(Lockdown ocean story number 2-the last days of January 2021)
Yesterday, there was a protest at the beach, a man started it by sitting in prayer, lotus –position on the sand, facing the waves. He had crossed the line. Nobody had been allowed on the beach for over a month at high season. This was Muizenberg, one of the most popular beaches in the country. Yet it had been empty, but for some police patrolling on quadbikes and horses, and a few happy seals, seagulls, jellyfish and the like. People had been allowed to watch from the pavement, longingly, wearing masks and trying to eat ice-creams in the heat of midsummer.
The police tried to remove the meditating man, a whole bunch of them surrounded him awkwardly and tried to pick him up, but a strong Muslim woman in long robes cried out:
“No don’t touch him! Don’t touch him! Leave him alone!” Over and over again.
Then the crowd, standing on the pavement, where they were allowed, broke the rules on mass. They all stepped onto the beach. They had their placards and boards, and they stepped on through.
We all came from different walks of life and held different belief systems, and it didn’t matter, the ocean united us. A group of police in riot gear lined up feebly, about 6 of them, I think on the endless stretch of white sand that runs all the way from Surfers Corner to the Strand. The crowd just walked past them, and into the sea, we had to be free. “This is unity!” Said a Twitter reporter called Bosbeer. “Standing as one!” he commented, as he filmed us with his phone on a selfie-stick.
It was an interesting crowd; there were the Muslim women from the Cape flats, a bunch of bikers on a mission, some spiritual women in white with long flowing hair -Sovereign souls wearing transparent masks.
A mother with her children- made a beautiful sandcastle, a couple of passing cyclists, stopped to take advantage of the opportunity to jump in the sea. There were also a fair amount of conspiracy theorists, some surfers united for the cause and all were photographed by the online press. The protest was not hugely attended, it just grew when it began and passers by joined in. It was a hot Saturday morning, so many had gravitated instinctively to towards the sea.
Stepping onto that beach we broke a spell and rushed like a human tide towards the sea began to wade in, breaking into the waves, we had longed for.
I had my costume on, under my dress. I walked straight through, and when I got deep enough, I handed my bag to a fellow free spirit, a woman I related to, although I didn’t know her, (she encouraged me and was happy to assist. So I was free to break through to the breakers, cheered on by the crowd whose delighted screams reached a crescendo along with my adrenalin. Next was a young strong man, smiling from ear to ear with joy. Like an animal freed from a cage.
Of course we remained socially distanced, all we wanted to do was dive beneath the cool waves. Clear our heads of the rhetoric. I kept my mask around my neck. It has ties, so stays on anyway, like a bib. I knew of a surfer who was arrested in Hermanus on the grounds that he was not wearing a mask, I kept it on. Kept it on for fear of being arrested, not of catching a virus in the sea. My heart was beating fast, I breathed deep and prayed to Mother- Ocean and the angels to protect us. I did not feel like being man-handled or thrown in a cell. We stayed in until the sea was full of swimmers, and the protest went on all day. More and more came to swim and play and pray.
“The ocean heals me,” a women said. “I need this,” wet in her dress. We all helped each other, holding car keys and bags for each other so that others could have a turn to feel the ocean through their hair. We made new friends and connections. There was a bonding between us. We were all in this together. The people standing up for a basic right to the commons. The ocean is the commons. It was a major violation to have it taken away.
It’s amazing how much we need this. It takes off layers of trauma. It brings back joy. The people need this, especially right now. There are so many traumas and so much loss. So much confusion. So much heartbreak, fear and frustration. People are going mad. I see them talking to themselves in the street. Mental health stats are booming along the well documented Corona Virus stats, and the sound of sirens, winding their way to the hospital. Each time I hear one I imagine the victim, gasping for air in the back. We all need air. We all need to breathe and feel calm again.
The ocean absorbs the stress and washes it away. Her ancient magnificence reminds us of God, omniscient. Her cold, wet saltiness, cleanses us of all the dusty magnetic radiation and mental chatter. It is scientifically proven that the rhythmic frequency of the waves, the constancy of their movement, the ancient vastness of the sea has a significant calming effect on the nervous system.
It clears the energy. I am finally able to breathe again. I am back. I can handle being here now, if I can swim in the sea. I can see an immediate difference in the faces of those who have been in and come out. They are back, more present, more alive, happier. It was remarkable to see this after the long ocean fast. My husband is a surfer, he lives for it. He had been climbing the walls, there are so many things to be anxious about at this time. He looked like a new man after the salt water immersion.
The police retreated. Even the quad bike was abandoned. I think the cops were embarrassed, after their humanity was appealed to. I saw people chatting to the cop on the quad bike. Later, I saw the quad abandoned on the sand. Maybe he gave up and went for an icecream. What an awful job, having to ride back and forth along the beautiful beach all day keeping people from having a happy day. What must it feel like being such a spoil sport.
Today there are surfers in the sea. We walk our dogs on the beach, peacefully. I swam again today. Nobody stopped me. Some street children ran in gleefully when they saw me. Runaway children from the nearby Cape flats. They live with unfathomable trauma every day. They need the ocean more than ever. Normally, there are numerous surfing programs for street kids in Muizenberg (Waves for Change, Surfpop and more.)
Underpriviliged children go there for food, art lessons and surfing sessions, learn new skills, become leaders and stay out of trouble. What has become of them since this lockdown? The knock on effects of closing the beaches has not only affected holiday makers. Even the car guards are delighted by the breakthrough, because the spell was broken yesterday, not officially, but I witnessed surfers enjoying their space to ride the white horses again. The spell was broken and the weather changed. It was like a dream.
The beach was clean. That is one silver lining. Over lockdown, no packets were dropped on the sand, no bottles, no glass, no dirty nappies. It was pristine. Let’s hope it will be respected now, and kept that way.
We are like the elephant tied by a tiny string to a rock. We believed we were under the control of the string, but all we have to do is pull our power back, and it will snap.
News update. Last night at 8pm, the president addressed the nation and said that as the new infection rate has decreased, they are opening up the beaches and bottle stores again.
Let’s hope the people respect their bodies and the ocean.
I keep the dreaded Coronavirus at bay by drinking a potent blood cleansing and liver cleansing herb called Artimisia afra commonly known as Wildeals, African Wormwood, Umhlonyane, Lengane and Zimbane, to name it in a few African languages. The meaning of the name in three of the African languages is Courage.
It has been used for centuries against viruses, bacteria and parasites and it has been working for me.
There have been scientific studies done, which show that it has potent antiviral properties and also that it contains phytochemicals that help prevent allergic reactions, asthma and cytokine storms. Read more about them here.
Each time I have felt the feeling of coming down with some kind of flu, I have sipped three to four cups of it in a day, and by evening the heavy feeling leaves me. I also use it to take steam and cleanse my sinuses, especially if there is concern of having been exposed to the virus.
Disclaimer: I am an observer and do not subscribe to the views expressed by some members of the protest action described in this blog. Masks and precautions should indeed be taken to prevent infection from a very real virus. However, common sense should be reclaimed along with common decency and common land and sea. Although I have seen the devastating and very real effects of the disease that has caused the lockdown. I do not believe there is no cure. There is a cure for everything and very often it is about finding balance again through the micro-biome.
Sand art made by local artist with a message to “Race together to fight spread of Corona by wearing your mask/ social distance by 1,5 meters and sanitize.” (Detail)