The Song of the Sea and the Longing that it Brings

Why are all drawn to the ocean? It is by by the ocean that most men make their dwelling. For the ocean sings a song, whispering a message lost long ago from the ancient of days. . . a message we know innately as children but is lost as we grow older. . . a message that can only be translated by the soul. Few are able to translate this message and hear the song it sings.

In making our home by the sea, we have brought with us our distractions, our amusements, and our entertainment. We have forgotten how to listen to the whispers of the soul, the whispers that tell us of the things that really matter. . . the things that give us meaning. . . those things that point us to Him, to the One we were made for. Are there any who remember? Are there any who can hear?

There are still those of us who can hear the song and there are few who could hear, if they would simply turn and look to the light. What does the ocean have to say to those who are willing to listen? The ocean has many things to say to those who love it, among whom I count myself. Why do I love the ocean you may ask? What songs have I heard it sing? Listen close and I will tell of the longing that the ocean brings.

It is always darkest just before the dawn. But, it is through darkness that one may come to the light (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fall of Gondolin). Awaiting the morning light, I traverse the endless miles of sand. Combined with the long stretch of coast and the darkness that covers the face of the deep, that vast desert of water we call the sea, the long trail of footprints behind me remind me of the endless journey we are all on, our search for meaning.

The cold sand bites my feet as if to tell me to stop and listen, for like me the sand is waiting, but for what I do not know yet. . . so I keep walking and searching until my soul can find rest, the end of my search. The faint call of a sea gull breaks me out of my trance, directing my attention to the endless expanse of sky and sea. Suddenly, a faint glow breaks across the horizon and a stillness fills the air. As the glow changes from a dull grey to a faint pink the stillness grows louder. The stillness becomes a quiet that speaks. Even the waves, which are normally crashing to and fro, boasting of all their might bow in reverence for what is to come. The choppy water that normally characterizes the ocean settles into a calm sheet of glass, turning it into a mirror that reflects the expanse of space and sky above.

Together, the cold sand, the birds of the air, and the waves of the sea sing as one symphony, “Hush! Lean in and listen, for the sea calls us. . .” As the faint pink of the horizon changes to a burnt orange, a song starts to hum in my heart. The warmer the colors of the sky become, the louder the song in my heart sings. As the song grows louder, the warmth spreads to my finger tips and toes. I soon begin to realize that something magnificent is about to transpire. Together with the sand, the birds, and the waves I lean in on the edge of my seat. 

Like the roll of the timpani drums in an orchestra, my soul and all of creation await the release of tension with the clang of the cymbals. My heart rate increases, my breathing deepens, and my eyes grow wider as the light on the horizon brightens. Finally, the clang of the cymbals arrives as the now bright orange of the sky bursts forth like fire across the horizon. Light pierces through the darkness. 

As the sun breaks the horizon, bright oranges and pinks turn into brilliant yellows. Then, like an arrow shot from the hands of a bowman who has perfected his craft, a beam of light shoots across the face of the deep, piercing my heart right in the center, driving its arrow head into the deepest parts of my soul. Yet, unlike most arrows that bring death, this arrow brings life. It is an arrow that I never want to remove, an arrow that I want to bleed me out until nothing but the warmth of the light remains.

As the arrow sinks deeper and deeper, my soul is no longer whispering a song, but singing with all its might in a loud voice. Then, the eyes of my heart are opened for a brief moment. Beyond the veil of the sun, I catch a glimpse of a city shining in the distance. For a split second, the light of the sun transforms into the purest, white light I have ever witnessed. The sand on the coast becomes white shores and all turns to silver glass (Tolkien, The Return of the King), making the sparkling light on the water appear as a sea of diamonds. 

As my eyes return to normal, I see the beam of the sun’s light across the water as a bridge, inviting me to run across it to the land beyond the sun. My soul sings, “This is home. . . this is the narrow way. . . walk in it.” Tears flood my eyes while an inexpressible joy floods my heart and mind. I have never felt so full. Like the cold sand before the dawn, I realize this is what I was waiting on, a warmth and a light to fill me, to give me something greater than I to reflect. The sand beneath my feet is now warm with the light of the sun, nodding in agreement. Together, the sand, the birds, the waves, and I say to my soul, “The sea calls us. . .”

For a brief moment, my attention turns back to the land and a slight sadness returns to me. I am reminded I must tarry on on in these shadow lands a little longer. Although I yearn to run home across the bridge of light, I know it is not time yet. For in the shadow lands remain countless souls trapped in an endless search for meaning, just as I once was. Do I abandon them in their darkest hour of need? I cannot, for there are more yet who must hear the song, who must see the light pierce the darkness. Can I save them all? Certainly not, but until the Time, I must do what I can with the time I have been given.

With one last look, I behold the ocean and listen to the song that it sings. With one step forward, I march back towards the shadow lands with courage in my heart because I now carry within me a piece of the light I have seen. From my lips spring a song that it sings. This song is eternity’s song, a song that has been placed in the heart of every man and woman, a song that few will listen to.

For now, I press on with hope in the shadow lands, treasuring in my heart this precious moment by the sea, a down payment of what is to come. I smile, knowing that in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow (Tolkien, The Return of the King). Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer (Tolkien, The Two Towers). Until that new day, I must carry on until I bring home everyone I was meant to.

As the ocean horizon shrinks in the distance, I hold on to its memory, singing eternity’s song. I must never forget this song. There are people I need to meet to bring to the sea, so like me they can stand upon the shore with outstretched arms as a great yearning fills our hearts. For none, save those who have heard eternity’s song and stood by the sea have ever felt more deeply the longing that it brings (Tolkien, The Fall of Gondolin). 

One day, that longing will be fulfilled. One day, I will run across that bridge to my home, to the One my soul longs for. From time to time, I will return to the sea to sing with the sand, the birds, and the waves, “The sea calls us. . .” Together, we will sing eternity’s song, a song of the down-payments of what is to come. For the sea calls us. . . the sea calls us home.

This is a photo of me by the ocean in Garden City, SC. I remember this moment clearly. It is a moment I hold dear to my heart. Moments like these, as well as many of Tolkien’s writings inspired this poem.

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