And The Sea Will Save You

by Bill Brenner on July 6, 2011

When I wrote a post called “Summers of Love and Hate” last year, the theme was a childhood mixed with joy and rage against the backdrop of Revere Beach.

The memories are still stained with sorrow. But, truth be told, the location of my upbringing is one of the things that saved me.

Mood music:

The sea could be terrifying, especially in the winter. The Blizzard of 1978 is my clearest memory of that. But when calm, it brought be back from the brink every time.

This quote from JFK captures my own feelings about the sea as healer and helper:

I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.

I’m thinking about this after reading some Facebook status updates from an old friend I grew up with in the Point of Pines. She was messaging from Cape Cod, where her family has gone for some rest. It’s a painful time for them, because a friend has been found dead, allegedly murdered at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.

“On the cape awaiting the rest of my children and my honey. We need to regroup, relax and help my girls start to heal. Hug your loved ones, tell them you love them everyday. Life is hard.”

Losing close friends and family is hard. I’ve been there three times. They are doing the right thing, though, going to the ocean for solace.

During the worst moments of my younger years, the ocean was an escape route within feet of my front steps. I would sit on the rocks and think things through. I would walk from the Pines all the way to the other end and back.

The process would usually take about 90 minutes — enough time to process what I was feeling. It didn’t necessarily make me happier, and much of the time thoughts just swirled around uselessly in my head.

But I always came back from the beach a little calmer, a little stronger and ready to deal with whatever I had to face.

You could say the ocean would speak to me, talking me off the ledge.

I live away from the coast now, in a city sliced in half by the Merrimack River.

The river has an equally calming effect on me, and I walk along it every chance I get.

But every once in awhile I go back to Revere or a closer place like Newburyport or Salisbury to get my pep talk from the sea.

I hope my old friend and her family get what they need from the sea this time. I suspect they won’t walk away with any less pain than what they feel right now. But I have no doubt they’ll leave there with the added strength to get through the sadness.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Meredith July 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

Nice post, Bill. I grew up on the ocean and know exactly what you mean.

Laura Coy July 10, 2011 at 10:52 am

Hey, Bill!
I think we walked the same beach, looking for the same things. I wish as children we had had the capacity to understand each other better….to be able to say, “I’m hurting too, would you like to hold my hand?” Instead of kick sand in each others faces, lol. I guess the growing process is supposed to hurt, but no one ever tells you that it never stops hurting. I walked that beach, and climbed those rocks for hours at a time, pretending I was somewhere far away from my home that was just up the street. I didn’t live in POP long, probably around four years, but I lived in Revere mostly all my life until I moved to NH. I currently live in Nashua. A couple years ago, I became disabled, and can no longer drive, but when I could drive, I would constantly head up the coast to Rye beach or Maine so that I could listen to the waves roar. It’s a need I have: to head to the beach. It gives me peace and solace, it makes everything better. I would walk Ogunquit beach, no matter snow or sunshine. Its the place I go when I am happy, angry or sad, and just when I want to feel that mysterious connection again. The beach/sea saved me too, and it continues to save me. I long to go to the coast every day that I am not there.

Harry Zarkades October 23, 2011 at 6:19 am

Bill, great post. I’ve lived in Salem, Boston, Beverly, now Newburyport, the ocean always close by. My family ancestors come from the Greek Island Zakynthos. I feel the sea in my veins. I get so many miles from it for so long, and I start to feel strange. The knowledge that it’s not close by unnerves me. It’s properties are not merely healing, they are life affirming. Think I’ll head out to Plum Island right now!


Eli November 24, 2012 at 10:47 am

Great post above from Harry, and great article, Bill! I could not have said it any better myself, it is all true!!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: