The Ocean Gives Me Strength
My simple ocean song states, "The Ocean it speaks, it speaks to me, it speaks through me." Many things it says, but over and over, loud and clear, it says: Be strong! Believe! Mesmerizing vitality, power, limitless energy, beauty, constant change and ruthlessness all well up from the ocean's unfathomable depths inspiring, moving and motivating me. Sometimes I reach the sea feeling tired, weak, inadequate, mentally drained… Absorbing the ocean's qualities and gifts into my body, mind and spirit, ignite my inner waves and fire. It calls me forth, awakens me from my existential slumber and I swim my song of strength and move my body to the rhythm of the tides and the sea. My body the ocean, my body the sea, empowered, liberated and open.
Through my images, my words and my body, often naked, I want to transmit this strength. Paradox: How can a woman be naked and strong and it not be interpreted as a simplistic sexual message but rather one of power and liberation? Generally, naked and strong are opposed concepts and a woman's nudity instantly sexualized but the female form can transmit many qualities of strength, beauty and courage without being simply reduced to her parts. (See further note at article's end about swimming naked as a woman).
My daily sea pilgrimage began at the start of Spring 2020. Over this time my mental strength and confidence have grown and I've also progressively exposed more of myself and my strength in public images. One day in September 2020 my partner accompanied me taking photos. The sea was quite rough, the light magnificent. Walking on the rock pools where I wanted to do an immersion, he captured several images that conveyed the strength I want to transmit to others - how the ocean speaks through me and gives me strength. This became the first photo I published of myself with my naked backside on Instagram (25 Sept 2020). I wrote a short poem to accompany the image.
Vulnerable yet strong
Prudent yet daring.
Facing the Sea,
Watching the waves,
Immersing in the cold foam
Droplets glisten on salt-kissed skin
Child of the Sea
Since then I have taken a number of photos that play on this image of myself facing a heavy sea and waves crashing at my feet. Looking at them, I feel empowered all over again. As I wrote in the lead photo's caption: Don't mess with me unless you want to face the sea. I like the fact that I don't flinch in some images and videos not because I don't have a healthy fear of the sea but I know the sea well enough (and myself) in these moments that I know I will not be knocked down. I must stand strong and face my fears when forces beyond my control crash around me in the sea, as in life.
I've noticed that these images typically evoke in others a positive reaction of power, awe and strength as they are set against magnificent nature deeply connecting with a fundmanetal part of the human psyche. It's also a woman's body, typically seen as more vulnerable than a man's but here she is, defying the odds, defiant, brave, independent and exposed.
I want to inspire other women (and men) to be strong, to not be afraid to expose oneself safely to the elements, to not hide oneself behind self and societal imposed limitations, in essence, to be free inside and out.
You will never tame her for she is the sea.by @kerry_uksupgirl
Facing the sea with strength does not mean facing it with hubris, recklessness or putting my life in danger. The ocean is a generous yet harsh teacher, a ruthless force of nature, wild, moody and magnificent uncaring of insignificant human interlopers. I am nothing within the vast sea, just another bit of phytoplankton. Humbled many times, I have run from waves or been jostled uncomfortably and scraped on rocks as big sets roll in. When the sea shouts its warnings to stay away, humility and wisdom bring strength. I am happy to let go, surrender and listen to the sea in it's vast wisdom and take what it generously offers.
After seeing the photo of me calmly walking across the rocks, a friend called me Amphitrite, conjuring the enigmatic Greek sea goddess. I liked being compared to the "loud-moaning mother of fish, seals and dolphins" (and Neptune's wife though I found that aspect ancillary). Why shouldn't I feel like a goddess (ie, strong, confident, knowing, perhaps with a pinch of mystery and wise in the ways of being a woman) and channel my inner feminine powers that well up from the depths of my body the ocean?
Comparing myself directly with Amphitrite or Thalassa, the Greek goddess and personification of the Sea, does seem a bit sacreligious and tempting the Fates considering I am mortal, but I love being La Belle Sauvage (The Wild Beauty) or a Daughter of the Sea and play at being the goddess. I scamper in the pools, swim strongly through the waves, shout to the rain, let my hair flow freely in the wind and my woman's chest kiss the waves as they crash upon my body, act as friend and companion to sea creatures great and small, and leave my footprints upon the sand but nothing else.
And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.by Mark Anthony, The Beautiful Truth
On the sea shore I live wild and free, untamed, unbound, independent. I swim alone but I am not alone. I am connected and part of something much grander than I, a mere traveler passing through on an aqueous journey through infinity to myself and something larger. Embrace, see, be and believe in yourself. If you do not see yourself, you cannot wait and hope that others will first. The truth is it's fun and empowering to imagine and enact oneself in these ways. Test your limits, go plus ultra and you may surprise yourself with what you discover.
