Friday, 2 February 2018

SHORE LINES – Dianne Hofmeyr

I envy writers who live next to the sea. Their blogs begin… I took the dog and we stomped across the sand, my head clear of laptop fog…

Laptop fog is what I suffer every day living in a city when in my heart I’m a nature girl. Give me that huge, truly blue moon that shone down on the sea on Wednesday night, give me the glitter on a calm day and the wind and the waves crashing in on a storm.

How do children who spend their lives growing up in cities experience nature when some never ever set foot on a beach? What books do we put into their hands? Remember those poems… the lines that come back in a burst the moment we walk out onto the sand... Tennyson’s Break Break Break, Masefield’s Sea Fever and Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Poems that last a lifetime.

There are stories from childhood that last a lifetime too. Stories like Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson, who grows up learning to swim, to catch fish, to fear the hunter and the flash of the metal trap and to fend for himself, travelling through rivers, woods, moors, ponds and out to sea. Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo is also a lifetime story about nawhals and Ted Hughes stories in How the Whale Became illustrated by Jackie Morris.

There are lifetime picture books about nature as well with illustrations that make you smell the salt in the air. The Sea Thing Child by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Patrick Benson. "The wind was howling, the sea was wild, and the night was black when the storm flung the sea-thing child up on the beach." And for younger readers, The House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. And the very moving Ben and the Whales by Ingrid Mennen, illustrated by Irene Berg that deals with a grandpa's death as well. And books by Nicola Davies like The Promise illustrated by Laura Carlin, not a book about the sea and sea creatures (though she has written many) but about an inner city girl who says "My heart was as shrivelled as the dead trees in the park."

For the moment, I’m not in a city in the northern hemisphere with a shrivelled heart, but next to the Indian Ocean not far from where the cold Benguella current surges up from the Antarctic ocean, to meet the warm Mozambique current. Morning walks are filled with the sound and smell of the ocean and things to marvel at. My head is clear of laptop fog.

Every now and again, I come across a young girl or boy huddled and writing with their backs to the sea. I now realise they aren't lovelorn youths or budding writers but Gap year students making notes on the nests and minuscule eggs of White-fronted plovers in the dunes, or counting pairs of African Black oystercatchers with their distinctive calls and their beady red eyes. What a great way to get in touch with nature.

Yesterday 1st Feb, was World Read Aloud Day. If you forgot to read aloud to a child yesterday, do so today and choose a story that opens up a world of nature to them. Who knows they might be a future a marine biologist. Without interested children this world doesn't stand a chance.

A cormorant waiting for the right moment

Seagulls feasting on heaps of white mussels washed up by a sudden cold tide. 
A jelly fish looking like something from an Edwardian banquet.
Twitter: @dihofmeyr
Instagram: @diannehofmeyr


Joan Lennon said...

Thanks for your words and photos, Dianne!

Sue Purkiss said...


Sue Bursztynski said...

I live not far from the sea, though my local beach is not as beautiful as the one in your photos. It’s a nice place to go for a dip along with families and kids with plastic buckets doing sandcastles, and when I was much younger, in primary school, yes, I did sit on the sand writing stories. We lived about two minutes walk away at the time and when the wind blew you could hear the waves, or band concerts. But not the sort of place to walk your dog(I don’t have one, or a cat) to get rid of laptop fog. No cliffs or sand dunes to give it drama. It’s around the corner from a shopping strip, sorry! (Although on Sundays there is a craft market and the shopping strip is full of cake shops and has one bookshop.)

Lynne Benton said...

Love this post, Dianne - especially the beautiful photo of the jellyfish!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Your beach sounds lovely Sue esp with the sounds of the sea & the band drifting up to your house. I think the sea sort of seeps into your bones when you live close by. And yes that jelly fish was just fortunate Lynne with that lovely light falling on it. Thanks all. I still cant say I'm working much... just answering annoying emails from my publisher! So much for the creative ambience!