Ode to the Ocean
The ocean is my friend and lover. I say this because I’ve never once been bitten by a Jellyfish or Portuguese Man o’ War, and I’ve been a frequent visitor of the sea my whole life. Sure, I’ve had the occasional seaweed wrapped around my leg scare, or the experience of stepping on something mysteriously sharp or gooey, and who hasn’t been slammed by a rogue wave that made you feel like you were caught in the spin cycle of an industrial washing machine, breathing water through your nose, only to be spit out on shore with your bathing suit top askew so that your breast is completely exposed? Okay, so the ocean can be a moody and unpredictable friend and lover. Moving on.
The ocean is beautiful in its rhythms and cycles. It ebbs and flows, rises and falls, surges and swells, billows and rolls, heaves and… okay, I think you get the picture. Is it me or do those words sound sexual in nature? No wonder sailors fall in love with the sea. Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, the undulating rhythm of the sea. Some of my favorite memories are of falling asleep at the beach, the warm sand ripples under your towel, the sound of the crashing waves, the late afternoon sun mixed with a slightly cool breeze… it’s heavenly, until those in your vicinity decide to make their exodus, screaming at each other and accidentally kicking sand in your face as they quickly pack up their gear.
Some people complain about sand and sticky salt water but I love it. Where else can you feel so much a part of nature? I love the sights and sounds and smells, yes, even the smells. Of course I’m talking about the nearby snack bar where they sell char-grilled hamburgers, French fries and fried shrimp baskets. That smell. The smell of food. Why? What did you think I was talking about?
But seriously, I do love the ocean. I once went kayaking with my son in Hilton Head, South Carolina. We got pretty far out in a short amount of time, and then suddenly my son’s kayak capsized. To say we were scared would be a gross understatement. (No one who has seen Jaws 1, 2 and 3, stays calm in that situation.) We were petrified, although as his mother, I had to keep my cool and pretend it was all good, and by, “keep my cool” I mean, scream instructions to him to pee in the water (in my vast made-up knowledge of the sea, urine is a deterrent to all sea life), to float, not splash around, and remove any silver jewelry he might be wearing, though I knew that wasn’t likely since he didn’t own any. If he followed my instructions I knew he would live. Just then a dolphin came swimming by. I’m not kidding. Usually dolphins travel in groups, or packs, or schools, or pods… okay, whatever. They travel together. This was a lone dolphin. I remembered, in the recesses of my mind, that dolphins have been known to rescue people from sharks. God had surely intervened and sent us this dolphin. We would live, and live we did. Not long after the arrival of the dolphin, which by the way, ended up being someone’s inflatable toy, did we pull ourselves onto shore. The lifeguard asked why we hadn’t used the full hour but had returned after only 8 minutes. Obviously he had missed the whole drama. That’s the thing about the ocean, it changes from moment to moment. Blink and the show is over.
When I go down to the sandy shore,
I can think of nothing I want more,
Than to live by the booming blue sea.
As the seagulls flutter around about me
I can run about when the tide is out,
With the wind and sea all about,
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish,
Oh- to live by the sea is my only wish.
“Sea Joy,” a poem by Jacqueline Bouvier written in 1939