My body resonates at the deeply felt memory of the smell. The smell of dark mud mixed with seaweed and salt in the air. Marshlands at low tide. After the smell registers the soundscape that's been there all along says a familiar 'hello' too. Birds. So many varieties of birds feeding, resting, calling. Enjoying the abundance these still waters protected by the harbour's mouth bring to them.
I didn't know this was the smell of my childhood until this moment. Until the remembering. Maybe it's the fact that I'm on home ground having travelled away. Maybe it took being away in order to recognise things as I return. Maybe it's just the journey I'm on and how that is helping me notice things like this with more ease. Either way, I realise this is where I'm from. This realisation isn't a thought. It's a knowing. It's a mind, body, spirit, fact.
I'm not from here exactly. I'm from the next harbour along. We're staying in West Wittering enjoying the very gorgeous Chichester Harbour but just the other side of Hayling Island is Langston Harbour and the smell of my childhood is Farlington Marshes as we drove past most mornings on the way to school. I realise I always knew what the tide was doing every day I went to school. We could smell when the tide was out well before we could see it with our eyes.
I was born within smelling distance of those waters. When you grow up close to the coast maybe you privilege the seaside. The places you played with your brothers. Trudging over pebbles, overladen with cool boxes and joined by parents who always seemed to want to settle in the spot furthest from the car park. But it's the smells of the harbour that my body remembers. I think my soul prefers these quieter waters. No bucket and spade. No ice creams for sale. Less wind.
It's no coincidence (thank you Deepak for helping me know this) that in these last weeks I've also encountered the work of Sharon Blackie. A psychologist, writer and mythologist whose work is also opening a door to my roots. Helping me know these deeper connections with space. With land. As someone who is consciously journeying towards some land I've discovered her work with much gratitude. Now I can get excited about beginning the process of knowing the stories that are deeply woven into this land. Stories about women, wells, coastline, and caves.
We leave in a few days, but something about being here and feeling rooted has reframed that for me. These roots are deep and they travel far. I'm not leaving. I'm simply seeing where my roots will lead me.
Mentioned in this blog
Sharon Blackie - psychologist, writer and mythologist
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