At the end of 2020 I discovered an entirely new facet of strength in facing the sea. Circumstances pushed me to new places along the shore when I couldn't face the waves and needed to immerse myself in tidepools if I wanted to feel the Ocean's embrace. The Ocean threw at me potentially life-threatening jellyfish, sub-zero C temperatures (unusual for the Galician coast in Spain) and frozen sand, terrifying waves, dogs that stole my hat and clothes while swimming, mussel harvesters scouring the shore and worm hunters in the low tide shallows. There was nowhere to go except protected, hidden small tidepools. It shook my confidence but not my resolve.
On the last day of 2020, 31 December, I felt particularly vulnerable as I sought privacy facing a chilly, incessant, biting wind and with many men scouring the rocks working the shore. I finally found a protected pool. Rather than just a quick immersion, kicking a bit and moving about, I decided to do something different. After exploring the pool I simply turned over, let go and surrendered to the water and the moment.
I began to float on my back, still, silent, motionless in perfect balance, harmony and buoyancy in the very small tidepool. Deep stillness came over my mind as the cold receded from my consciousness and a profound sense of connectedness with the water and the pool swept over me. Everything in the pool returned to how it was before I invaded it with my loud presence and I became simply another tidepool creature gently rocked back and forth as the wind raced across my exposed body. I found strength and peace in stillness as the ocean roared offshore and men worked meters away on the rocks forcing me to new places within myself I never knew were there.
I also surprised myself when I decided to post these images of myself especially the one where I am naked lying in the pool. I wanted to transmit the strength I found, ironically through exposure, when working through those feelings of vulnerability.
VIDEO: My Body the Ocean: Invoking My Strength
I made a video (below) of clips from Nov 2020 to Feb 2021 to recreate my evolving strength in relation to the Ocean and how it speaks through me. I'm gifting this intimate look into my experience with the Sea to transmit how a woman can be herself for herself to inspire others to do the same in their own ways. I created and lived these experiences for myself and my growth, not for others' pleasure. But I realize, that by sharing them, I become an object in others' eyes and I have little control over how my image is further interpreted. It's a risk exposing oneself in this way but I believe it's worth it.
Set to the powerful song Invocation by the group Dead Can Dance, the conversation between the Sea and me is played out as it evokes my strength and I invoke the Sea to come to me. I experience a rebirth and strengthening of my spirit, mind and body. The Sea helps me hone my body and base, confidence, spirit, will, honesty, creativity, courage, voice, intuition and self-belief. It strengthens me from head to toe, inside and out. The Sea has helped me rise out of my proverbial shell, a Venus, draped and dressed in foam.
As a Daughter of the Sea, I begin my journey in the tidepool, apparently asleep, unconscious or, perhaps even, dead. I'm covered, perfectly still, just another creature. I hear the deep resonance and the pulsating waves from beyond the pool. I submerge my body, a woman's body, a mother's body, into the water up to my neck. Pausing, I take my first breath into the water, life giving air, life giving water. Strength is knowing when to take the humble pool the Sea offers, simply floating, letting go and surrending to what is.
Rising from the water, the Sea beckons me, awakening my own inner waves, calling forth my womanhood and strength. The waves begin to move in me moving my creative, physical and sensual energies.Contemplating my shadow upon the ocean's surface, mingling with the foam, my own inner darkness blends, roils, and transforms in front of me. The Sea forces me to see myself in different ways and deconstructs my image before my eyes. My darkness is reflected upon the water and projected back to me, for me to see, to take in, to understand, to grow. I take my darkness to the Sea knowing it will embrace whatever I offer and to help me to reach the light.
With the heavy wind whipping my hair, I face the Sea unflinchingly from within a tidepool as a big wave breaks on the rocks in front of me pelting me with sea foam. The Sea shouts at me now, encourages me to face my fears, observe, remain alert, and be prepared for whatever may come.The water flows over me foamy and delightful helping me wash away the darkness that adheres mercilessly, tar on the shore of my soul, that wants to cling and keep me from inner peace.
Contemplating its grandeur, joy and excitement accompany me as I launch myself into the liquid aqua, this permanently moving, transforming sculpture. Timing it just right I dive through to the other side, a gateway to another magical world, where the years instantly slip off as I become an aqueous creature sliding through the water, buoyant, light, floating and free in a way impossible to feel on land. My arms and legs propel me through the water. Or, perhaps, I simply float rocked and lifted in the vast bosom of the Ocean feeling myself happily insignificant, a speck of nothingness, comforted and reminded that all is okay. Trust. Believe. Love. Gratitude. Strength is beauty, embracing your light and letting it shine.
Then I'm on top of the rocks facing another wild Sea, channeling my inner Thalassa, Amphitrite, La Belle Sauvage, naked and moving my body to the rhythm of the waves and calling them to me. I gaze mesmerized at the Sea and my body begins to dance, swaying to the Sea's tempo. Moving my body helps me express the Ocean's power. The waves create inner movement through my body, opening my creativity, sensuality and strength as a person and woman. My body the ocean, my body the sea.
