I love the ocean. Love. Growing up in Southern California meant that the ocean was never far away, and was, in some way, part of your life. I have tons of memories of going to the beach with my parents as a kid, as a teenager with friends, and less so as an adult, though I have many memories of the time I worked at the beach.
The smell of the salted sea is one of the most profound of those memories. I also always had an inner knowing that it would be there. Just to drive by and take it in, and in those moments, to live in awe and wonder.
As a kid, we took family trips to the beach often. We lived about 30 miles from the beach, which, at that time, was about a 45-minute drive. My sisters, parents, and I would set up in the sand, towels demarcating your space for the day. Then we would play, in the sand and, of course, in the water.
On the way home from the beach, we would always stop for “big sticks.” if you’ve not had a big stick, you are missing out. Well, at least the 7 year-old within me thinks so. These ice cream treats are made out of pineapple and orange, and are delicious on a hot sunny day. Just make sure to not forget them in the car when you get home. They are not so good once they’ve melted, though I’ve eaten many that way.
As I grew older my longing to be at the beach grew. I would often go with friends in the morning, afternoon, or early evening. The time of day mattered less than being there, though you get a different experience dependent on the time you go.
There is something so calming about looking out over the open sea. The vastness of the ocean, it’s size and depth, is hard to comprehend. However, just looking out over it, you, or at least I do, get a sense of the scope of your own self in relation to something that size. Humbling.
When I was a young adult, I used to drive to the beach just to take in the majesty of the open water. On days that were particularly difficult, seeing the ocean created a renewed perspective for me, reminding me that my immediate woes were temporary.
As I’ve mentioned, I also worked at the beach for a time, only blocks from the open water. Drives home during that time were particularly beautiful, taking in the ocean as the sun was beginning to dip behind the horizon. Beautiful, and breathtaking.
When our first child born was little we used to take him to the beach often. He would play in the sand, run around, make sand castles, and splash in the water and waves, just as I did when I was his age.
When our youngest was born, we decided to move from Southern California to Arizona, so our youngest son did not get to know the ocean as his brother, mother, and myself did. Though, he has since, and loves it as we all do.
I remember being in Arizona those first couple of months, being away from the ocean, with no real possibility of seeing or experiencing it. I have to say that that first year, I did have some increased anxiety about being away from the ocean. I felt as if I was boxed in, or in some way limited, without access to the ocean, which I had so come to cherish.
When we decided to move to Oregon, and I was looking into the local culture, I remember finding that the ocean was only 50 miles from where we were moving. Oh Joy! I was so excited. Going to the coast, which is what they call the beach in Oregon, was one of the first things we did, once we were settled.
We’ve take many trips to the Oregon Coast since then, and I do now know that I will, at some point, live, or have a place, at the beach or coast. This I know, like I know that I breathe.
On one of the last trips we made to the coast, sometime at the beginning of last year, I recognized something that I had not thought about, nor really heard in a long time. The sound of the ocean.
Do you remember being little, and picking up a cool seashell, and having someone say, “put it to your ear, and you can hear the ocean.” I remember the first time someone said that to me. I was perplexed, and very little. I did as they instructed, and sure enough, I could hear the ocean. Wow! How cool that was, and how could that be?
Knowing that the shell was capturing ambient noise, was not so important then, nor is it much important now, for it is the memory of the sound, which focused and drew my attention in. As I’ve written here, I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, and part of that draw is the majesty, the beauty, and the vastness. And, it is also the sound.
I love the sound of the ocean, the waves coming in, and going back out. Crashing on the beach head, and against other surf, splashing against the reef, and breakwater. Lovely.
On that trip last year, I also realized something else. The sound of those waves coming in and going back out, I realized were a mirror for our own breath. It sounds exactly like our breathing. Just like it. When I recognized this on that last trip, it was one of the most beautiful realizations I’ve ever had.
Maybe that is part of why I am drawn to the ocean. Because it lives and breathes just like we do. The waves come in and they go back out, in, and out. Just like our breath. It just happens.
I believe we are connected to everything around us. A tree, the sun and moon, the ocean, all of these things live outside of us, and they also live inside of us. All made of the same elements.
I’m so glad that I had that realization last year. It has taken my lifelong love of the ocean and amplified it. Though I don’t get to the coast or beach as often as I like, they are always with me, and within me. I know this to be true. And to be close to the ocean, all I have to do is pay attention to my breathing, and the ocean comes alive. Breathing in and out, just like the waves coming in and out. Again, and again.