I was about 17 the first time I saw the ocean and I have been in love with it ever since. I was the bleary-eyed teenager on sunshine-filled spring breaks in San Diego and the girl who dodged raindrops, young and in love, on gray, wind-whipped afternoons in Brighton. I have swum through hundreds of tiny, stinging jellyfish in the choppy waters off the craggy cliffs of Costa Rica and have been slammed by the tall waves that beat against Cape Hatteras. I have mixed pleasure with business on the magical, sinking city of Venice and have run along the edge of Montauk on a chilly November morning with friends. In my 42 years, I have surely forgotten more than I have remembered, but not my oceans. So many of my life’s best memories are punctuated by moments at the vast intersection of water, land and sky that I like to think of as the edge of the world.
I grew up in the landlocked midwest where kids of modest means, like me, only dreamed of seeing the ocean and often settled for the Missouri River or The Lake of The Ozarks. Now I live in a coastal state and, while I am an hour’s drive from the shore, I know my home state is bordered by the sea and this gives me great satisfaction and peace of mind. I can wake up in the morning and be at my ocean in less time than it takes me to write my blog.
This week I am putting in my miles on the island of Hilton Head. With an amazing botanical landscape that features the swinging Spanish moss of the South, forests full of tropical palms and pines, a rainbow of native flora, and skies full of so many different birds, it is a nature lover’s paradise. And, the island’s strict zoning and building laws make it one of the most aesthetically pleasing vacation destinations in America. No billboards, no ugly streetside signage, no garish buildings trying to get you to open your wallet… just earthtones in regulated, one-storey configurations, buffeted by the trees that were growing here before anyone built anything at all. Runners can enjoy ten miles of the flattest, most beautifully packed sand beaches and, like me, are called to them with the rising sun.
If you want to see people who love life, go to the ocean at sunrise. They are there walking, running, bicycling and dancing. You can see them splashing their feet in the water, pointing out to the rolling waves, and bending over to examine and collect what the tide has left behind. Before the umbrellas and beach chairs occupy the sand, this is a quiet, reverent place that rouses people from their beds to bear witness. And, of course, the dogs are out, too! While the air is still cool, they are chasing sticks and balls, shaggy and wet with saltwater and happily off-leash.
My feelings when I am at the place where the land meets the water with the view of an endless horizon are probably akin to a religious experience. I have always been more of a believer in Mystery and Story, but if there is a place where I could find the Divine, it would be at the seashore.
This morning I was up with the sun, and here is what the Ocean told me…
Have a good week, my friends.
TRY THIS WEEK: Remember your Ocean.