Monday, 17 November 2008

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…”


In resonance with the words of the old British song, I have always been drawn towards the waters edge. There is something about the union of seawater and land that attracts me time and again.


There are indeed some obvious and probably universally relevant reasons why the seaside is so seductive. The sensuous sounds of the water lapping the sand, the constant hypnotic motion of the water, the cool contrast of the liquid with hard, hot land all mesmerise and attract magnetically. Presumably, the universal appeal of seaside is the cause of the huge premium that “seaview” adds to real estate.


Recently, however, I have thought more about the deep attraction that the seaside has for me, and my perceptions have evolved. This week I was standing on the ridge above the close-knit hamlet of Las Tunas, on the north side of Todos Santos. I relaxed in the cool breezes that the ridge attracts, and enjoyed the familiar panoramic vista of the azure ocean. This time, though, an element of boredom crept into my consciousness. There was nothing beyond the strip of blue, no distant shore, no boats, no clouds, nothing to provide context and variety. Rationally comparing the engaging quality of the water view to that from our place in Comox, there really is no contest. In Comox, the constantly changing water colour and wave motion is complemented by a backdrop of coastal mountains, capped for much of the year by a frosting of snow that peeks in and out from a corona of fluffy clouds. As the seasons change, so does the variety of seabirds that forage and take shelter in and around the lee of the peninsular. Ferries meander back and forth, intersecting with pleasure boats, and at night sparkling fairytale cruise ships pass by on their way to and from Alaska.


This time, instead of the ocean, my attention was drawn to the opposite direction, a vista over cardon cactus forests towards the magnificent Sierra Laguna range. A view that I previously saw as pretty, but paling into insignificance with the ocean view, even though I knew that the colours changed magically throughout the day and through moonlit nights. This time I saw the magic, and realized that, unconventionally, a house built there should be oriented to take advantage of that panorama.


So why the change in perception? Thinking back to my childhood, “the seaside” was where we, as a typical English family, always went for our vacations. The seaside, for me, is synonymous with escaping from day-to-day life; being part of a family together and at ease, enjoying rare treats. It represents a frozen, intense and pleasurable set of memories.


When I lifted that filter, some of that magical attraction evaporated. I still find the sea draws me, and I enjoy the experience of raw energy and elemental interaction of water and sand, the susurration of the surf, and the cooling breezes. But the intensity of feeling is diminished and my ability to lose myself in the feelings evoked by the experience, rather than perhaps the moment itself, has gone. While, intellectually, I see the value in seeing things as they really are, the loss of the magic, just like finding out that Father Christmas doesn’t exist, in some way diminishes life.

Perhaps, sometimes, reality is overrated?

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