Concocting an ocean elixir

Paula Aberasturi
A mom shares about her love for the ocean

DREAMING OF SEA. What is it about the ocean that cures even the most hopeless of woes?

“for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”  – e.e. cummings

MANILA, Philippines – ‘Been back in the city for 3 days and already I am losing myself: to lethargy, to irritation, to gloom—all these despite the sun. Bliss was easily found in the ocean, while I was lounging on our humongous banca or floating in the blue, trailing after whale sharks and chasing turtles. The heavens graced us with blue skies and glassy seas, and the sea bestowed us dancing dolphins, flying fishes, and even stinging sea urchins. 

But over here, sitting atop 14 floors, smog in view and with the hum of generators, it’s quite a steep climb towards happy. I have to consciously snap out of my brooding, read books, listen to birdsong, and spend a minute everyday watching clouds. These or I’m back to miserable urban everyday.

Oh, if I could only occupy entire days lazing out in the sun with a good book, sand between my toes, sea scent on my hair, and salt spray on my skin. 

What is it about the ocean that cures even the most hopeless of woes? 

Because if I could paint heaven, it would be an endless swirl of blue and green, aquamarine specked with silver.

But my reality is the city and would have to contend with a life like so. One cannot spend a lifetime wishing she were on vacation, wallowing in a beach fetish. So I kept wondering if there was a potion I could concoct, some elixir that carries me to the ocean at will. Maybe I could have the sea in a bottle as a remedy for melancholy. (A bathtub, no matter how hard I try, is a poor substitute for the beach, despite the salt I dump in or candles I burn.)

And so I put together the ingredients for my ocean elixir.  What was the lure of the ocean?

I always associate being at the beach with joy. My best memories of childhood were entire days in the briny sea, us going home as scrawny, dark, salted, and sanded creatures that reeked of seaweed and sunshine. I wonder if every other moment at sea merely returns me to that carefree moment in time. There are other elements, too: as extraordinary as being touched by the Divine, a sense that we’re somehow communing with the sacred.  

DIVINE PRESENCE. Seeing the grandeur and beauty of the ocean and the nature around it is like being touched by God.

Maybe it’s also because the ocean briefly allows us solitude, with nothing but the music of waves to set time by. Then there’s catching sight of spectacular beauty, as the sun breaks in the morning or colors my sky with pink and orange at dusk. Or maybe it’s because the stars glow so much brighter in the ocean night. 

Or, simply, it is the gift of friends, because we’re suddenly spending real time together, weaving stories anew, and hearing laughter instead of reading “hahas” on the screen. (It could also be because Rum Coke lives on the beach.) 

Or maybe it’s as ordinary as having unbroken time with my children and being a child again, as we trapped hermit crabs, marveled at the blue starfish, built sandcastles and ditches, as I played mermaid and passed on the glory of underwater somersaults to my daughter.

So here I am, three days after my beach holiday. I was bemoaning my lack of sea and sand, and already waiting for next time I went “home” again. 

But a mermaid who has opted for legs should find ways to survive the city jungle. Perhaps, if I am able to find the ingredients for my ocean elixir in this city, I could hit on a cure. 

And so, I’m off to forage for the elements of my sea fix: a slice of happy memories + hints of the Divine + a little solitude + a patch of beauty + genuine laughter with friends + unbroken time with kids + childlike wonder. 

Perhaps once I have unearthed these, there’d be no need to share my woes with the sirens, chase around after whales, or bury my gloom in the ocean floor. –


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