The voice of the sea

A Pacific coast view from Santa Cruz, California, August 2003

A Pacific coast view from Santa Cruz, California, August 2003

“The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.”Kate Chopin

The California Coast is wild and beautiful, rocky and cold, pounded relentlessly by crashing surf.  Though much of it is not suitable for swimming, it’s as appealing to me — perhaps more — as if it was.  No matter where I visit the sea, I find the same invitation to solitude that Chopin describes here.

I’ve noticed when I see people at the seashore together, I seldom see them talking with each other as they stroll along the water’s edge.  Perhaps their voices would be lost in the auditory medley of surf, wind and gulls crying overhead.  But I think it’s simply that no words are necessary, or adequate, when taking in the beauty of such settings.  The solitude is pervasive even when we aren’t there alone.

Abysses of solitude and mazes of inward contemplation are indulgences, of course; few of us can afford much time by the sea, whether literally or only in our minds.  But measured doses of it are healthy, even essential.  Probably you can’t get away to the coast today, but you can take a brief mental respite in your imagination.  To kick-start your visual daydreaming,  enjoy a few minutes of this hour-long video of the California coast.  If you don’t mind the silent promotional subtitles telling you where you can buy it, you can watch it for free.

One year ago today:

The cure for anything


  1. Julia, good morning. Thanks for photo of the sea. I enjoy walking along the sea shore. Much more than swimming. Been awhile since I’ve been… πŸ™‚
    Hope Matt and Jeff are having good days and improving. and you taking care of yourself. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Merry! We are all getting along fairly well. Some days are better than others, but overall I can’t complain. Walking along the edge of the water is by far more fun to me than swimming! I hope you are able to get to a seashore before too long.

  2. I love the sea. I go to the coast to regroup.

    • That’s a very good idea, according to this article. I think it can be very healing and sanity-saving. I hope that one day therapists, doctors and other medical professionals may go back to prescribing a dose of the sea air instead of telling us to pop pills! For what some prescriptions cost, one could enjoy at least a day or two in a good oceanfront hotel. πŸ˜€

  3. raynard

    Julia I’m reminded of a TV 1968 , I think it was called “Then came Bronson( NBC) about a guy on a motorcycle going from place to place working odd jobs. In the pilot episode he was riding along the Pacific Highway onto a beach. I always wonder what it would be like to drive across those highways in California that have bridges that go across water. There is even a Amtrak train that does the same thing.( something else added to my bucket list or”one of those trips in my mind “with no luggage).Question, have you ever been on one of those dinner cruises? I believe they have one in NYC, Baltimore, DC and Ive been on the one in Philadelphia..( the theme song to Gillian’s Island just popped in my head. While’s it nothing like”The Love Boat( and that theme is rattling around in my head like” a baby’s rattle and a rattle snake lol Time to go take a allergy pill and off to work. be blessed

    • Raynard, Jeff and I have never taken one of those dinner cruises, although we had one scheduled with some of his co-workers when we first got here, but it had to be cancelled and was never rescheduled. They have lots of them here in DC and they are especially popular (and pricey) during cherry blossom time. But Groupon and Living Social often have them at discounts. I remember hearing of the show Then Came Bronson – I seem to recall he wore a cap of some sort? Though I never watched the show, anything set along the Pacific Coast Highway would be worth catching at least now and then. Big Sur is phenomenal. What a gorgeous drive. You can’t hurry through it, though. Like the Hana Highway in Maui, it’s for people who have at least a day or two to spend getting somewhere just for fun. Is this the bridge you are thinking of?

  4. bobmielke

    I consider myself blessed to live 65 miles from pristine beaches that are free to the residents of Oregon by law. I wouldn’t want to live close to the shore as the coastal mountain range creates its own weather system along the coast, too cool for me. πŸ™‚

    • Bob, being within an hour or two of the ocean is ideal. Then you never have to evacuate for hurricanes or pay for flood insurance. Of course, there are always earthquakes and wildfires…In any case, as long as you can take a day trip to the ocean whenever you like, you are more fortunate than most, especially if your beaches are unspoiled and scenic. The ones on the Atlantic are not as pretty, but still very therapeutic.

      • bobmielke

        With a 75 mile radius I have the ocean, Mountain tops, volcanic fields, lakes, rivers, 20 waterfalls and the Columbia River Gorge. I have commercial flower farms as well as an area of orchards known as the fruit look with apples, peaches, pers and thousands of cherry trees.

        • Isn’t that wonderful? I loved that about living in northern California – a very similar array of different natural wonders, in any direction you could drive.

          • bobmielke

            There’s a ton to see and experience just within the range of Portland’s mass transit system, TriMet.

            • Jeff and I really liked the Portland area, and hope to be able to go back there one day. Perhaps we can get a TriMet visitor’s pass if we do! We love riding the mass transit wherever it’s available. It’s a great way to really get to know a city. Here in DC one can take the Metro to almost all the best known sights.

  5. I agree, Julia. There, in front of magnificent sea words become insignificant. I too can spend hours looking at the vastness and musing. But my husband cannot spend a long time there and he would keep on complaining killing all the fun. Loved that video and the music.

    • Bindu, sometimes when I read these comments I think “men must all be alike!” though I know it isn’t true; some men love the sea, and some women hate it. Jeff gets bored there after awhile, and always goes inside before I do, whenever we are at the ocean. He likes it, but not as well as I do. One of my favorite funny quotes from him (which he said during a trip to Alaska where the scenery was absolutely stunning) is “After awhile, how much scenery do you need to see?” πŸ˜€ I think of that every time we are someplace beautiful and he is ready to leave before I am. Luckily I find it funny rather than frustrating. Usually.

