For me living at the beach is paradise. I’ve always had a magical connection with the sea, but it took me a while to get to this place. When I was a child we went Scheveningen once a year and I would play in the water for hours, until my mum would drag me out at the end of the day – blue lipped and shivering – and I would scream my lungs out because I didn’t want to go. In my twenties I moved to The Hague and found a small flat about ten minutes from the beach. How I loved it there! I spend every free moment at the sea side, going for long walks to Kijkduin – come rain or shine. Somehow I still thought it’d be a good idea to move to London. It would take me more than 4 years to find my dream again. Each day I wake up early and go to beach, still wearing my pajama shorts, hair tousled in the wind. I love it when the sea is calm, just a single line to the horizon. Absolute quiet. And then there’s the moment you dive in, into the cool glistening water. You float on your back and take in the blue surrounding you. When you dry yourself, letting the sun warm your skin, feeling rejuvenated, you realise that you are truly fortunate.
Autumn used to be my least favourite season. I would hide under a blanket, depressed, longing for the winter solstice and the longer days that it promises. But this year I have felt mesmerised by the changing colours of the trees, playing with the red and golden leaves with a happiness that I remember only from childhood. For the first time I am embracing the dark evenings that invite me to slow down, reflect on and let go of the exuberance of summer, to read my favourite books in the light of cinnamon scented candles and quietly do my meditation practices before bed. At first I didn’t notice this change in my spirit. But as this new energy takes me to the beach each morning to witness the rising of the sun and breathe in the crisp air, I was walking through the dunes at dawn when out of nowhere a murmuration rose up from behind the hills and flew right over me, almost knocking me down. With the beauty of the world all up in my face like that I couldn’t help but see that, to be free of the things that are holding you down is the most liberating feeling in the world. And to fill your life with things that lift you up, the greatest treasure.
The world is full of beautiful places, but for me nothing is more magical than the sea. Going to the beach helps me to find my balance whenever I’ve lost it. Walking along the shoreline, the endless horizon stretched out before me, always fills me with newfound trust, strength, and joy. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why the sea has such healing qualities – even more so than a forest, lake, or mountain top. Perhaps it is something about the coincidence of, not two, but three natural elements, Earth-Water-Sky, that creates a special kind of synergy that you cannot find anywhere else. But the power of the sea becomes even more clear, when you decide to shed your clothes and submerge yourself in the water. Now you are floating, slowly drifting, between the earth and the sky. You don’t have to do anything… just let the salt water wash away your sorrow, as you listen to the calming sound of the rolling waves rushing over the empty seashells. If you’re lucky an inquisitive seal will and come play with you. But you can’t have expectations, because every day is different. Like the water, you too must surrender to the sun and the moon.
On days I feel lost in this world, I always return to the beach. On my way there I noticed something resembling an umbrella leaning against the bus stop: a wooden stick, just standing there casually as though it’s a perfectly normal place for it to be, waiting for me. “A stick?” you say. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I have come to appreciate the value of branches and secondly, it was a particularly nice one, mind you – weathered driftwood curved in the shape of a sword. I brought my treasure with me to the seaside. There I breathed in the fresh night air as the last of the sunset lingered fiercely red above the mystical, dark water. Skipping barefoot through the thundering waves, finding as always that when you can reach out and touch the horizon, everything falls into place, I came upon orange roses that someone had left there for me to find. I stopped picking flowers years ago, once I learned that loving something means letting it live, but to receive such an unexpected gift filled up the empty spaces in my heart.
What I love most about the beach is that not one day is the same. You think you know what your walk will bring, the breaking waves rushing in, the salted wind playing with your hair, the gulls flying high above you, but then you arrive and all your expectations are blown away, and you can no longer hear the questions and doubts that pierce your existence. Everything you thought you knew… about life, about love… disappears. And it is just you and the universe. And you feel that every day is a new beginning.