Deep calls to deep

Justine Toh asks herself why she's craving the ocean - salt water, sea wind, coastal walks, the immensity of it all - especially in lockdown.

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea,” said Isak Dinesen, otherwise known as Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast. Lockdown has left me pining for an oceanic cure right now.

Checking my 5km radius, I find that a sliver of Sydney’s Brighton-Le-Sands beach is within reach. But if I go for a dip, I’ll be looking across at … the airport. Better than nothing, but not quite what I’m yearning after. 

Instead, I crave vast ocean with no end in sight. Coastal walks where wind gusts blow right through me. Sand underfoot and sun overhead. Sea breezes, I’ve heard, rebalance serotonin levels. Water and wind are a salve to stress, anxiety, and depression.

The spirituality of the sea is familiar territory, even if the depths of the sea itself are not. The two are linked: the immensity of the ocean awes us; we quite like how it makes us feel small.

The sea meets a primal need in us to feel like children again: bobbing up and down on gentle waves is the closest thing to living inside a lullaby. We relax and open up.

“Deep calls to deep”, goes a line out of a psalm (42:7). The rest of the poem expresses the feeling of being buffeted about by not-so-gentle waves – as if inundated by sorrow and grief – as well as the cry of a heart voicing its deepest need: connection with God.

I’m not surprised that lockdown should prompt such longing. Social distancing has made me sick of my own sorry company. It’s natural to want to feel connected to each other and to something much larger than ourselves. We want to bathe in the infinite.