Sea - What it’s all about
The facts behind the film
About half of the people we interviewed for ‘Our Blue Heart’ had a job which linked them to the coast and sea, ranging from commercial fishing to ship building, marine education, research, watersports, health and wellbeing practitioners. The remainder of our interviewees were people living near the coast including a publican, an artist, a barber, a parish priest, a local councillor, a psychologist and a singer/songwriter.
We discovered how people love the diversity of the coast and sea – where no two days are the same and where the landscape is interesting and full of wildlife. We were told about special places where people find space and beauty, places that enabled them to feel restored. There was a strong sense that people seek out places where they feel they belong, with a sense of cultural identity, and places where they can go to have fun.
People often use the word wellbeing to describe a personal sense of calm and contentment. While this is part of it, for this project we have used the word ‘wellbeing’ to include all aspects of what shapes our sense of the quality of our lives.
What came up most was that the coast and sea are a source of calm, relaxation and restoration, that there is a sense of connection to nature – this included a sensory connection with the environment.
Our interviewees told us that spending time by the coast and sea gives them a sense of autonomy and freedom – often associated with a sense of space.
For some, being face to face with the ocean is a religious experience. For others, it is a place of learning and discovery. Sometimes it is even a discovery of yourself – connecting with deeply held thoughts, values, feelings – and reconnecting with who you really are.
While those dependent on the coast and sea for a living naturally appreciated its contribution to their material wellbeing through livelihood, there was a more widespread reflection on the contribution that time by the coast and sea makes to physical and mental health and to feelings of happiness and positive mood.
An aspect of material wellbeing is safety - and there is an interesting paradox in this regard. The sense of risk and danger came up frequently – for some this was part of their job, for example, we interviewed a lifeboat woman. Other people see fear and risk to personal safety as an integral part of what draws them to the sea.
And then there is that fear of the unknown – that slight foreboding at the edges of consciousness – a darkness that some people try to forget or avoid. While fears for safety and security are, in theory, something that would decrease people’s sense of wellbeing, in the case of some of those we spoke to, it is not so black and white.
The most frequently discussed aspects of social or relational wellbeing at the coast and sea were people talking about the nature and value of their communities and the value of time spent by the coast and sea with family and friends. There was also a strong sense of the sea and coast being a route to connecting to culture whether in geological, historical or a ‘family history’ sense.
Many people expressed a strong sense of belonging and connection to the coast and sea – some to the extent of feeling they are essentially a part of their place.