Experiences with Mama Ocean

I heeded the call of Mama Ocean and let her pull me in off the shore. Shivering and soaked, in the salt water and the power.

i didn’t even want to be there, at the ocean
i told myself

this tender space i was in was already too much
i had too many tendrils out in the world
and my heart was overwhelmed
and the only thing i knew i wanted was to not feel this way
sadness aching for unknown reasons
as my cracked open shell weeped a pain i didn’t have a name for

i had been in a space of spiritual healing
tucked away in my notebook
in my walks
in my quiet space to protect myself from the harshness of the world
i could breathe in that quiet space, could feel the ache subside
until i stepped into the world again
and felt it’s heaviness wrap over me

and so i didn’t really want to go to the water
out there in the world
even for the quick glimpse they all promised

but as we pulled into the parking lot
and i caught a sliver of the endless sky through the shrubs
i realized how much i had missed Mama Ocean
and just how badly i needed her
although i didn’t understand why

so i put my music in my ears and beelined for the shore
and stood at the edge of her waters
where the sea could lick my toes
where i could inch in closer, despite the cold
and allow her to wash my feet
and hear her calling me in

i stood with tunnel vision, just watching the waves
and feeling the rise of each like a pull on my chest

without words i could hear her
Mama Ocean
see her open arms, her readiness to take me in

it wasn’t really love or tenderness i heard
but power
and firmness
that i rationalized away

it’s too cold
my body doesn’t handle cold water well
, i thought

(but even as i said these things to myself
i felt the growing warmth in my feet
as they grew accustomed to the waves)

my lover came behind me
wrapped his warm arms around me
protecting my jacketless body from the grey dreary skies and cold breeze
and whispered something to me that i couldn’t hear
over the music in my ears
or the pounding in my chest
that was synchronizing with the pounding of the waves

and so we stood, watching the line where the ocean met the sky
and the sea lions that were breaking through the surface
and the waves as they continued to crash

i want to go in, i whispered to him
but i still couldn’t hear his response above the song that was playing

so i kept watching each wave
and feeling that magnetic tug from the center of my chest
as the ache within me tried to burn through
welling just to the surface, telling me i needed to release
to let go
leaving tears in my eyes and a sob caught in my throat
then ebbing back again to leave me watching the waves
and justifying why i couldn’t heed its call

and then i asked myself,
will this be one of those things you regret not doing?
will you wonder about this, about what would’ve happened?
about what mama ocean had to say that you never heard?

and as i asked i looked out to see one more sea lion
looking my direction, perhaps wondering the same

and the force of my movements welled up this time
and i said something to my lover
something like “i’m doing it” or “i can’t help it anymore” or “i have to go in”

because i was, and i couldn’t, and i had to

i couldn’t stop myself

i saw the look of worry in his eyes
as he watched me undress down to my bathing suit
(an earlier attempt at a beach excursion)
taking from me the things i stripped off, putting the music in his own ears
a soundtrack to my motions
and looking into my eyes to catch any glimpse of something he should stop
but seeing only that i needed it
and knowing only that i just had to do what i just had to do

so i stepped forward
that pull doing most of the work
as everything melted away
but the brief flashes of wild women i didn’t know before my eyes

then only Mama Ocean
saying “finally” in impatience
as i moved into water i’ve never before allowed myself to feel

up to my knees, and i was propelling forward
then my thighs, marking the deepest i had ever allowed myself to go
then she sent a wave crashing over my waist, washing my core
and the ache welled up within me again
and the sob i had held back broke free
and i kept moving forward
into an ocean that met me without compassion
with only the pounding of what needed to be done
of the battle she was ready to fight for me
not harsh to me, really
but to the heaviness i carried

the cold was aching in my bones, and i was still moving forward
watching each wave
looking up to the dreary sky

and as the water reached just below my chest
i pleaded a surrender i didn’t know had been waiting behind my tears

just take it. take it from me.

and that was just the permission she needed
for in that moment a giant wave stood up out of the water right before me
as if it had been waiting beneath the surface for those precise words
waiting to crash over me
and sweep me under

it was only one small moment that i was submerged
my hand over my nose
my feet swept from under me
and the taste of salt water in my mouth
but it was a moment that held the whole universe within it
where the rest of life paused
holding its breath with me
and the presence of Spirit enveloped me fully
and i felt myself within something greater
tucked away and hiding from the world

i felt the fear of its power as it pulled me down
the moment of doubt if i would emerge
but an undercurrent of knowing i was safe
and this was right
as though i was within something sacred
baptized and held
but also…my body…ignored, small, powerless
just a witness to the ceremony
as i felt the entire ocean flood me
break me open
grounding the shards i had been carrying into sand
and pounding them away

i came up gasping in the cold
crying without tears
the taste of salt and weightlessness
my chest heaving with waves of gratitude to match her waves of power
and a total surrender waiting for another round that didn’t come
each wave that followed gentler than the last
telling me to breathe
and nudging me back to shore
to my lover who had stood watching
holding the bundle of items i had strewn on the sand
tears in his own eyes as he felt the experience from land
and watched as it washed the heaviness away

shivering
and laughing
i buried my head in his neck
as he held my drenched body
wrapping his arms around me again
and a sweet soul sister wrapped me in her clothes
and i tried to explain
but found myself just heaving out inadequate words and wet hugs instead
convincing them to take a turn and
joining in again

later that night
i fell asleep shivering against a hot water bottle
to drive the cold of Mama Ocean’s work out of my bones
and with the sensation as though i were covered in holes
where she had pounding away the pieces of my shell
leaving my still protected
but open in a million spots
where the cold air and the sea salt
and the light could enter
and escape
having no idea what it all means
to have had such a conversation
and an experience
with Mama Ocean
but feeling it all the same

© Tara Wagner
July 21, 2012

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