Heeding The Call Of The Sea

3:12 am

The sea calls out to you. You hear it first in London, when the tide is high as you walk along the Thames by Waterloo bridge, when  sand and pebbles mix together to create a beach of sorts in Bermondsey, when the sun sets in Greenwich and even the tourists stop taking pictures for a moment.

Then one day, you travel somewhere you haven’t been before, and as the train passes unexplored territory, the call gets louder. The smallest of detours and we would meet, the sea seems to be telling you. But your plan for the trip has been set. So you don’t heed the call and then for days afterwards, as you sit down on your desk or go out for a walk, you are a little disoriented every time you hear a sea-gull squawk.

The call of the sea could come in spring, when desperate to believe that winter has ended, you seek the smell of a salt laden wind; or in summer, as you imagine the temptations of an ice cream on the beach. But, it could come in the autumn or winter too, when the weather forecast predicts a respite from rain, wind, or the cold.

The sea calls out to you and you do your best to ignore it for a while but it is persuasive and soon, what might have been just an onset of an idea, transforms into a need till it lingers in your mind and in your heart and you realize that there is no escaping this need. If you are to regain any peace of mind at all, you must give in to it. And when you do, you are calm with the knowledge of a scheduled appointment.

Then the morning arrives, bringing with it, the ritual of packing a picnic-lunch, dark chocolate and nuts, tea and home-made scones. You weren't going to go empty-handed when greeting an old friend.

The train ride is filled with pleasure, for you know that with the passing of each station, you are getting closer and closer.

When you arrive at your destination, you walk out of the station with as much grace as you can muster, and then you increase the pace of your walk. You can hear it now, and smell it. Then, you see a road as it curves down; you start to run, until you stop, out of breath, staring at an open expanse of sky, sand, pebbles, rocks, and your friend, the sea. You make a mental note of its colour - blue, green or emerald?

You start to walk. There are beach huts of every colour,  other people, children walking cris-cross by the waves, dogs running wild, shells and star fish hidden behind the sand, crabs scuttling across the rocks. Your smile spares no one, including the sea-gulls, which manage, by some stroke of divinity or something else, to look acceptable in their natural habitat.

You jump into puddles of water. You look for a creature you might not have encountered before. You climb over rocks to go and explore the insides of a cave. You look up to see how high the cliffs are. You look ahead to see how far they go. The sound of a ship forces you to turn your attention back to the sea. The sea is still there, stretching out for miles.

You are content; you have regained your serenity. Nothing could surpass this sense of satisfaction.

Right at that thought, the sun sets. You sit down, on the sand or on a large rock and then, you stare. You stare until the sky has turned orange, red, pink, purple, blue, until it lends its colours to the sea. The moon is out now. There aren’t many people or dogs left on the beach.

You have accomplished your purpose for the day, and yet, you don’t want to leave.  After you take your photographs, you look for another souvenir - a broken shell, or a heart-shaped pebble, or a fallen leaf.  When you find it, you force yourself to retrace your steps to the station.

You return home and place your souvenir on your cupboard, with all your other souvenirs from similar journeys. You go to bed, overwhelmed by nostalgia, but as you lie down and recollect the pleasure of heeding that call, you cast a glance at the world map that hangs on your wall and are calm.

You realize that you will hear the call again and when you do, you will heed it. The fact that you live on an island guarantees that.  

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