Waves and Paths
Edited by Andrei Andronic
What Nature and Water Can Teach Us in a Post-COVID-19 Era
It was a bright spring day in a post-Covid-19 Budapest. I was heading for grocery shopping and as I was walking, I unexpectedly smelled the salty scent of the sea. I stopped to take a moment and found myself struggling to keep myself from crying in public. My eyes were covered in tears. I had just discovered that my soul is tired after these three long years of deprivation. Just as there is food for the body, there is food for the soul as well, and that food for me is nature, crowned by the seawater and specifically in my case the Mediterranean Sea which was the mighty backdrop of so many summers of mine.
The Coronavirus crisis, which has stripped so many of us from these blissful seaside summer pleasures was not the only thing that exhausted me but also the study pressures and endless deadlines spanning these three years that I spent as a student. Without these blissful moments to reinvigorate me, this sense of exhaustion simply grew too powerful.
Until 2020, it had been a family tradition to go to a seaside resort every summer. We would usually drive to the coastal city of Latakia in Syria, my homeland. And as my parents are both university professors, they would complete their duties around the time when me and my siblings would finish doing any assignments or exams we had at school or college. As such, any sensory experience related to the sea would remind me of these relaxing days and peaceful times when we would enjoy those family gatherings, swim all together, and engage in many seaside activities. With the passing of years, the sea and the sound of its waves, its salty fresh scent, and its vivid greenish-blue colours have become associated, for me, with life after hard work, with the reward that you get for being a diligent student, with cosy family atmosphere, and with the cleansing of mind, body and soul. Seawater - as a concept and as a deeply personal experience - became intertwined with the quality time I spend with my family members and relatives at the seaside. Together they would easily pave the way for me to begin a new life chapter with fresh energy and strong determination. In fact, one hour of swimming for me would be all it took to make me feel new and able to do anything in the future. Indeed, it is only right that after all these days of contributing to the community and working hard that we dedicate some time for ourselves and our loved ones. Just as we give, we need to take.
As the sea's scent crept up on me that day, the suppressed feelings of my spiritual need to immerse myself in the beauty of the sea once again as I used to do every year came rushing back. I started to replay some precious memories of me, my parents and siblings, and my uncle’s family enjoying grilled seafood and ice cream together and playing water sports among many other things. At that moment I felt an urge to call my father and ask: “when are you going to drive us back to Latakia?” But because I already knew what his answer would be, I did not bother to do it. Despite the COVID restrictions being lifted, the Pandemic has left lasting damage to the Syrian economy. Now, those seaside holidays we were once used to are nothing but an unaffordable luxury.
So the only thing that I was able to do at the time to console myself was to follow that pleasant, fresh scent of water. And yet, with the pressure of a looming deadline, I had to promise myself to leave this for another time. By the time that opportunity came, I was already burned out and felt spiritually and emotionally suffocated. But when I finally arrived at the place where the scent was coming from, I temporarily forgot all my life’s burdens and concerns. It was a fairly big fountain in a large pond where ducks were happily quacking as they were eating crusts of bread thrown by a man feeding them and surrounded by green fields and trees. Although it was a mere drop compared to the sea, the deep pond and the cascading fountain were sufficient to make me feel as if I were being wrapped in that same embrace of the sea. It was like an act of consolation on the part of nature, as if it was whispering in my ears, “it’s alright”. It made me realise how wrong we are when we think that only humans can understand humans. It made me realise that we do not have to feel lonely even in the slightest bit, as there is a whole world out there that is much larger than us, one that is ready not only to listen to us and contain us, but also to communicate with us and give us all the love and comfort we need. Indeed, nature too is a living being with its own world and stories. It can teach us patience with the consolation and reassurance that it provides. And it can make us become wiser and more content as we gain deep insights into life with the positive feelings that it gives us. Indeed, life can be so easy when we remember that nature, omnipresent, is always on our side with all its elements including water that makes up all life and of which every living being is made.