Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

From my travel journal: casting myself on the waters

This morning, I actually saw someone surfing. There in the early morning* light, riding the waves in to shore, and I realized how different it is to see the real thing.

When one sees surfing in a picture or a movie, one doesn't hear the birds singing, twittering, and flying about. One rarely hears the surf crashing, or sees the gentle morning colors. The distant mountains of another island are never seen. Most pictures show the artistry, the athletic prowess of the feat at the expense of the simple beauty I witnessed this morning of man learning the wave, the shape of it, the feel of it. And then, in a moment that must be pure joy, in becoming a particle caught in the wave, swept by it, riding it to shore.

Yesterday, I watched a mother teach her child to feel the sea, lowering him into the water to feel the receding waves sucking at his legs, the sand shifting under his feet, but lifting him in time to avoid the incoming wave, until one very small wave arrived, and she let him feel that wave come in up to his waist. He waved his hands at the water as though he were trying what King Canute would not: asking the waves to abate themselves for him. But his request was fruitless. The waves kept coming and even increased their force, until mother and child walked on and more surfers arrived.

When I was a girl, my parents would take me on vacations to the Atlantic - Ocean City, Maryland and Virginia Beach. There, I would joyfully throw myself into the ocean, body surfing back to the sand. It was that moment of joining the wave in its rush to shore that I loved. But that moment requires a fearlessness, a willingness to give myself to the ocean, and hope that the ocean will return me that I wonder if I still possess sometimes. And the Atlantic, a little warmer, more gentle, is not the Pacific. I wonder whether my courage will hold in deeper waters.**

* Do not try this at home, dear readers. While the sight was beautiful, it was also very risky. Don't go out on the ocean alone at any time - drowning is still a very real possibility in the ocean, and most shark experts recommend avoiding the dusk, night, and early morning for going in, as that is often when larger sharks venture closer to land looking for food. While I was astounded by the beauty, I also wondered a little whether this person had given thought to any of this.

** It did, though not without an awareness of the dangers of the waters. On two days I went body surfing - one for a short time when it didn't feel right, and one all day, though the ocean beat me against the shore over and over again, once even removing my surf pants in the process. (My husband, the deist, is now convinced that there is some kind of sentience in the ocean and that he intends to sue as soon as he can find a court that will take the sexual harassment case. For once, I'm the one saying, look, that's the nature of the ocean.)

My day of snorkelling was rather calmer, with the highlight that I was actually approached by a sea turtle. I was so mesmerized by the elegant beauty of the creature, a seemingly lazy flick of a flipper moving him far faster than I would have expected, that I felt very clumsy in trying to get out of the way.


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