It is the wild sea I crave.
Last weekend, my family and I visited an art exhibition in a small coastal town. I anticipated seascapes, and I went there hungry for the wild; hungry for intensity. My father used to paint amazing pictures of the sea, in dark, ferocious oil paint. He captured something of my childhood home by the Atlantic Ocean in New York which still resonates in me. We preferred the winter at the beach, my Dad and I, when the tourists had packed up and left, when the storms came.
I searched the exhibition. Many of the pictures were beautiful; scenic, accurate, blue and yellow and white. But they were tame. I moved quickly. I knew what I sought; I could feel it there somewhere. Finally, I found it. The painting was of a dark, stormy day; a wild sea with large waves. Small ships riding. Storm clouds. I stared, moved. I searched the painting by its exhibition number in the catalog, as the paintings were not titled and no prices were visible. But when I found it, my heart sank. It was titled, “Safe Harbour”.
I closed the catalog sadly, looked at the painting once more, and left. A Safe Harbour when I longed for the wild. As much as I loved the painting, I couldn’t get beyond the name. I would always see it that way, I knew.
Today, in the pouring rain, I ran ten kilometers. It was absolutely joyful. Only runners, and people walking dogs actually smile in the pouring rain. I was grateful for the rain. It made me contemplate that painting again, and safe harbours. The wind blew and the rain lashed. I glanced at the steely grey water of the bay, stirred up in places into small whitecaps. I marvelled at the solitude, having seen no other person on the trail the entire way. These lines came to me, and I spoke them aloud as I ran:
Give me no safe harbour.
Give me the wild sea with waves as big as houses.
I will stand at the helm, and then I will be brave.
Give me the abandoned ones, the feral ones.
The wildish ones.
Let them come to live with me.
I will not seek to tame them.
I will seek, instead to understand.
I do not like calm, clear days, or runs around flat lakes. Running on sunshine and blue-sky days bores me; it requires nothing essential of me. I want the wild, the slightly dangerous, the wooded, rock-studded trails. I want the things that are the essence of life. Give me the situations that make me be courageous, because then I can remember that I am, indeed, brave.
And so this week, I am embracing the chaos of my crazy wild home, the one with the five-month-old puppy chasing the two black-and-white cats, while the two children dance madly and shout and laugh.
Because I crave – I live for – the wild.
Give me no safe harbours. Give me the wild sea. And I too will run and dance with abandon and joy.