by Wendy of Things in Your Head.
The ocean always seemed to me to be a perfect metaphor for life. It is so vast and overwhelming, that while looking at it from a minute patch of shore, you are made to feel the smallness of yourself in relation. Which, I believe, is a good thing – especially when we, as children, tend to think of ourselves as the entire world. You can get anything out of the ocean that you wish; food, sport, relaxation, commerce, inspiration. It is up to you to carve out the meaning and use, much like life.
When we talked about taking my son to the beach for the first time, it was no big deal to my husband, since he had grown up with the ocean in his backyard. For me, living 3 hours away from the sea, it was an event, not merely happenstance. You planned for a viewing of the ocean; you did not simply glimpse it on your way about life. So we went into this day with different histories and different memories. And yet, when we saw the ocean through our son's eyes, we both felt the same moment in its enormity. I saw my husband take my son in his arms and look out and in that look, a million silent promises went forth: I will protect you; I will be there for you; I will never let you down; I will always love you; the world is out there – your family will always be behind you; I was so happy that I was able to capture that moment in this photograph; the digital equivalent of an old family story that no amount of words can properly relate as much as the image itself.
I have always loved the ocean. When my husband and I were first married, the ocean was fifteen minutes from our home. My favorite thing was to sit on the sand at dusk with a notebook in hand, listening to the wind, smelling the perfect perfume that only sand, salt and air can create, willing the moment to continue. It never did. As much as I begged the sun not to bend over the horizon, move out of sight, take its stunning pink-and-purple sky swirling out of view, it did and I mourned that moment, the end of a brilliance unable to be duplicated.
I no longer live near the ocean. I do not miss it the same way that my husband does but I do miss it. I know that I need the water to write and to feel and to create but I know that I will find my way back to it. From the time I was small, whenever anyone asked me where I thought I would wind up, I always answered: in a house by the sea. Whenever my creativity flags and I feel that I will never again have anything relevant to say or monumental to write about, I think to the beach. I feel it waits for me; that it knows the time is not right but we will meet up eventually.
My son looks at that picture now, framed in my study and he says 'Me and Daddy at the beach.' I am happy he has that memory since it seems, for now, that the ocean and he will not be frequent companions. But I do love that the ocean is something different for everyone who encounters it. There are no two ways to swallow the experience. It is a unique endeavor for all that feel that seductive sea air lift the hair off their face and sniff the unmistakable signature that is saltwater.
We will get back there one day. But for now, I am glad to have my son's first acquaintance with the ocean frozen in a combination of pixels and binary data for eternity.
Wendy writes about matters small and insignificant with brazen authority at Things in Your Head. She loves music, books, candy corn and the word ‘consortium’. She hates boa constrictors and mean people.