  6. Sheila

    Julia, the water really does have its own voice, often speaking so loudly it’s overwhelming. Today, really felt like summer has arrived! The cool ocean breezes quickly soared and we had hot weather which is perfect for vacationers this time of year. Most of the beach houses have private pools and it’s amazing that so much time is spent by the pool instead of on the beach! I love the “Jeff-ism” that you quoted! Sorta reminds me of someone I know! πŸ™‚

    • Sheila, I thought that remark might sound vaguely familiar, hee-hee. In Hawaii, at the Hale Koa hotel, there was a huge gorgeous pool on Waikiki beach, and as a military family we could go swim there anytime we wanted. I used to love having the beach view while the kids could swim in the shallow end without fear of waves or sharks! Probably people who have pools might have beach views to enjoy while in their pools. I bet you get to hear the ocean’s voice much more than most of us do – lucky you! πŸ˜€

  7. Michael

    I remember the pool at Hale Koa. We got to go to the Christmas brunch at the Hale Koa-the year we stayed in Hawaii, via our friends from Seattle=retired military- whom go to Oahu for Christmas almost every year. I think that was a run on sentence if I remember correctly. Oh well.

    • Michael, I love run-on sentences, or haven’t you noticed? πŸ™‚ That three-section pool at the Hale Koa was really something even before they enlarged it, which I heard they were planning to do. Here are some pics that bring back lots of memories! I think Waikiki is generally overrated, but that stretch of beach shared by the Hale Koa and the next-door Hilton Hawaiian Village is so nice.

  8. I don’t get to the ocean as often as I’d like. Besides enjoying the sounds of the surf, I also feel brilliantly alive just looking at the, seemingly never ending, horizon. I can almost feel my heart and mind opening wider, maybe bigger dreams too. We actually have the sound of crashing waves on our White Noise machine. Although the kitties enjoy the birds in the rainforest more.

    When we were in Maui in February, we enjoyed the snorkelling again. It’s nice and calm isn’t it? Even though it was a windy day. Once you’re floating, back and forth, along in the same direction as the fish, I could almost fall asleep. Up here, it’s just lot’s and lot’s of water. But all of a sudden, there’s fish, plants, shells and if you’re lucky, a giant turtle having lunch. All by simply putting on a mask and barely cracking the surface. It’s like putting on a light in a dark room.

    • Wow, reading this made me want to try snorkeling again. I never tried it in Maui, but I imagine it would be better than the crowded spots around Oahu. We have our white noise machine set to “rain” but I like the ocean sounds too. I grinned when I read that the kitties like the bird sounds. I wonder if their little mouths water when they hear that! πŸ˜€ I agree that standing at the ocean’s edge is a transforming sensation – almost like an alternate reality where petty annoyances disappear and everything is sublime. When you come, we will have to plan some beach time. It’s not the Pacific, but it’s still the ocean!

      • Sounds awesome Julia! Alys and I are just picking accommodations in Victoria now, I’m so excited. We’ll have 8 days to be-bop around. Man I can’t wait. It’s fabulous that you’ve invited us for spring, It’ll be almost a year in August that we’ve seen each other and that’s too long. xox Have a great weekend!

        • Wow, 8 days in Victoria, a dream trip for sure. I want to go back there and this time I don’t want to miss Butchart Gardens, I am still disappointed about that. The museum there is fabulous and the whole place just felt magical to us. I will be watching for lots of great photos! Hope you have a wonderful weekend too!

  9. Michael

    Came across the Maya Angelou quote, ” We may come across defeats but we must remain undefeated.”

    • Michael, I admired Maya Angelou so much and will miss her. She was a woman of great dignity, strength and compassion. I saw many interviews with her and was always taken aback by her unfailing eloquence and manners, treating everyone with tremendous respect (whether or not their behavior commanded it). I have a perpetual calendar with some of her best quotes and I have drawn great inspiration from her words. For many years now I have said that “Maya Angelou’s words do for my spirit what spinach did for Popeye.” She had a gift for lifting people up, and I believe her legacy will live on.

  10. Michael

    Speaking of Hale Koa did you happen to see an article about best USA beaches in last Sunday parade? Number three was Waimanalo- and number one was next to Waikiki where the Hilton is with the Rainbow sign, whose name escapes me. I used to Boogie board-body board- at Waimanalo beach which was next to the base- and the locals called it Sherwood Forrest beach. It seems like the I use the phrase whose name escapes me more and more these days. My take is that as we age – we have so much information -some of it new that we must discards some older data notes. How is that for denial?
    Have not read that much of Angelou, but will one of these days.

    • I never heard Waimamalo called Sherwood Forest, but I did always hear of it as being the true native Hawaiian’s own beach (despite it being located so close to Bellows, which was an ongoing controversy while we were there). We used to go there when we had the time to enjoy it; it was well worth the short trip over. I think the entire Windward coast is gorgeous. Kaneohe Bay was so beautiful to see when we would be coming up the Likelike Hwy and catch the first glimpse of it. The H3 wasn’t finished while we lived there but we drove it when we went back to visit. You can get from Pearl Harbor to the North Shore in only about 15 or 20 minutes now. Amazing.

  11. Michael

    Oh yes Jeff and Eric thank you for your service.

  12. Michael

    What was controversy with Bellows? I also did some Boogie boarding there.

    • Michael, Bellows AFB sits right in the middle of what I always thought of as the most Hawaiian part of Oahu, and the hotbed of the movement for Hawaiian sovereignty. You can read more about it here and here. Haoles are not as welcome around there as they are in other parts of the island, though I can only remember one time when I was treated with overt rudeness there. But it’s easy to see why some of the few remaining native Hawaiians (most people living in Hawaii are from east Asia or the U.S.) might resent the U.S. government’s control over one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in the islands.

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