There is something at once both soothing and exciting about the sea. Perhaps the calming effect comes from the gentle blue that blends, nearly seamlessly at the horizon, with a sun-brightened sky that sends shining diamonds of light dancing across its surface. Or maybe it's the sea's constancy: In an ever-changing world, the sea is always there, and yet, it changes as well, through its ebbs and flows, its powerful, crashing waves, and the quieting ripples it makes as those waves diminish. That diminishing is not an end, but the creation of something beautiful and soothing -- those very ripples, which, while they may seem small, can have a very calming effect when one watches them bathe the tiny pebbles and seashells embedded in the glistening-wet sand. In that bathing is a renewal, a cleansing, a fresh, clean opportunity to appreciate something new....
As to the excitement the sea can provide.... Well, the possibilities are as boundless as the ocean itself, or imagination, or all of history! Throughout the ages, people have gone to sea for a great variety of reasons: Exploration, travel, economic reasons, military defense or conquest, adventure, romance, escape, hope, or even just to be inspired. One of the most intriguing areas of that great tradition is centered around stories of the Age Of Sail, an era which included the lifetime of British Naval hero Horatio Nelson (1758-1805). We've all heard exciting, romantic tales of tall ships, of handsome, uniformed captains, and of crisp white sails snapping in a good breeze, carrying a great oaken vessel through vast seas, to exotic locales. Wonderful stories by revered authors such as Captain Frederick Marryat, C.S. Forester, and Patrick O'Brian have brought to life tales of adventure afloat, and made us dream of one day sailing away.
But did you know that in real life, it wasn't all about the men who went to sea? There were actually many women who earned their living at sea, as part of the crew of Naval and civilian ships! In 17th and 18th century Britain, there were very few options open to women as to how to make their living, unless they had a man to provide for them, whether a husband, brother, father, or other relative. Typically, a single woman's career choices ranged from governess to cleaning woman to seamstress, if she was fortunate. While all very honorable lines of work, they couldn't have been terribly exciting. Some women found those choices too limiting, and so, with a great spirit of adventure and/or resolve, they took to the seas! They would disguise themselves as men, adopt masculine names, and pass themselves off as seamen (Naval vessels) or sailors (civilian vessels), and thus make a good living -- much better than what they might find ashore. Some would go years before being discovered, and once they were, they would generally be treated respectfully and returned to land as soon as could be arranged. It wasn't an easy life, and it was very difficult to keep their true identities concealed in the close quarters which were the norm asea, but they found that in many cases it was the only time in their lives they'd ever been treated well, and earned a good wage.
Excitement. Adventure. Opportunity. These things are all still there today, in the blue waters of the ocean, the lake, the river, or even your neighborhood pond. There's just something about the fluidity, the sound, the scent, the feel of water that energizes us and fills us with contentment, excitement, or inspiration. Today's woman doesn't have to embark upon a new career on a ship to experience those feelings. All we need do is set aside an hour to take a reflective stroll along the beach, perhaps stooping down now and then to collect a seashell or a small piece of driftwood as a remembrance of our quiet time. Or have a picnic lunch by the riverside, either alone with our dreams or with friends or family. Or enjoy a quiet afternoon of canoeing or kayaking at the lake, which is what I love to do, for the tranquility that can be found in communing with nature, and the life-affirming sounds of birds in flight, harmonizing with the gentle lapping of the water on the sides of a solitary boat....
With so much to offer, it's no wonder the sea can inspire dreams, spark excitement, or calm the spirit!
GRACE'S FAVORITE MUSIC: Evocative of the Sea:
Ralph Vaughan Williams: English Folk Song Suite. Fantasia On A Theme By Thomas Tallis.
Benjamin Britten: Four Sea Interludes (from "Peter Grimes").
Claude Debussy: La Mer.
Upon hempen tackle ship-boys climbing;
Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give....
Behold the threaden sails,
Borne with th' invisible and creeping wind,
Draw the huge bottoms through the furrowed sea....
--William Shakespeare, Henry the Fifth; Act III
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