With the impending release of My Grandma is Like the Sea, I have been reflecting upon the gift of human connection. According to Dr. Clay Routledge, an expert in the psychology of nostalgia, most nostalgic memories are social ones involving intimate relationships. In fact, the powerful emotion of nostalgia has been shown to have positive effects, such as lowered anxiety. Professor Constantine Sedikides considers Odysseus to be one of the first recognised nostalgists, who drew upon fond memories of his loved ones and home to rise above challenging times. In honour of nostalgia, below is a fond memory that I scribbled down in my journal during Covid-19.
Journal Entry during Covid-19
I spent many childhood summers swimming from the port of Mali Ston, Croatia to the opposite side on the horizon where a small stone house with naked walls rested on its own. Not a single soul was ever in sight. Surrounding the house were protruding shrubs and trees, and clouded soil. I would refer to it as the ‘sorrowful surrounds.’
My ekipa (group of friends) and I would challenge each other to swim half a kilometre to the house to bring life back to the surrounds. The entire swim was spent telling stories, laughing and pretending we were some sort of adventurous sea creature. We would find ourselves out of breath often, like a fish out of water… but turning back was never an option. Although, sometimes we would sneakily latch onto the sturdy mussel and oyster beds for a breather.
Time after time, upon closely approaching the house, the warm solace of our hands would always connect. For we were aware of the restrictions placed on us of not stepping onto the nearby soil. Landmines were said to be scattered around and so all we could do was find comfort in a mild embrace. With the hope that it was enough to bring život (life) back to the place.
Thankfully, we always put more emphasis on the journey not the destination. And so the 500m swim quickly turned to a 1km swim as we turned back home – gathering every ounce of courage like wildflowers. But deep down, I always had my heart set on arriving to a nearby island called Otok Života – known as the Island of Life. I had always dreamt of swimming all the way there. A place of peace and solace.
Although we never swam all the way to the Island of Life together, we did manage several trips on the barka (fishing boat). It was just what I had imagined – vibrant and harmonious, its beauty ubiquitous. The sky was painted lavender and the warm glow of hearts meant there was no need for lamp lit lights. The people were so welcoming and kind, and made anyone who stepped foot on the island feel like home.
Sometimes the presence of people – face to face – can set the world on fire on a cold summer’s night. If you are lacking that presence now during a time of restricted interactions, may this remind you of the power of people and real connection. Even if your journey may be challenging, hopefully you can reach your destination somewhat similar to the peaceful island of Otok Života (Island of Life). And have trust in each moment whilst on your journey.
Check out My Grandma is Like the Sea children’s picture book, here. A story of exploration, love and connection.
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