At the time I must have been three or four years old but even now I can recall my own terror as the sea rippled gently towards my toes on a gradually sloping, sandy beach. Later, mindful of this memory, I would sweep up our children in my arms when they were of about that age, splash in and out the surf at the sea’s edge chanting to amuse and soothe, “You don’t scare me, you silly old sea.” But the truth is, it did and does - still.
I have great empathy for John Masefield’s fever for the sea ‘on a windy day with white clouds flying /And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea gulls crying’. I love to be beside it in all weathers; to listen to the ceaseless, ever-changing sound of the waves; to gaze out over the beauty of this vast expanse.
But, at the same time, there is a sense of awe at the sheer immensity of the open sea, of its primal power. I’m a puny microbe beside it. Hilaire Belloc writes that ‘the sea drives truth into a man like salt’. It forces us to reveal our true natures. No messing about. It soon washes aside all pretense and shows who we really are.
There’s also a recognition and ready acknowledgement that I’ve crawled so far up the beach with other animals and plants that the sea has now become an alien and hostile environment where unsupported by the ingenuity of human technology, I would not long survive. This thought is followed swiftly by an awareness that other creatures remained and that they are perfectly content in their element out there.
Especially jelly fish.
Fluid as the water in which it exists. As beautiful and awful as the ocean. A creature that in the past has caused me to invent a hundred and one activities for the seaside that don’t actually involve getting into the water.
Seriously, does anyone know the proper name for a phobia about this enigmatic, primeval animal?
My kraken. Provisionally, I’m sticking with medusaphobia.
|© Benóg Brady Bates|