To the sea, in a tent. Camping. All summer long, so bring lots of books.
We wouldn’t be using transportation to explore the area. In fact, we would not be leaving the camp grounds, and will depend on what we bring and the bare necessities within the facility, she explained. The parents would be resting, talking. Sometimes fishing. There would be storytelling, campfires, but mostly lights out early every evening. When not playing, we, the kids, would be reading.
You can imagine my confusion. I love books, but why go all the way to the sea, five hours by train, for the whole summer …to read? But then she revealed the real reason for the trip: we spent too much time watching TV, talking on the phone, rushing to catch the bus, to pick up groceries on our way home. We lived in a world of sensory abundance and bonding poverty. This vacation would make up for that. We would be washing our clothes by hand, frying fish on those propane stoves, cooking on a grill. We would be limited to what we bring, and to a degree ration meals carefully to last all summer. And we would be reading.
Three weeks later, I found myself on the fly infested rocky beach along the Black Sea coast, in a place so quiet I could hear the earth’s pulse. The moaning of the sea. Sitting cross-legged in a tent no larger than a closet, I read every evening. I also met kids from Bulgaria, Germany, Poland. Told stories in quickly improvised sign language. Taught them Romanian words, and learned how to say sea, wind, books — among other things — in their languages. When nothing worked, we’d attempt to speak English. What started as sensory and stimulation withdrawal, slowly turned into a heightened awareness of the elements. Sounds the wind picked up from afar and brought to us, broken, but easily heard. Sounds from the Bulgarian sea cost, my friend said. We listened to the lapping of the waves, whispering its own language or that of so many creatures inhabiting the sea. Sat on the beach for hours, and in our silly minds tried to decide if that last whistling came from a dolphin or some other fish. We laughed so much.
We were hooked.
Since then, we’ve returned for more camping, but it was never like that summer. Never such dramatic change in our mood — from a crippling fear of boredom to hilarious fun and peace.
Over time, the sensory stimulation increased beyond what my mother feared would corrupt her kids all those years ago — gadgets upon gadgets, a maddening need to constantly be connected. And when it all gets to be too much, I go sit on the beach, even if only for a couple of hours. Sometimes with a book, other times just with my thoughts.
Ocean therapy, pure bliss. Have you tried it?