I grew up on the Atlantic Ocean on the Africa side in a small but important country called Liberia. This land became independent in 1847, run by freed people of color and former slaves. A small but fiercely independent country, Liberia is a mix of the New World transplants and indigenous people.
I lived in Liberia in the early 1980s. Little did I know the political rumblings swimming under the surface of water turning into shock waves which rocked this country for decades long Civil War. For me, Liberia will always symbolize my childhood; ocean swimming, fort building in the rainforest, mangrove and crocodile spotting, tree climbing, carefree days of elementary.
My husband grew up on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, South Florida. While our childhood days could not have been more different, the Ocean connected us.
Each time I’m down in South Florida, a truckload of childhood humidity laden memories crop up in my head. I see mangroves and think of the days we’d play on surfboards, cruising around the lagoon just outside of our homes. Dense wet air reminds me that my Liberian home had no central air conditioning; manageable as a child but how in the world did all the adults survive? Tropical flowers pull me into the gardens my mom would tend regularly; bright red hibiscus and yellow and white frangipani petals with their oozing sticky white sap.
Do you have a place that carries you back to childhood? Are the memories sweet or a mixed bag?
The longer this Pandemic carries on with its color flow charts, restrictions and rules, I find myself longing for “what used to be.” The ocean, these past days, have given me a chance to exhale and just be still. Sitting on the beach for an hour watching the sunrise, colors spraying across the sky gives me a sense of peace. Watching my daughter and her cousin find sand and salt water their best and biggest playground; that’s a gift.
As an adult, I can imagine the layers of emotion my parents kept away from us children while living in Liberia. I know they must have been aware of the increasing tension within the country they resided as guests. For them, watching the ocean waves heaving onto the Liberian coastline, drastically changing the sand structure daily, created a foreboding sense of the future.
The unworried childhood I experienced was fraught with angst and responsibility for my parents. Yet I never felt that. Daily treks to the nearby ocean only brought laughter and joy.
Perhaps there is a life lesson in there.
Childhood teaches us to remember that life doesn’t have to be so serious. Sit back and make a sand castle. Laugh more, worry less.
Adulthood says be aware of impending disaster but don’t let it overwhelm your life. Ultimately we are unable to control anything in this world.
The ocean’s lessons this week, for me, have been that life will move forward just as the waves do. Either ride the wave or get out. Working against the current only brings fatigue and sore arms. I realized I’d been working so hard to fight the Pandemic wave that my soul was worn out.
Gratitude has been my mantra of late.
Thanksgiving is our dialect.
Today I leave you with a few new words I’ve picked up from this vast Atlantic Ocean.
Stillness I have a daily practice of sitting by myself for 5 minutes, allowing my head and heart to focus only the moment and the breath.
Ebb and Flow The waves move back and forth along the shore, creating new patterns in the sand. There is beauty with each new marking. My life is ebbing and flowing now; most days are filled with routine. I remind myself it’s okay; patterns are beautiful no matter how they are made.
Vast On the first day here, Desta asked me if the ocean had borders. It does not. All the body of waters connect across our entire planet. Her response was “That sounds scary.” The unknown always does. Yet there is something widely comforting knowing that all things are connected. We belong together.
Inexhaustible The waves never stop. The creatures never cease their swimming. This giant behemoth water just keeps going. I was reminded that I need to do the same. I have the tools to carry on. I can keep swimming. I can keep showing up.
“You will love the ocean. It makes you feel small, but not in a bad way. Small because you realize you’re part of something bigger.” – Lauren Myracle