This is a blog post I wrote as a guest on Debbie Lamey-MacDonald‘s wonderful blog, Small Pauses. It’s a reflection featuring the short video I posted on YouTube from Foxton Beach. Please read and check out Debbie’s own posts and amazing plein air paintings out of Nova Scotia. I love sharing between homelands.
Small Pause: “The Sea and Me”
This week, I’ve been staying in Palmerston North, an inland city in the North Island of New Zealand, three hours away from my home in Taumarunui. After finishing some business in the city one morning, I spontaneously turned left instead of right and continued until I’d reach the seaside settlement of Foxton Beach.
It was a blustery, grey winter morning here in the southern hemisphere and the beach was empty apart from me and the seagulls.
As I stood at the precipice where coast meets water, I looked out at the expansive view of surf and sky and listened to the winds and the gulls.
All seemed to warrant my attention – the gulls were obviously used to human contact and expected some sort of sustenance. The ocean waved at me, drawing my gaze higher and further – to a disquieting vista, one that overwhelms in its enormity, especially in the isolation of my moment.
The seagulls offered me a safe option – smaller activity, shapely and contained, a particular curiosity and entertaining.
The sea offered me more and, I thought, too much more – enormous engagement, vast and unwieldy, a universal wildness and intimidating.
I was reminded of the words of the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” and sensed annihilation, a swallowing of a whale. But, in that, I also sensed that if I looked to the sea, if I lingered and tarried, I might discover more in the depths – something that at first looks like death but leads to life, an awareness of my universe, my world, my humanity and all that is daunting and inspiring and beautiful in them.
Antony Millen is a Canadian living and writing in New Zealand and the author of Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River to Hiruharama and Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s).