By now, summer holidays for most Australians have come to a close. It is time to go back to our lives and livelihood, schools and study. Many of us have spent weeks and days near the sea as we celebrated Christmas and the turn of the year. I live by the sea at a wonderful place called Little Roaring Beach and just a few days ago made the hike to one of the southern most points of Australia. Day walk to the South Cape – a 16 kilometre return walk over a fairly flat and accessible path. This walk takes you to the open sea which faces out to the south of the planet. This is a thrilling prospect! We arrived to stand on the black salted rock and looked out towards the ocean. The sea was azure. At my place, a sheltered bay, it is usually quiet and green, so this was novel and most welcome. And it was loud. There was a scramble down the rock face, using stairs and then ropes where the stairs had been washed away from the exuberant crashing waves. On the beach, thunderous roaring sea … and March flies. There is only one solution, after the 8km hike, on a hot day, in walking boots, with flies all around. To strip off and swim naked in the southern seas. I was hot, bothered by flies and a bit hungry and thirsty too. I am not a natural bushwalker it seems. Clothes were removed, boots and backpack too, to submerge in the cold, cold sea. And be refreshed. The water was clear, the sand fine and creamy. And the seaweed – amazing! There were thick belts of yellow and green underwater plants, joyfully dancing and waving in the water, offering to teach me elegance as I splashed around with them. I couldn’t help but let myself go, being moved and turned by the rhythm of the waves; dunked and brought back to surface. Pushed in towards the shoreline and dragged out again with my fingers scraping along the sand bed. To surrender to the ocean, the southern ocean is a delight.
Our spirituality finds its footing on the shore, especially for women. Many of our national myths and stories have been centred on the Outback and speak of gaping skies and farming and are firmly established in a toughened masculine culture. Open paddocks and dry earth are there to prove character and reveal our righteousness. There is a conquering spirit at work in this mythology – overcome the land or be broken yourself here. But the ocean can call us to another way of being. And it is a recognition of shifting beauty, of playful and deep power, of a resonance which is constant and soothing, of the immense splashiness of life. It is an enticement rather than a proving. A being with, rather than a doing to. A noticing rather than an overcoming.
For me, this is a spirituality of heart and eyes, wet skin and feet. Of soulfulness and salt licks. Death is involved too – decay is plainly evident at the edge and is part of this cycle of wild, oceanic beauty. It’s a spirituality that is finely balanced by the ebb and flow which is beyond us and which we are a part of still. A clear, fresh sea wind brings renewal and clear thinking too. A space to play and meditate, do yoga, walk and look. To talk, sing and pray with the Ocean of Life, listening to the sea and watching the water shimmer. It is a spirituality of hovering on the face of the deep.