The Ebb and Flow of a Sea Witch: Swim22 Challenge: INTRO

Someone many years ago, who expressed themselves by tongue of wisdom and fire, told me that if a person afflicted by illness and dark demeanor wished to release themselves from these maladies, they could do no better than immerse themselves beneath the Ocean waves. Submersion just as the dawn Sun peaked, or set, over the distant horizon was best, and one must remain beneath the cold dark waters for the passing of nine waves to be cured.

Healing waters from the nine, be it wave, spring, stream or Holy Well, permeates the ancient and enduring folklore of the British Isles, and many have gathered at sacred date and liminal time to draw healing power and sustenance from the waters of the living landscape.

And so I found myself, standing upon that desolate shore with the raging ocean stretching out in front of me, as far as my eye could see. Even now, I clearly remember just how it felt for the insistent wind to whip and pull my hair into a tangled mess, and how the salt air made my eyes sting as I gazed out onto the horizon, lost in deep emotion and memory. Strong reason and purpose had paved my way to this place, a moment that had been calling me for years and demanded careful planning over many thoughtful months. I had taken a preliminary glance around the coastline to make sure that I was alone and would not be disturbed by others, knowing full well that the hour and location should dissuade the casual visitor. If anyone was to be present, then undoubtedly my best laid plans would surely fail.

From a moderately warm evening, the temperature plummeted as I neared the rocky shoreline and goosebumps arose upon my cooling skin. First went the sandals, kicked off into the darkness, and then my dress slipped away, falling onto the wet sands. A spontaneous string of obscenities escaped my lips, enough to startle the Saints, as I stepped into the chilling water. Taking a few gasping moments to acclimatize, I stepped further into the frigid water, waves now falling hard against my legs, threatening to take them from beneath me well before my body would become accustomed to the shock of my new environment.

Violent shivering joined third degree goosebumps, which now covered my quivering frame from head to toe, as I waded forward and away from the shore, deeper still into cooler and stronger currents. Now the waves lapped against my stomach and breasts, splashing against my neck and face. Numbness dictated my next move and taking the deepest breath, I plunged myself beneath the dark waves.

Turbulent black waters enfolded me, embraced me, as I dove deeper into the gloom. My family often remarked that as a child, I swam as well as my Grandfather, who was renowned for his sea legs and his capacity to avoid drowning in difficult waters. Not often does one get the opportunity to challenge the boastings of our proud parents, so in this moment I was handing all over to the Fates and my genetic blood ties; an appointment with my Ancestors in fact.

Holding myself below the waves until the ninth had washed over me, I violently broke the surface of the water with a sharp breath, desperately filling my lungs, and uttering a deep sigh of relief and elation.

I swam further out into the frothy waves and after a while, whilst treading water, I let forth a wail. A wail that became a mournfully low sound of utter sorrow and sadness; the shattering tone of age-old guilt, and painful experience, escaping my mortal frame through my salt ravaged lips. To this day I really don’t know where that note came from; its resonance seems never-ending and still reverberates deeply. It was if the sound was torn out of me and cast across the Sea, rising in pitch and fed by a deep seated pain and burning anger, not mine, but something we all partake of as we cross these thresholds.

Not my voice and no longer my own emotion, more than I could possibly bear or contain, followed then by the crushing silence of the Bitter Sea. My whole world, all that I am, fell into utter silence. All ceased and my awareness, like the eternal flow of the tide, began to slowly draw back. The tears flowed freely then, as the waves lulled me. I can remember how that silence broke, suddenly, and then the roar of the ocean came crashing back. The message had been taken upon and beneath the waves. My call was surely heard.”

Photography “Tween Time”: Sarah-Jayne Farrer

I’ve always had an affinity with Water, I am at my most alive when engulfed, in all its forms and manifestations – As I stated in I Am Haunted By Waters – Tremoribus Subterraneis ( “I am haunted by waters. I never seem to be truly at ease with the world unless there is a body of water within my vicinity. Maybe there is too much earth in me and I crave the wetness. Perhaps my love of swimming is borne of my desire to retreat or to be immersed. Sailing into the dark. ”

It seems appropriate to restart this blog in order to give myself an extra challenge to add to the one starting in a few days. On the 22nd March I will kick off my Swim22 Challenge to raise money for Diabetes UK. Swim 22 miles in 12 weeks! This is my third year swimming this challenge, as many of my friends and family are effected by this disease. During every swim I hold each an every one of them in mind as I plough though the distance. However, this year is slightly different. A family friend passed away in January. He had struggled with Type 1 all his life. So I will be dedicating my swim this year to the memory of the inimitable Pat Burns! 

You can support me here: Support Sarah-Jayne in the Diabetes UK Swim22 2023

I not only see this as a challenge to raise some money for a very important cause, but to also get my health back on track. Another huge part of that is creativity. So once a week over these next 12 weeks I will be posting a piece relating to watery lore – be it of river, sea or pool – accompanied by a new art piece (with the below that will be 13 in total). To tell of wandering aimlessly along beaches, weaving force and form whilst singing old songs, and dancing wildly with raging flame and flickering firelight upon the midnight shores. Of being lost in thought and deliciously entranced by the lapping of tide on shoreline, eyes fixed upon the shadow line where they entwine as one. That space where those things are no longer truly visible as separate states, but suspended and conjoined by the dark mist in-between, the place of dark dreaming, far memory and deepest vision of our future past and temporal becoming. The places of lost lore – There is a dizzying amount of water-based lore and to cover it all in a these next 12 weeks would be a Fool’s errand, so I will give glimpses and impressions of this volume filling subject.

But why do I swim? When I am embraced by water I’m elementally myself, floating free of any worries, self consciousness or physical discomfort. The restless shudderings of wave or pool, lessen mine, lending me a sense of tranquility I rarely find in other places – also grace. I love the resistance of the water. I love feeling my body gliding. Swimming allows me to step outside of chaos and lose myself. It is meditation, a spiritual exercise. Peace, inspiration and lessons are found.

When carving through open waters, whether rough or calm, it brings with it infinite variety “you don’t step in the same river twice”. Each tide has its own personality, its own teachings, challenges or gifts. Between sky and sea, becoming one with my primal surroundings, I am trance-like in salty shimmering solitude.

Swimming is freedom.

Like creativity.

Number 1 – “Quelling Chaos” – Alcohol Inks and Sea Salt on Yupo: Sarah-Jayne Farrer

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