The ocean is often referred to in the feminine as sailors have always found the ocean unpredictable, capricious, and cruel.
Last summer, after spending fifty-three out of sixty-eight days between the sixth of August and the thirteenth of October on, or in the Atlantic ocean, people started calling me Guppy.
I have been a water bug with equal parts ocean and blood in my system for as long as I can remember, spending every summer from before birth until I was seventeen years old, on the island of Vidinge, outside of Stockholm, Sweden: The Baltic Sea to be exact. Surrounded by brackish water, we fished and caught perch, flounder, cod, herring, the occasional trout; swam until our lips were blue; sailed to get ice-cream; screamed into the wind and played wildly in the whitecaps brought by storms; dodged lightning and rainstorms; rowed to see our friends across the bay; and watched the colours of the water change from black to grey to rose to green over the course of the long Nordic summer days. I worked on a sail boat for nine months, and have always lived on a coast, from the sandy beaches of Barbados and Portugal to the rocky coast north of Boston.
Research shows that the sound of waves alters wave patterns in the brain, lulling you into a deeply relaxed state. Relaxing in this way can help rejuvenate the mind and the body (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-102698/Three-health-benefits-sea.html).
Last year I met a fellow water creature, and we started playing together in the open water, finding new routes, challenges and simply enjoying the feeling of freedom that swimming offers. This past weekend, we rode the currents and fought the waves at Crane Beach in Ipswich, then ran back along the beach like children to do it again, zigzagging between sand castles built at the water’s edge.
Immersed in the salty folds of waves, enveloped in her fickle arms, I’m gently being rocked back and forth, tugged at by the currents as I glide through the water, the shadow of my fellow ocean creature in the corner of my eye. I hear only to the sounds of the ocean and my own rhythmic breathing. She makes me giggle. She makes me calm. She energizes me. She makes me stronger, mentally and physically. She fills me with respect and awe. We have an understanding, the Ocean and I.