“I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied”
From Sea Fever by John Masefield
The call of the sea. The salty ocean singing to the salt in your blood, hitting a note that resonates. Like a distant kinship, reawakening an ancient connection. Or an inscrutable stranger whispering promises of the utter unknown. Deep sea fishermen might describe their relationship with the powerful, unfathomable ocean in different terms. I know my take on it is entirely romantic, but no less real.
Sea Fever was one of my father’s favourite poems, his enjoyment of reciting it and my own recognition of the feelings John Masefield captured making it a favourite of mine. My dad was a responsible, loyal husband and father, but possessed a restless soul, with a love of the road less travelled, and of new horizons. I’ve inherited some of that nature, but my restless soul does most of its seeking and experiencing through the stories of others, and through my own creative drive. But longing for something just out of reach is in the heart of most of us. And for many, including me and my dad, the magic, the essence of freedom and fulfilment that the sea in all its forms seems to offer is like a siren song, irresistible, even if it is just to gaze out at the horizon and feel that inexplicable heart-yearning for something.
For Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid, her longing was for an earth-bound life. If you have ever read it, you’ll know that Anderson gave full flight to every delightful fancy about what life deep in the ocean would be like for a mermaid princess and her sisters. And with all of those delights, the quiet, introspective youngest mermaid’s favourite place was a garden she created around a statue that had fallen from a ship, a symbol of the world above.
She lived for the moment of her fifteenth birthday when she could at last rise to the surface and see all the wonders that her older sisters described. “I know that I shall love the world above, and the beings that inhabit it, with all my heart,” she said. And on the fateful day that at last she ascended, she beheld a boy, a sixteen year old prince, celebrating on board a ship, and lost her heart to him. Her love for him encapsulated her obsession with all things earthly and human and her longing to be part of it. Her destiny was set in motion.
You’re probably familiar with that saying ‘be careful what you wish for.’ I wonder what would happen if us creative types ever attained what we sought? I can’t say that I know anyone who has really got what they wished for. But to come so close… this story made me so sad, and cross at being made sad, that it set me on the path of writing Find Me as I cast about for a happy ending for her. There is very little in my story that resembles this one, there aren’t even any mermaids in my mythical world, but the essence of it is there: that desire for something unattainable, the belief that having it will bring happiness, and facing the cost of trying to get it.
I think this longing for more is why we love stories so much. They give us the world and beyond, allowing us to become characters in places and situations impossible any other way. But no less real to us, in a way that only readers understand. We feel our way through stories with every word unveiling our path before us. Fiction is the one place we never have to dread getting what we wish for. And I hope the lives that we taste and the vistas we see in the pages of books give us the vision and inspiration to pursue what calls us. That we will gaze on ocean horizons both metaphorical and literal, and follow what calls us to fulfilment.
Featured image an illustration from The Song of the English illustrated by W Heath Robinson. To receive updates about book two or receive offers, subscribe to my mailing list here. To visit my profile on Amazon click here. To take a look inside Find Me on Amazon click here. Thanks for reading.