Saturday, December 29, 2018


Origin and meaning of salt (n.)

Old English sealt "salt" (n.; also as an adjective, "salty, briny"), from Proto-Germanic saltom (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Gothic salt, Dutch zout German Salz), from PIE root sal-"salt."

Modern chemistry sense is from 1790. Meaning "experienced sailor" is first attested 1840, in reference to the salinity of the sea. Salt was long regarded as having power to repel spiritual and magical evil. Many metaphoric uses reflect that this was once a rare and important resource, such as "salt of the earth" (Old English, after Matthew v.13). Belief that spilling salt brings bad luck is attested from 16c. To be "above the salt" (1590s) refers to customs of seating at a long table according to rank or honour, and placing a large salt-cellar in the middle of the dining table.

The Dead Sea – bordering Israel, the West Bank and Jordan – is a salt lake whose banks are more than 400m below sea level, the lowest point on dry land. Its famously hypersaline water makes floating easy, and its mineral-rich black mud is used for therapeutic and cosmetic treatments at area resorts. The surrounding desert offers many oases and historic sites.


With New Year's Eve only a matter of days away the activity about the pool today was bustling. The prospect of less disturbance drew me to the beach. Most of the chaises longues were already occupied when we arrived there at one o'clock after my constitutional bicycle ride. We did however secure for ourselves two chaises longues and a beach umbrella. After having reposed in the warm sunshine for the next hour we willingly agreed to go for a swim in the Gulf. The sea could not have been more pleasant.  The water was a turquoise colour and tolerably cool. After wrestling briefly with the temperature of the water - and being struck by several large waves - we took the plunge! As usual, refreshing!

What struck me was the superb pleasure of the salinity of the sea. I have always responded well to salt water - its taste, smell, feel and buoyancy - but I had clearly forgotten its hidden kick. The salt water cleared my eyes.  Though I sensed a noticeable film upon my skin it was not offensive - even when it dried. The invigorating water also soothed my arthritic limbs.

Oddly since our arrival on Longboat Key I have avoided the sea for the most part, choosing instead the pool (though for reasons I am uncertain about). Today I reignited my preference for the sea. The transformation is opportune now that "the season" is upon us; which means, more people and warmer temperatures. Though today was certainly not the only time I have ventured into the surf in the past two months, it was nonetheless a uniquely captivating event today. The sandy bottom of the Gulf became comfortably familiar. The surf, though forceful, was not threatening. Perhaps the proximity of others contributed to my relaxation. In the distance I could see swimmers poking out of the surf like small piers.

As an added benefit - and tactical to suntanning my backside - I strolled along the beach southward towards the Longboat Club Resort where we've stayed in the past. My chosen path was not on the dry soft sand but rather at the edge of the shore where the incoming water laps and the subsurface is smooth, uninhibited by the collection of mostly crumbled seashells.

The tumultuous sea is an attraction from the shore.  Getting into the water reminds one of its unparalleled strength.  My aquatic nature is indisputably part of my character. Generally I linger in the water longer than most others. I haven't a notable sailing experience (except once on the Baltic Sea). Though it hardly counts as sailing, I have crossed the Atlantic Ocean thrice on an ocean liner, first on the RMS Queen Elizabeth or maybe it was the RMS Queen Mary, its predecessor, both of the Cunard-White Star Line (in 1949 en route to London, England where my sister was born) and then back again several years later; and subsequently on the SS Arcadia (in 1963 en route to Le Havre, France).

"Risen from the keel up in the shipyards of John Brown & Co. from 1936 to 1938, the ship was 
christened by her majesty, Queen Elizabeth, Queen consort of the United Kingdom on Sept. 27, 1938. Curnard's big plans for their newest and biggest vessel included a royal tour of the ship in 1939 and its maiden voyage to be in the following spring in 1940. Then war broke out and everything changed. For several months, she sat at dry dock, seaworthy, just not on paper. It wouldn't be for another two months were her engines finally tested and the necessary license issued to declare her ready for the ocean."

My mother told me of a frightful incident on board the RMS Queen Elizabeth. Apparently when we were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean one of the ship's officers took me from my mother's arms and jokingly hung me over the side of the ship. I suspect this upsetting foray accounts from my failure to embrace being a committed sea dog though I confess all else about the sea stirs me, everything from Nantucket to ship's wheels. It is treasure for me to record having graduated from Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, NS where I regularly visited the shore of the Atlantic Ocean for contemplation and rejuvenation.

Accomplishing this barrier today - transcending the limit between land and sea - is heartening. It is one step closer to the fulfillment of the hopes I had imagined Longboat Key would achieve. Naturally I have the scope to appreciate that no place is perfect; but I am compelled once again to acknowledge there is much about this barrier island which warrants approbation.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful blog post. Amazing that you have had the experience of being dangled from a huge ship like that, I can only imagine your Mother's face!

    I hope you very much enjoy the
    rest of the time you have getting reacquainted with the sea.