.

There’s time for just one last glance at the dawn from behind the mermaid rock.  The mermaids will soon be migrating back to our northern waters for the summer months.  Perhaps we’ll spot one this year as she sits on the rock, looking out to sea at dawn.  You never know what you’ll find along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic shore.

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Whether experienced outdoors or seen through a window, fog’s softening effect brings a sense of cosiness to Nova Scotia in springtime.  Fog may be dense, accompanied by drizzle or thinning to a mist.  It may arrive in the morning and dissipate by noon, or still be seen rolling down the street in wafts of whiteness at midday.  

Foggy days with reduced visibility force us to look inward.  When the path that  lies ahead and the one that lies behind us are both blurred, it makes sense to rely on our intuition for direction.  

It also helps to listen carefully.  Fog consists of tiny water droplets, which allow sound to travel more quickly.  If we would slow down and listen to what is being whispered to us in the fog, we’d gain better insight into the path before us.

The fog is rolling over the hill
Winding twining rock and rill.
Softer and kinder than the light
Takes what’s sharp and wraps it white.

I will walk down by the foggy sea
Where the rocks are weeping silently.
That love that was once so bright and bold
Has turned itself to cold.

And so I love a foggy night
I walk and walk to my heart’s delight.
The fog’s cool kiss upon my face
All sorrow will erase.

The fog is rolling over the bay
It drifts my heart so far away.
Softer and kinder than the light
Takes what’s sharp and wraps it white.

~ Rose Vaughan, Song of the Fog

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Seeing the sea from so many vantage points is one of the perks of living in Nova Scotia, especially around the Halifax region.  While driving or walking, seeing the ocean out of the corner of your eye always boosts the spirit.   Like the sky, the Atlantic is always changing and offering something new to see every day.

Sunrises reflected over salt water are especially beautiful.  After decades of looking out towards the sea, it’s still a wonder to me that this water and the water seen from Africa’s western shores are one and the same.  Supposedly, prior to Continental Drift, the land around Cow Bay was once connected to Africa.  Somehow, the idea that Cow Bay’s sandy shores may share a common history with Namibian sands makes this place seem even more special.  

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had to rush past awe-inspiring sunrises over the ocean while on my way to work in the early mornings.   Nevertheless, even a glimpse of such an ocean sunrise is sure to give you some immunity to whatever the rest of the day may throw at you.  Could it be the reflection of sunrise colours in the water that persists in our memory throughout the day?  Or is it the sense of having been alone with God for just that moment at the break of  dawn?

The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea. 
~Isak Dinesen

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You’re alone, walking along the shoreline and enjoying the sunshine and the warm sand between your toes, when suddenly you see it:  a bottle with a piece of paper in it, lying on the sparkling beach.  You open the cork and read the contents and there it is… a message for the ages… words of wisdom that promise to give your mundane world new meaning and passion…  or perhaps a connection to another kindred soul on the planet.  Ah… if only it would happen like this. 

If such life-changing messages are to be found, they’re not lying there on a sunny shore, waiting to be chanced upon.  There’s a price to be paid for their discovery.  More likely, they’re to be found on a rainy day among plastic bottles and broken lobster traps in a heap of storm debris.

They may be enmeshed in a mass of wet seaweed, recently thrown up on the shore by crashing waves.  It may be winter when the sky is grey and oppressive, and you’d much rather be indoors than outside with the cold wind biting at your face and fingers.

If the message carried within the bottle is truly magnificent, you can bet the glass vessel is  lying close to the edge of the water, destined to be pulled out to sea again if you don’t act quickly enough to pick it up.

Anyone who has ever valued wisdom or soulful connections with others knows that these are treasures you have to find for yourself.  Neither can be passed from one person to the next.  Likewise, the person who finds the bottle on the shore is the one destined to acquire its contents. 

‘I always believed the sea could bring surprises and joy.’  So said Hsiao Wei-chen of Taiwan, who recently found a message in a bottle thrown into the sea 3,000 nautical miles away by container ship seaman Oliver Hickman.  His note wished the finder health and happiness and also said the world is full of fun, love and beauty.  Apparently, Hickman makes it a regular practice to throw bottled messages into the sea.  For more on the story, see Times Live.

The world is indeed full of fun, love and beauty.  It’s also full of wonder.  You just have to get out there and discover it for yourself.

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They come in a series of seven.
And the seventh wave is big enough…
…to take us both out
beyond the point of return.
~ Papillon   (Henri Charrière)

Walking along the seashore, it’s obvious that not all waves possess the same strength.  Some trickle onto the shore while others crash and extend a farther reach onto the sand.  Many have wondered if there’s some kind of pattern to the frequency of the stronger waves.  

Wave height and strength are determined by a number of factors:

  • the force of the wind (the stronger the wind, the larger the wave)
  • the distance over which the water is affected by the wind (the longer the distance, the larger the wave)
  • tidal action (incoming high tides into a small inlet from a larger expanse of water can cause especially large waves)
  • seismic activity beneath the ocean floor (these can sometimes cause huge waves to occur)
  • the depth of the water (waves cannot sustain their height once they reach shallow water)

The magic of the seventh wave continues to elude shoreline visitors across cultures.  Surfers are especially keen wave watchers, always on the look-out for the perfect wave to catch.  Some may have been able to find small patterns in the course of a single day on a specific beach but this usually involves a series of fewer or more than seven waves.  Though experts say there’s no way to predict the frequency of stronger waves, the French story of an island prisoner in Papillon details a swim to freedom enabled by the seventh wave.  

The waves have pounded the earth’s shorelines for millennia and will continue to do so long after we’re gone.  Wave patterns are altered from hour to hour, day to day and year to year.  Despite ongoing changes, the mystery and power of the seventh wave will likely endure.

Every ripple on the ocean
Every leaf on every tree
Every sand dune in the desert
Every power we never see
There is a deeper wave than this
                      . . .
I say love is the seventh wave.
~ Sting

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