The Great Wide Ocean
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
There is something powerful in the vastness of it.
The ocean: I've lived by it most of my life. All of it, actually.
When we were little, beach days meant playing in the waves and making drip sandcastles and moving the salty water through sandy pathways we carved out with our little hands. It meant cousins and noise and defending our snacks from seagulls.
I remember in high school, playing in the ocean with friends. In college, walking along the shore by myself grieving the loss of a boyfriend who wasn't worth the grief, giving myself over to the melodramatic idea that the ocean would wash away my pain.
I bring the kids to the ocean to play in the sand and jump off burms with their friends and build stick forts and I tried, always, to point out the colors in the sand and that the white foam in the water meant riptides. They let me be an expert on the ocean. This towering figure in their lives, it gave me authority because I knew that little bubbles in the sand is where you find sand crabs.
I think we go to the ocean to feel small.
I think we go to the ocean to feel small. There is something powerful in the vastness of it, the waves that keep crashing, have been crashing, before you were born and will be crashing forevermore. Every once in awhile, I would forget about the ocean from time to time. Because it always there. It could wait for me.
A few days ago we drove to the ocean, trying to find a small piece of it for just ourselves. We saw the hoards of people gathered at Neptune's Net, the line up of cars on PCH and we thought: Are WE crazy? It felt so... normal. We pushed our car further up the road to the part where the cliffs are too high to bring the kids down. We parked at an overlook and I moved our daughter's booster seat so that we could have a picnic in the trunk. We watched the waves together. I can't remember the last time I actually did that. I pointed out the birds on the water, tried to explain kelp. I hoped that they would remember this as a magical picnic, not as I did: with heaviness. We couldn't get out to touch the sand. It was clear that this freedom would be lost soon, too, to the virus. Not forever, but for now. This springtime moment, when California is ripe with beauty, we can't harvest it. I tried to take it all in. But you can't, can you? You can't because it is so big. You'll never be able to take it all in. I know, of course, that I will go the ocean again. It's still there, even if we can't see it.
But for now, all we have is the virus. It keeps coming, coming, coming, crashing in waves over communities, crashing our normalcy, crashing into our ability to make plans and to hug one another. It has brought the world, the entire world, to it's knees. It is bigger than I am, than any of us are. We disinfect our packages at the door and haven't been shopping for a week and leave our shoes outside and wash our hands every hour but it is still insidiously moving through my consciousness all the same, filling more of my thoughts than I wish it were, dipping over the horizon of my mind, touching the shores of every continent ...and I can't take it all in. But you can't, can you? You'll never be able to take it all in. And it is ugly and it is scary and it is painful... but there is something powerful in the vastness of it.
28 MARCH 2020