“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen” said a young woman who had come from Denver to visit the ocean. “I don’t want to leave.”
In the middle of winter far away from any shore, I used to try to imagine the ocean places I only saw in summer. I knew the waves were continuously coming onshore even though I could not see or hear them. I could feel I was missing out on something important.
Now, in fairly frequent conversations, I hear similar longings expressed by vacationers sharing their desire to continue to experience the sights and sounds of the ocean, wanting to take the experience home with them, imagining the ocean always being able to lull them into peace with its primal rhythms.
It’s nearly 2 a.m. and that primacy is keeping me awake. There’s a storm out there, far away, not a threat to this particular shore, but distance only lightly hinders wave energy and the whomps and crashes of fierce water meeting rocks in the middle of a dark night is far from soothing.
My body tenses, staying vigilant for perceived threats. Tide chart consultations, marine forecasts with highly accurate wave heights, all assure me that, for now, the ocean is staying within non-threatening parameters yet the voice of the sea suggests other possibilities.
In our imaginings or memories our ocean visits are usually peaceful even though most of us thrill to the fury of storms, responding to proximity to pure power when riled water meets land. New to my awareness is how the constancy of power can tire, perhaps exhaust. What had soothed can also drain. It is endlessly loud. The perception of menace was not imagined in my far distant longings for what might have been something other than the power of constantly moving water.