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"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Wave, Pulse

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

I miss the sea.

I grew up in New England, on the coast, with a stint in Florida for added flavor. Not until I moved to Redneck Central in my middle teens was I ever land-locked - there had always been the sound, the scent, the sight of Mother Ocean somewhere nearby.

Summers spent on Martha's Vineyard with family (hold-overs from whaling days and times before the island became a playground for the rich and supposedly privileged) meant weeks on end of beach and boat time. My father's small house had one bedroom, a bath on the hallway, a wee living room, a small kitchen, and a constant sound track provided by the ocean that I could see from his back door - if distantly. A twenty minute or so motorboat ride would have my feet on the sand, feeling the rhythm of the water as it met the land.

I slept in what could loosely be called a shed, separate from the house and largely weather proof, my own little haven that today might be called child neglect but at the time I loved beyond measure. At night, rather than use the house toilet, I would find a patch of poison ivy to pee on. Thunder storms were rare, and awesome when experienced in a garden-shed sized space made of MDF and shingles.

Calm or stormy, I went to sleep hearing the susurus of surf in the distance. No sleep can compare to one accompanied through the night by that lullaby.

I cherished those summer weeks because they were the only time I had with my father and the ocean.

On rare occasions, he would take me out on his boat. I loved that. On one journey, we were floating out in deep water, relatively motionless, and we were joined by a basking shark. The shark was longer than the boat (32 foot, as I recall), and still in the water. It was almost surreal. I wanted to get in the water with it - they are vegetarians - but my father wouldn't hear of it. Captain runs the boat, so I stayed dry and encounterless, but I'll never forget how beautiful and terrible it was.

While I very much enjoyed swimming off a boat in deep water, the beach was where most of my polliwog time was spent. I would swim in water that could keep beer perfectly chilled and be sorry when it was time to come out. I would swim in glass calm seas or dive through waves that kept more timid swimmer on shore. I was pulled under and pounded in the washing-machine plenty of times, but never got out of the water because of it. I never met a wave I was afraid of. While others would be on the sand eating lunch, I swam. Building sand castles? Nope - swimming. Tanning? I was the only kid in our town who could spent weeks at the beach and still be fish-belly white.

Water, particularly the sea, is sacred to me. It is a place of healing. It is, I truly believe, where I will die in the distant future, swimming home at last.

I miss her, Mother Ocean. Don't get me wrong - I love Redneck Central and am happy to be living here...but my heart and soul are salt tinged and my pulse thumps to the deeper songs she sings, and I will always be most peaceful, most serene, most whole when on or near big water.

What about you? Where does your heart yearn to be in the quiet moments?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume? It's set on Martha's Vineyard in the late 70's and 80's. Your words here reminded me of the novel, which is one of my favorites.