Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Aquatic Ape

I live two and a half miles away from one of the most rugged stretches of coastline in south-western England. Many a ship foundered on these jagged rocks in centuries gone by, and even now the lifeboat crews remain always at the ready. This picture gives an idea of how it looks at low tide.

To swim from our local beaches, you have to know the weather and the tides and where the sandy bits are likely to be (they shift, from season to season), and watch out for the rocks and the rips.

Although there are several sandy beaches further down the coast, the ones round here are made of pebbles – beautiful, grey pebbles with white markings, from pea-size to boulder-size and everything in between. So you move slowly, stepping carefully from one smooth pebble to the next and being careful not to turn an ankle on the wobbly ones.

It is not a comfortable world, this one; not the sort of place where you can stretch out in the sun or play frisbee or volleyball. But it is awesomely beautiful, and I love it.

I love, too, that I can walk from my home to the edge of the cliffs in forty-five minutes and that sometimes, when the wind blows from the west and the night is still, I can hear the sound of the waves in the distance and smell the sea.

Why is it, I wonder, that for some of us there is a deep need to be close to the ocean? Whenever I go too far inland to be able to walk to the water's edge, I start to feel claustrophobic. I remember how one year, when we lived in California, we drove north up the coast and then turned and began a journey that would take us all the way to the East coast. And as I took my last look at the Pacific Ocean I felt something akin to panic. A certain tension arose in my body that did not dissipate until at last I was able to run across the beach at Plum Island, in Massachusetts, and step into the frothing, salt water of the Atlantic.

The best explanation I can think of for my need to be close to the shore is what is known as ' the aquatic ape theory'. ( See which postulates that five million or so years ago, our ancestors lived in the shallows.

Maybe somewhere, deep down in my cellular memory, the aquatic ape is still alive and well. I like to think so, anyway.


Wren said...

Beautiful picture, and it sounds like quite a feat to swim there. Is the water cold like the Pacific?

I've always wondered if people who live near the ocean have a better sense of faithfulness than others, having been taught by the tides.

Elderwoman said...

Yes it's pretty cold. I'm not sure how the water temperature actually compares with the Pacific coast of California but it seems to me that -in the summer at least -the water here feels somewhat warmer. That could be because of the Gulf Stream. Or it could simply be that since the weather is cooler here than California there's less of a contrast. I have to admit that when it comes to enjoyable swimming, give me the Mediterranean any time!

Elderwoman said...

... oh and I liked your idea about faithfulness.

Anonymous said...

OH, what a great blog you have here! I found you via Ronni's blog and suggestion to go "visiting."
I'll be adding you to my favorite list on my blog.
I can SOOO relate to your entry here about being near water. I now am fortunate to live on an island off the west coast of Florida and each day I'm grateful to be here, soaking up all of Mother Nature. I've always thought my compelling need to be near water (I was raised on the east coast near Boston) is because I'm a Pisces....but I find that ape theory worth considering.
Best to you......

Elderwoman said...

Thanks, Terri. I must go check out 'Islandwriter'.
Yes, I'm a water sign too (Cancer the crab) and I've wondered if that has something to do with it.
How lovely to live on an island. Scary though, with polar icecaps melting so fast and sea levels inevitably rising as a consequence.

aquape said...

Hi all. Nice to see AAT discussed.
For recent views of AAT please see or google "aquarboreal"