Wisdom of the Sea by Christine Cassidy

“And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came.”

John F. Kennedy, 1962

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My knowledge of the sea came early in life, while wisdom came much later.

When I was a child, family vacations were spent down the Jersey shore. We stayed in a room at a single story, pale-yellow apartment building arranged in a U shape. I remember the landlady had an old-fashioned phone, the kind you cranked to power up in order to connect you to the operator.

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Suffering from Eczema as a girl, the salt water coupled with the heat from the sun proved to be a soothing balm to my skin. Healed by the ocean, my scars would disappear.

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I learned how to swim in the ocean. I learned how to build castles and to dig deep in the sand for sea cicadas; learned how to bound up the jetty rocks without scrapping knees or elbows.

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I learned how to spy and capture those shells shaped like a Victorian lady’s fan. A little older, around 10-years-old, I learned how to cut bait for crabbing traps.

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It was around that time that my family moved from North Jersey to a small town in the Pine Barrens, not far from the Barnegat Bay. Now, I had to learn to navigate a new school, a new neighborhood, new friends; much like navigating the winding channels that led to the bay.

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Midway was the no man’s land between Seaside Park and Island Beach State Park.  Barely 19-years-old, late nights were spent swimming under silver dollar moons. The sand was cool and powder-like. Foxes would dash in and out among the dunes. We would bury the beer in the sand to avoid detection from beach security. One night, a boy uncovered a black crystal pendant hidden in the sand.

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At Midway, I learned about kissing and disappointment. I learned that youth is transitory. I learned that life could sometimes be unlucky. At Midway, I learned about high tides and falling stars and constellations.

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The pale-yellow apartments were my family stayed during summer vacations are now long gone. Hurricane Sandy erased much of the shoreline of my youth. The black crystal was surrendered to a thrift shop while the giver has put many oceans between us. These things may be gone; childhood scars are gone, youth may be gone, loved ones may be gone, but what remains is wisdom, the wisdom of the sea.

About the Author: Christine Cassidy

ccassidybioChristine Cassidy is a self-taught artist who works in photography, fiber, collage and assemblage. Her photographs have appeared in F-Stop Magazine, NYC-Arts, Filtered Magazine, and twohundredby200.

Christine grew up in New Jersey among artists and makers; her father was a bricklayer who built her childhood home while her mother furnished it with the hooked rugs she hand crafted. Her older sister Kate Tevis was a graphic designer and collage artist.

Christine loves Buster Keaton, e.e. cummings, punk rock, and living in her tiny studio apartment in New York City.

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