I have a love-hate relationship with water and need the healing powers of the ocean.

I love to watch the waves roll in or gaze at a soulful sunset reflecting on the water’s surface.

I hate the fear that grips me around water.

As a child, I fell through the donut-shaped float as my parents played with me in a swimming pool. All I saw under the water were feet. When I tried to breathe, water poured into me. To this day, I don’t know if it was that moment of confusion in a strange environment or the hysteria of my mother when they pulled me out of the water.

I’m inclined to believe my mother’s reaction imprinted the fear of not being able to escape the underwater world. Yet from the shore, the ocean calms my tangled mind. Our relationship is secured by the understanding that boundaries remain. The beach serves as our friendly mediator.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
—Jacques Cousteau


backlit view of the sun over the beach with two children and a dog in the dark shadows
Reaching for the Sky at Sunrise, 1988

For a few years, we owned a house on the beach. I cherish those moments with our children and friends. Running into the waves, building drip sandcastles, and quiet evening walks, taking in the breeze that seemed never to stop.

On each trip, we waited in line waiting for the ferry to shuttle us across to the peninsula. Smells, sights, and sounds bombarded our senses as we jumped out of the car to stand at the edge of the ferryboat.

The lighthouse surrounded by three houses greeted us like an old but rusty friend. She signaled the beginning of new memories, new hope.

The lighthouse on Boliver peninsula stands behind the marsh surrounded by thee wooden houses on stilts with a blue skyThe Boliver Lighthouse, 1987

3 Healing Powers of the Ocean

No. 1 Sight

“Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state,”
—Richard Shuster, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

The color blue, in all its shades and hues, consistently finds its way into my surroundings. That might explain my obsession with the sky as well as the ocean. The therapeutic qualities of the sapphire seas and azure skies may have enticed me more than I imagined.

the beach at Turks and Caicos with the beige sand, turquoise shades of water , blue sky, and a line of grey clouds and pal friends in the lower left hand cornerA Multitude of Blues in Turks and Caicos, 2015

No.2 Sound

“These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people. It’s like they’re saying: ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.'”
Orfeu Buxton, Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University.

I can attest to the hypnotic nature of the waves rolling onto the shore and returning to sea. Nothing puts you to sleep quicker.

The seagulls and pelicans bring their own music. The playful cacophony of laughing gulls hovering for a handout tempts the most timid human to share a bite of their lunch. Pelicans swoop gracefully and nosedive into the salty sea to grab a personal feast.

two photos divided by a black space, on the left, brown pelicans sit on the pier above blue waters and beneath a blue sky; on the right a flock of seagulls hover over the sandy beach with a bright blue sky and thin white cloudsPelicans at Galveston Bay and Hungry Laughing Gulls

No.3 Smell

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
—Sarah Kay

The smell of the salt air and water slam into my senses. I breathe deeply, instantly absorbing the negative ions that begin to calm my brain and erase the tension gripping my body. I relax. I listen. The beauty of the ocean does its work.

waves rolling onto the shore at sunset with pink and grey clouds against a blue skyGulf Waves, 2017

Peaceful Sunsets

The day ends with promise and hope. Sunsets seal the day and remind me that my love and fear have found peace.

sunset with an orange sky with the sun peeking through palm fronds and reflecting on the dark ocean surfacePeaceful Sunset, 2015

“We are tied to the ocean.
And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch –
we are going back from whence we came.”

—John F. Kennedy

Sunset on Galveston Bay with the sun a bright white with rays reaching out to the clouds and reflecting on the ocean surface

Sunset on Galveston Bay

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.

Photos:  © Kathryn LeRoy