Waves of Kindness

June 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Nature Space

It’s been a tough couple of years for me.  By meeting deadline after deadline, I had moved agonizingly slowly towards completing my phd: a journey often inspiring and exciting, and yet also a frequently torturous, arthritic progress with many a setback and red herring tangent.

Towards the end, my brain buzzed with the effort of containing the theories, methodologies and arguments that underpinned the fabric of my thesis.  Every night I went to sleep still untangling the threads. Through my dreams, I wandered down labyrinthine corridors of thought clutching those same threads tight in my fist, while desperately seeking the exit… only to awake with those knots still stuck tight and the answers eluding my grip.

After four years of working those knots, I began to feel them give beneath the applied pressure of focussed thought.  One final wrench and the knots were undone; the weft of the text arranged, the chapter seams sewn straight, the bibliography hemmed: I was done with the thesis.

It wasn’t done with me though.  My muscles strained still, my shoulders remained hunched, my eyes continued straining to read that which was no longer there.  I felt numb with the effort it took to reach my goal and I felt grief over the absence that achievement left behind.

Waves of Kindness (c) Amy Palko April 2009

Waves of Kindness (c) Amy Palko April 2009

In this state, I arrive here, on the shore.  I begin by pacing the strandline searching for shells, pebbles, crab claws, feathers, anything, everything, something.  My mind programmed to seek, to locate, to forage and find, and then test it for use before leaving behind.

After a while, I just stop.

Standing there, on the edge of the water, the rhythmic rock and ripple of salt sea lulls me to a state I have not visited for oh so long a time.  The tension seeps from my bones, my frame relaxes, my vision refocuses, my mind retracts.

Upon that shore, where the sand meets the sea, the waves kiss my fevered thoughts better.  Lapping at the land, these waves of kindness wash my worries away, carrying them out to sea, where the riptide takes hold and pulls them beneath the surface.  The wounds are sluiced clean, and healing can begin.

The kindness I could not give myself, nature gave to me.


18 Responses to “Waves of Kindness”
  1. You have woven a beautiful tapestry of imagery, Amy. Being a weaver, your words resounded with me. I’m glad you found a calm place.

  2. Nature will do it everytime. Glad you took the refuge. We’ve built so that nature is covered up & inaccessible in many cases. It can take some effort, but is extremely worthwhile to find even little pockets of nature to visit routinely and stay in balance, instead of an all or nothing situation.

  3. You’ve done such a good job explaining just why I decided to never pursue my PhD! ;) Definitely NOT something on my Someday list, but so glad that you took the time and had the perseverance to see it through! Woo hoo!

  4. Lovely words Amy and a beautiful photo too!

    Isn’t it amazing the power that the ocean has over us, it’s power and rhythmic repetition always seem to just make everything feel right again.

  5. Chris Owen says:

    OMG Amy
    I think I’m going to have to give up writing!
    This is a breathtakingly beautiful piece of prose and I feel in total awe of you!
    Note to Karen, Will have to withdraw from regular writing cos I can’t write like @amypalko!
    Welcome welcome welcome Amy and thanks for brightening my day

  6. karen says:

    Amy, WELCOME!

    I am thrilled you are sharing your words as well as the beauty of your photography with us here. Your particular view of the world, whist from the other side of the globe, resonates so strongly with me. I do hope our readers agree.

    I love to be at the beach too – there is something so soothing, mesmerising and cleansing about waves on the shores, isn’t there?

    Thank you This Eclectic Life, Pamir, Thorne, Alex, Jonathan and Chris – for visiting and for making this debut so very special!

    PS Chris – absolutely Not. No Way. Uh Uh.

  7. Joanna Young says:

    Amy my friend, I am so glad you allowed the softness of the universal spirit to wash over you, and to feel the strength of her underneath your feet.

    I know times have been and still are tough, but over time… all will be well.

  8. Ulla Hennig says:

    beautiful photo and beautiful writing! I had a similar experience in the first year after my husband’s unexpected death, when I went to Denmark with a close friend of mine, and we walked the beach together. It had a wonderful soothing effect to hear the waves rolling in and to smell the salty air. Thanks for sharing!

  9. sue jeffels says:

    I can really empathise on this Amy although I completed my PhD seven years ago, I can still remember the aftermath, and even now I have a tendency to forage and over analyse things.

    Congratulations on getting to the end


  10. amypalko says:

    Wow, what fabulous comments and what a wonderful welcome to writing for The Calm Space. Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts on the piece and on the post-phd experience. It’s so comforting to know that so many others feel that same sense of serenity when encountering the calming ebb and flow at the water’s edge.

    I’m aware, too, that the sea can also energise and give dynamism to one’s outlook, and find it fascinating that the seascape reflects our own projections upon it, and that, in turn, we gain something from it that we’ve been missing. Something that nourishes the soul and enlivens the body. Truly awe-inspiring.

  11. George Hall says:

    Lovely sentiments to lock away and use at a later stage…I have had similar experiences on the edge of Oceans, which I have returned to in my mind again and again when stress or mental injury have kept me awake.

    Your evocative images really do relax the soul…

    Thx Amy.

  12. Karen Swim says:

    Amy, I sit here gobsmacked by your words. I am so moved by the power of the piece I am finding it difficult to offer an intelligent response. As such, allow me to simply say this really touched me.

  13. Bo says:

    There is nothing I love better, when I am at the shore, than standing at the edge, feeling the water slip over my feet and then slide away, all the while breathing in the fresh air.

    Sometimes living land-locked can be difficult. I would love to capture that experience frequently, not every year or so. But it always does refresh me when I am there upon the shore!

  14. janice says:

    Thank you for leading me to this lovely space, Amy. I ache for the sea, for the healing it brings me. I felt we were two silent friends, foraging along the same stretch of sand, finding the same solace. Thank you.