When I was 18 my boyfriend died, and the place I went for solace was the sea.
Every day after classes ended I drove to my favorite beach, a rocky marine preserve in a small cove that was not well-known and therefore never crowded. I would sit there for hours facing west, watching the waves flow in and recede, listening to the sounds of shells and rocks tumbling onto the shore. It was there I first learned the mysteries of life and death and renewal, in my body and in my soul: there is no death, only change and transformation, the ebb and the flow. Love does not end with death, for he was dead and yet I still loved him.
That was thirty years ago and I am no longer a maiden seeking to discover why people die. I am approaching my crone years, and I have long since made my peace with Lady Death. Yet I still go to the sea for solace, for refreshment and for renewal.
At 18, I didn’t know much about the mythic resonances of the sea. I didn’t know that liminal places, where land meets water, are known as places where one can slip in through the cracks between the worlds. I didn’t know that, for eons, people have thought of the sea as the Great Mother, and that the West was often envisioned as the Otherworld, the place we return to when we die. I didn’t know that, in the myths of many cultures, a sea voyage often enacts the passing into that other world, the testing of the soul, and the passage beyond death. And yet these are the mythic themes that I experienced, sitting there by the sea watching the tide roll in and back out again.
In later years I came to know the many faces of the Goddess, and found myself fascinated by sea goddesses and mermaids, along with many of my sisters.