• Gordon MacLellan

The Ninth Wave

look to the sea beyond the land, Marwick Head, Orkney

The Ninth Wave

the call of the sea

World Oceans Day, Monday 8th June

Monday 8th June is World Oceans Day. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, can we spare some time to think of the sea and how we might help, stepping beyond our own troubles and seeing that bigger picture. The sea calls us to that wider sense of being while the hatchling turtle struggling across the beach or the dolphin tangled in abandoned nets bring us the personal stories.

On World Oceans Day, people around our blue planet celebrate and honor the ocean, which connects us all.

For 2020 World Oceans Day is growing the global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30x30. By safeguarding at least 30% of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!

World Ocean Day website 2020

Lightwood Stream, Buxton

At the end of our last blog we were standing (metaphorically) looking at some carved rocks and thinking about holy wells and in an earlier post, we had walked by the River Tyne

Now, let us follow the river down to the sea. With our ongoing sense of reflection, if you can walk by the sea (you lucky things!) or even stand by a river or a pool, just pause:

Between eddy and drop,

Between ripple and pool,

Between splashing and crashing,

Between rolling rocks, and trailing weeds.

And the deep cold pool below the falls,

You just might detect

The long endless sigh, as

The ocean calls to the stream.

Vimba, Sue Eversfield

It might be a sound,

Or a smell, or a tug

On fingers trailed in a mountain pool.

Perhaps the call is the faintest taste of distant salt

Or an inbuilt memory of a place you’ve never been.

But with tail flicker, eel pour and fin flare,

With water spray and rapid and flow,

They answer and

The deep sings the children

Of the mountain shallows

To the open sea.

Sea Trout, Sue Eversfield

Monday is World Oceans Day and while in the UK, at other times, we would have planned events, this year that is obviously difficult. You can still be involved.

Visit the WOD website for ideas and routes to action – even distanced as we are, we still have voices and fingertips for keyboards or for pens. We can still speak and ask and lobby. We can still create and display and encourage people to think…..

Birsay, Orkney

And as the salmon, and the eels, and the sea trout follow the river down to the sea,

you might turn to the saints of the sea

  • St Brendan who sailed out from Ireland on Imrama (magical journey) past fabulous islands searching for Paradise

  • St Andrew who became a fisher of men

  • St Clements who was honoured by Vikings.

  • Or you may turn to the Caribbean’s Agwe and La Sirene, or to Mami Wata who is revered on both sides of the Atlantic

  • Or you might share the stories of Odysseus and Mael Duin. Or Arthur: “three times the fulness of Prydwen they went into it, and, except seven, none returned from Caer Rigor”* . There may be islands of strange and wonderful and horrifying and fabulous moments. There may be Norse Aegir and Ran waking storms and netting hopes or the memory of the enchanted Children of Lyr like a fading mist over the Irish Sea.

The sea offers transformation. No journey across the waves leaves the traveller unchanged, and no matter how well intentioned or how well resourced, in the past, to journey onto the waves was to cast yourself into the unknown, to put yourself in the hands of whatever deity you hoped (or dreaded) might be watching.

3 trout, Sue Eversfield

For most of us, our journeys may be less perilous these days but the sea still fascinates us, still calls us. If you can, you may simply stop by the sea and think. Think of all the saints or spirits and let them go, wash your own thoughts clear with the waves or with the ripples of an inland stream and simply let the peace of the water sing to you

You, who dwell on the heights,

Grant us thy gracious blessing,

Carry us over the surface of the sea,

Carry us safely to a haven of peace,

Bless our boatmen and our boat,

Bless our anchors and our oars,

East stay and halyard and traveller,

Our mainsails to our tall masts

Keep, O King of the Elements, in their place

That we may return home in peace.

The Ocean Blessing, Carmina Gadelica, vol 1

Part of a much longer prayer

In Celtic mythology, the ninth wave is the boundary between the safe inshore waters of the land and the open ocean. By the Ninth Wave you are on the open ocean. By the Ninth Wave you are in the realm of Mannanan mac Llyr and his white horses may race you across the seal-grey, whale-blue sea while all the depth of the water is a silence beneath you

Even sitting here, reading these words on a screen you could think yourself out, over, past, through 8 waves, 8 thoughts, 8 saints, 8 spirits, 8 breaths,

and at the ninth you could stop and appreciate the sea.

* From the medieval poem, The Spoils of Annwn

TheOcean Blessing: easiest source of the full prayer (and many others) is Carmina Gadelica, Alexander Carmichael, Floris Books paperback, 1992 (entry 118, page 120)



  • The paintings are all c. Sue Eversfield whose work can be seen at The Green Man Gallery, Buxton

  • All photos: c. Gordon MacLellan

western seas at evening, Clachan Sands, North Uist

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