Ocean Conversation with



Living room, C.’s apartment. Warm, welcoming atmosphere. Green is the prevailing color of the room where we sit around a round wooden table. A milky foil covers the windows; opposing house cannot be seen. A soft light fills the room and creates a certain calm.

M.M. What’s your relation(ship) to the ocean? How have you encountered it or experienced it so far?

C.G. I grew up in the forest, my natural horizon was green, not blue.

The Belgian seaside is covered in cement. As a child I remember the boardwalk in Koksijde and how I spent → a lot of time looking at the ocean. I remember swimming with my grandmother in the sea; she would play with me in the cold waves for hours.

The color of the water is green grey because of the algae. It’s very clean nonetheless. It’s cold. There are tides.

Then later, when I was living in Manhattan → I always felt it had a particular energy because it is an island. As if the place was energized by the omnipresence of water.

→ I used to go to Fire Island → on Long Island, which is a queer place, a mythical place. It’s been a gay beach since at least the 1940s. There’s a poem about it written by Frank O’Hara (“A True Account of Talking to the Sun on Fire Island”). I loved going there, the kindness of the environment, the body-positive attitude of the people. There is a deep sense of acceptance in this community which I think also comes from the ocean itself. Fire island is quite wild + sometimes you
can see deer on the beach.
It’s about 3 hours by public transportation from NYC. You get the ticket directly from Penn Station which includes the train, taxi and ferry rides.

I first experienced the Pacific in California, in San Francisco and in Big Sur.
It feels infinite.

I was there visiting the Esalen Institute, a New Agey place built right on the cliffs of the ocean. Esalen was founded in the 1960s, inspired by the work of Abraham Maslow and others, as an experiment with spirituality + psychology. I think the 5Rhythms technique was invented there.
The place has an incredible appeal. It just feels right. And although it has turned into a business, this feeling cannot be reduced to the people that make money from it.

M.M. Is there an element of the ocean that you find particularly relevant or towards which you have a particular affinity?

C.G. Its immensity + its calm, the calm (of surface). At least that’s how it seems to me, always, when I encounter the ocean: it is calm. It is infinitely accepting. Not acceptance in its anthropomorphic sense but literally. Not a form of kindness, but the absorption of everything that comes in contact with it.

It will outlast us. It will rise just a bit and then it will take over the world again. And if it doesn’t wipe out human societies, it will transform them in such a profound way that they will be nothing like what they are now.