Once in the water my body begins to harmonize with the Sea as my body moves and glides through the ocean swimming, floating sometimes on my belly or back taking waves feet first. Or, I simply tread and look around at the vast watery expanse, the mountains on the horizon, the rising sun, the setting moon, the birds flying overhead or skimming close to the surface. The waves come towards me, move through me and then march onwards toward shore where they crash and break. Waves have such a different appearance front to back and the water molecules cling and collapse and form and reform. I relish the rush of the waves moving through and over my body.
Playing at the shore I become a piece of driftwood relaxing into the wave's push up the beach sometimes letting myself float back again. Resisting the flow creates havoc as your body tries to react in the wave. If you become part of the wave and water relaxing into its force, it will take you safely up the beach covering you in a sandy dress from head to toe. There's great strength in letting go and flowing. The key is knowing when to fight and when to flow.
I end the video with a clip of myself floating in the tidepool, first from below, the tidepool's perspective. The water, at first agitated, goes still and my hair appears to be kelp before I awake and swim like a fish in the small space. One final video shows me floating totally still as I was at the beginning but now partially naked. Again, I could be deeply asleep or unconscious. I've gone back to sleep, finished the cycle, ready for the next cycle of death and rebirth that is part of our human experience. Each day is the same cycle, a precious gift. As the sun rises and sets, we wake and sleep experiencing our own daily rebirth and death. Dawn represents the potential awakening, rebirth and opportunity for new beginnings, we are gifted every single day of our lives.
Women experience this death and rebirth every month, as a natural cycle, mostly misunderstood and maligned, that allows a woman to experience impermanence and the constance of change as her monthly flow comes and goes. She can channel the unique monthly passage towards her strength and creativity by listening to and respecting the ups and downs of her rhythms as the tides come and go and the moon waxes and wanes with her every month. We are nature's creatures, intimately tied to the natural world even if we don't recognize the connection. I return naked to the pool, now unafraid and ready for the next period of rebirth, strengthened by this latest cycle and open to whatever the sea brings to my shore.
The Sea calls forth a brave, strong, sensual woman in me, confident in body, mind and spirit. She launches herself into the waves. She stands naked upon the bear rocks the waves crashing at her feet. She lays motionless and impervious to the cold in tidepools. The sea gives me strength, courage, insight, wisdom, an iron will, resistance, mental and physical endurance. I've discovered that strength doesn't just mean swimming confidently through the waves or crashing to the shore but also knowing when to lay floating totally relaxed in a very cold pool of water and go perfectly still and feel entirely at peace and just as strong or stronger than out in the open sea.
Being strong as a woman has many layers and facets just as the sea is complex with its infinite faces and moods. It's easy for a woman to be misinterpreted if she presents herself naked, if she moves in a particular way or moves particular parts of her body. But there is great strength in the body and its movement, a woman's movement, sensual, powerful, creative, generative, life-giving. The ocean awakes movement of all types in me that cannot and should not be reduced to simplistic interpretation of our over-sexualized society. Strength in my nakedness, in my body, my mind, my feminine sensuality, strength in my vulnerability exposing myself to the eyes of others who see what they want and reduce me to my parts without seeing the whole. I know and accept my and others' limitations and I push through them with wisdom and courage.
Embrace who you are as I embrace here my woman's body, a woman who has lived, loved and given birth to three children. My belly's marks and folds, my own personal Ocean inscribed on my body, have been a source of personal shame for many years but the sea gives me strength to show the map of my life to others and to recognize and love the imperfections and limitations I have (that we all have) for making me who I am. Channel and be the Goddess. You have nothing to lose but your fears (and it's fun and liberating)!
Note on Swimming Naked & Photos: There will be people who see my naked body and immediately sexualize the content and reduce me and my performance to body parts, impropriety, an invitation, promiscuity, etc – all the 'sins' that attempt to limit, control and trivialize women's behavior in the patriarchal society we still live in despite the significant in roads towards tolerance, liberty, and equality.
I usually swim naked. I do this not because I am an exhibitionist but that is how I want to meet the sea completely open, unhindered, free. I live on a mostly deserted beach and wear a suit when others are around. I post photos of myself for the same reasons - not to be an exhibitionist but to transmit power in vulnerability, strength in exposure, confidence in being oneself, free inside and out, and as an object of beauty like any other creature of the magnificent Earth exploring her environment. I attempt to do this tastefully and artistically with no desire to shock, provoke or offend anyone. The Belle Sauvage is a complete woman who knows, controls and directs her body, mind, sexuality, strength and is not dominated by archaic forces that want to limit her expression and reduce her to a mere sexual object.