Earth Medicine

Creating Right Relationship with the Sea

Cardigan Bay, PEI, Canada, at sunset.

Today, on World Oceans Day, June 8th each year, I thank the Sea for teaching me and for the right relationship we are co-creating.

The sea has been my teacher for so long that I can’t remember our earliest connection but I do know she has always urged me to listen to the waters of the world in all the forms they take, from the soft fall of rain to the fresh lakes and rivers to the salty seas. 

I love visiting the sea at low tide and getting a glimpse  of the sea life normally below the waves. The shore is already a liminal space, and — for me — low tide extends that liminality to enable me to step more fully into that other world, experiencing those hidden spaces exposed twice daily. Each low tide is different throughout the month and year, bringing a different lesson.

A recent visit to the Bay of Fundy, which separates New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, opened my eyes even more. The Bay has the highest tides in the world, and the low tide waters recede so far that one can walk for miles on the ocean floor.

As I descended the hand-carved stairs to the sea floor, I witnessed the amazing strength of the tidal waters, eroding the earth and rocks into caves and islands, grinding all into sand… and the occasional hag stone.

Descending to the ocean floor at Burnthead Cove, Nova Scotia

When one views the bay at high tide, there is little evidence of the churning power below, her sculptures revealed only by the tiny islands dotting the bay, supported by columns of earth and rock sculpted from the land.

My first lesson that day was to always look beneath the surface, to the hidden depths. Not all is as it seems at first glance, because underneath is a different world. And each of us too has hidden depths — and perhaps they too need to come to the surface and be shared with others.

My second lesson that day came when I visited the huge stone (altar? chair?) carved on the ocean floor, pictured below. It immediately brought to mind An Cailleach, and I now call her “my” Cailleach rock.

“My” Cailleach rock on the Bay of Fundy floor, at Burnthead Cove, Nova Scotia

And as I compared creation lore in Celtic traditions and that of the indigenous Mi’kmaq peoples, I saw so many parallels — perhaps from our collective unconscious: the Cailleach Béara (the creatrix of the landscape) looking out for her lover Manannán mac Lir (god of the seas) immortalized forever in the Hag of Béara stone in Ireland, pictured below, and the Mi’kmaq creation lore of Glooscap, creator of the landscape and creator of Nogami (the Grandmother), and Nataoa-nsen (the Nephew).

The remains of the ‘Hag of Beara’, staring out to sea awaiting her husband, Manannán mac Lir, God of the Sea, to return to her.

Right Relationship with The Sea, Lady Mara

As I aged from child to crone, I learned what it means for me to be in right relationship with the Sea, committing to protect her from the damage we humans create such as pollution, treating the ocean as a disposal site, over-fishing / over-harvesting the creatures who live there (90% of big fish populations are now depleted) and contributing to the destruction of coral reefs (50% are now gone). 

Did you know that the ocean produces at least 50% of the Earth’s oxygen? Or that it absorbs about 30% of carbon dioxide, buffering the impact of global warming? Or that by 2030 about 40 million people will be employed in ocean-based industries? (Source: https://www.un.org/en/observances/oceans-day).

And yet we humans continue to disrespect the oceans and our planet when we could be shifting our perspective and looking instead at how to protect marine areas, support ethical fishing, and supporting oceanic biodiversity.

The theme for World Oceans Day 2022 is “Revitalization: collective action for the ocean”.

I invite you to take some time to consider how you can take action for the worlds oceans. And do visit the official UN World Oceans Day website.

You can also visit the World Ocean Day website for additional information and resources.

“I need the sea because it teaches me.” — Pablo Neruda, in “On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poemas frente al mar”

What have you learned from the Sea?


Images by Della Ratcliffe:

  • Sunset on Cardigan Bay, PEI
  • Two images of Low Tide on the Bay of Fundy, at Burntcoat Cive on the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, Canada

For source attribution for the other images, click the World Ocean Day graphic and the Hag of Béara rock image.

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