The sea waits for us

By Andy Kenworthy

Andy Kenworthy invites you to reflect on how the past few weeks away from the sea have highlighted the importance of protecting it.

“The water sustains me without even trying.”
– Johnny Flynn

One way, or another, I am not usually away from the ocean for long. I’m lucky enough to live very close to a beach. I’m also lucky enough to work on the Sustainable Business Network’s efforts to restore the mauri, or living essence of Tikapa Moana, the Hauraki Gulf. So, if my body isn’t actually in the water, my thoughts are.

During the lockdown there has been a special magic to seeing the Hauraki Gulf shimmering unbroken by a single boat. It’s left me imagining the times before people came, with nature left unto itself. It has revealed a power I can’t explain, or put into words.

As summer has finally given way to autumn there has been a crystal clarity to the waters breaking on the beaches. There have been less fresh dumps of rubbish and plastic. Seeing this helped to lift my spirits through these trying times.

My head knows this: it was probably just the drought and a pause in the developments and traffic that bring the brown outs and litter choking the rivers and streams. There will be less toxic heavy metals too flowing in from the storm drains, our roads being quieter and less travelled.

But my heart glimpsed this: forgiveness and a beckoning. I wonder what life has unleashed in that eerie quiet. What may have had a chance to recover, how fast and how much? Is it possible for us to keep this peace?

Of course, the power of nature can terrify too, especially when disturbed. The virus reminds us. I know that the same empty waters have been a source of loss and frustration for many. Fishers unable to fish, ferries idle, even cargo cut down. In its own small way, being unable to swim was my little loss of sanity. One less respite from the headlock of lockdown.

But, how better to remind ourselves of our connection to the ocean than to have it out of our reach for a while? For me it felt as dislocating as our social distancing. Did it for you? Do you think we understood before that Tikapa Moana was so much a part of our social circle, our community, and our family?

We are returning to Tikapa Moana now, like the hungry to a meal. She opens her arms, without pause or restraint. Can we pause and restrain ourselves? Can we, at least for a while, remember how much we need the life that is there. Will we remember how much it needs us?

Normality will be different. It could be better. Tikapa Moana leaves that for us to decide.

We would love to hear from you about your connection with the water. Send your thoughts, videos or pictures to andy@sustainable.org.nz. We will attempt to feature some of them in upcoming newsletters. It’s time to Speak Up for the Gulf!

SBN’s work on the Gulf has received funding from Gulf Innovation Fund Together (G.I.F.T) – a Foundation North initiative. If you would like to know more about SBN’s work for the Gulf go to: sustainable.org.nz/gulfx/