Nicolson challenges our perceptions of people in the past, what they felt and what motivated them to embark on often quite risky ventures.  I like the idea conveyed here of people taking a chance, of stepping into a moment of ‘ecstatic ease’ and viewing it as an invitation to explore.

And what a line from a Gaelic song, that a boat slicing through the sea ‘would cut a thin oat straw with the excellence of her going’.

I wish you all excellence in your going, and much ecstatic ease in your explorations.

‘Pick your moment and the sea will do what it can for you, however small the boat and unpractised the helm.  The wind was steady on the beam, and as it says in an old Gaelic song, it felt as if Freyja ‘would cut a thin oat straw with the excellence of her going.’   This moment of ecstatic ease is the significant historical fact.  Anywhere that can be reached on a calm day will be reached.  What matters is the invitation, not the threat, and if there is an opening, people will take it.’

See also a quote-rich mosaic review of this magnificent, entrancing book: a love letter to islands and a paean to the sea. 


Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 128

Photo credit: Stefan Gunnarsson at


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