Pilgrimage and Place: The Ocean
Places can hold medicine for us. They can sooth something inside us we didn’t even know needed soothing until we’ve arrived. We feel ourselves exhale or come to life again. We take in the smells, sights and sounds. We come to our senses. ~ Erica Wheeler
For me, the Ocean holds such healing magic. I am especially attached to our New England shoreline where you can find both sand and rocks and Rugosa Rose.
For years, while my mother was alive, she and I would go on what she called our “run-away playdates.” We were escaping the people we lived with so we could breathe deeply the fresh wild sea air and eat lobsters and steamers like feasting harpies; cackling ravenously at the sunset as we drank and divulged secrets in the gloaming.
I still go on my pilgrimages to the Sea. I recognize I need the Ocean. I feel the pull of the tide and I am beckoned to make the journey to touch and commune with the Sea. I find listening to the waves soothing and swimming among them enlivening. I sing to the Water Goddesses Yemaya and Oshun, connecting with the healing powers of the Waters and I feel welcomed and held. I lift the saltwater with my arms, throwing it heavenward to catch the sparkling sunlight in each drop, which then rains down upon me, surrounding me with liquid diamonds.
And I sing,
“You are a circle. You are healing me.
I am a circle. I am healing you.
Unite us. Be as one.”
And I mean it. I feel the Ocean saturating my skin and filling me with vitality. In my blessings, I pray I offer a happy exchange. To honor the Ocean I pick up trash in the sand as my small contribution to the Ocean’s health.
These last two years I have added gathering Rugosa Rose petals to my purpose of the pilgrimage. Similar to my ancestors, Rugosa Rose also came from away to make New England their home. Rugosa Rose, also called Beach Rose, clings to the sandy soil, creating stability and protection for the sand dunes. This specie has learned how to make New England their home by fitting into the landscape and filling community needs by providing food and stability. Some humans consider Rugosa Rose invasive and yet we plant and transplant this being because of all the ways we appreciate them – as food, as beauty, as medicine, as protection. When do we finally get to feel naturalized in a place? My ancestors who made the journey to North America came from England and Poland. Rugosa Rose came from east Asia. But we are here now, making New England our home. Doing our best to fit in and make ourselves useful.
Even though there is of course Rugosa Rose here in Western MA and I could harvest locally, making the pilgrimage to the coast adds meaning for me. I am collecting rose petals infused with the power and breath of the ocean for mead, elixir, salve, honey, and tea. As I eat and drink and apply these rose potions, I feel the generative healing, bliss-inducing powers of both rose and sea. And I feel sated… until I feel the pull to make the journey again. And then I must heed the call and pilgrimage to the Ocean to once again commune and deepen my connection with the Sea.
This article was inspired by Erica Wheeler’s Sense of Place Consulting work. In her “Pilgrimage and Place” activity, she provides the following writing prompts:
- What specific qualities does that place hold for you?
- Why do you think you’re drawn to travel there?
- Does it have some quality of nourishment for you?
If this article inspires you to write about a place you pilgrimage to, I would love to hear where you go and why in the comments. To learn more about Erica’s work, visit her at https://senseofplaceconsulting.com/ You can also find her on Facebook. To learn more about Rugosa Rose, read my article on this beautiful, edible, healing plant.
Arianna Alexsandra Collins, naturalist, poet, writer, wild edible enthusiast, and Wiccan High Priestess lives in Ashfield, MA.
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