Title – Journey To The Sea
Author – Sarah Brown (editor)
Genre – Anthology, travel writing
“It’s actually very easy to let go of land. The sensation of being released from it increases the further out to sea you swim. As pebbles and sand give way to an abundance of murky-brown weeds, and finally to nothing but the thick blue deep.”
“The thing about the sea is that it changes. One minute calm and quiet, the next mountainous waves crashing on the cliffs. It’s like an untamed monster.”
I’ve been a tad under the weather the last couple of days, and opted for some light reading – an anthology that didn’t require too much concentration. “Journey To The Sea” is a collection of short stories, essays, poems, adventures, experiences and travel writing – all pertaining to the sea. This anthology, edited by Sarah Brown, features a mix of contributors – from popular authors to professional surfers, yachting teams to navy officers, amateur sailors to cross Atlantic swimmers – an assorted mix of writers and writings.
When it comes to anthologies I don’t read sequentially, and rather pick up titles randomly and tick through the index page as I move on. A myriad of emotions run through each of the contributions. My personal favorite from the collection was Libby Purves’ “Journey To The Sea” – in addition to providing the title of the book, this delightful story features a terminally ill patient who is given about two years to live. Any kind of strenuous exercise being prohibited, she takes to swimming to stay active. The crux of the story is her goal to “swim from Harwich to Holland” – a 185 km or 100 nautical miles distance in the sea, which she attempts to do the equivalent of in a swimming pool – that is, 7,400 lengths of the pool. She even marks her distances on a map – plotting where in the world she would be if that particular mile was in the sea instead of the pool. In contrast to Purves’ story of making the most of life, is Joanne Harris’ “Faith And Hope Fly South” – a poignant tale of the inhabitants of an old age home reminiscing about family holidays when their children were young, and how those very children are travelling the world now, leaving their parents behind in a facility. Harris touches on themes of memories and imagination, with the residents relying on travel brochures and magazines to “travel the world” from the confines of their home. A far cry from this touching story is Drew Kampion’s hilarious account of mistaking Bruce Springsteen for Bob Dylan in “Don Redondo Goes Surfing”, and Sarah Whiteley’s “The Naiad” covers similar ground in narrating her experiences as a professional surfer. Peter Hill sheds light on the lives and duties of lighthouse keepers, and all the lessons he learnt on the job in his aptly titled piece, “The Wisdom Of The Lighthouse Keepers”. Gervase Phinn brings to us “Kyle”, a child who does not have much of formal education since his family travels a lot, but displays tremendous intelligence on account of travelling and experiencing and learning from the world firsthand. This was a brilliant account of how learning needs to happen outside the confines of a classroom as well.
From swimming in Greece to holidaying on the beach in France, from fishing in New York and Thailand to surfing in Ireland and Hawaii, from gripping accounts of real adventures to inspirational short stories, from the calmness of the sea that relaxes the soul, to being battered and beaten by it’s unimaginable power – the sea is something that binds us wherever we might be in the world. As Mary Loudon describes in “Contemplating Ithaca”, we are but “tiny dots of human beings in the magnificent wilderness”. If you have ever lived near the sea, engaged in any water sports, love travelling to places where the sea is, or reading about the experiences of others who have, you will love this book. Being a mix of fiction and non-fiction, featuring professional authors and professional athletes and just about everything in between, there is something here for everyone. A treasure trove of witty recollections, adventurous journeys, entertaining and evocative writing, “Journey to The Sea” is a wonderful collection of writings about our water planet.
Rating – 4/5