And Sometimes I Need That

I fell in love with the sea when I was very small. It seems to be a link that all coast-dwellers feel, regardless of age or naturalistic inclination. "I could never live away from the sea -- it just wouldn't feel right," I once overheard a woman admit at a bus stop. How true that is, how deep the bond we have with the ocean! The pull of the tides, the grit of the sands, that intoxicating salty air! While it's true that those who live more inland (especially those from the crowded, cramped cities) show perhaps a greater appreciation by going to the beach in short bursts - maybe three, four times a year - they only care for it in the summer, and usually turn their attentions to more exotic shores.

I feel sorry for them.

I fell in love with the sea in every season. In summer, yes, with the throngs of people (even here the beaches get crowded, and, I admit, sometimes I feel bitter) and the sun beating down, even then, though there‘s little opportunity for introspection, I love the sea.

But on the other hand, there's the winter, where only the distant hoots of seagulls and the soft crash of the waves permeate the thin silence -- this is my ocean, with crystalline sands lightly frosted by ice, and the stink of seaweed to focus my thoughts. Salt water cannot be frozen, but it can be subdued. The sea hibernates, a slumbering beast, while I contemplate its mass behind puffs of breath and with my hands buried deep in pockets.

Spring is the time of exploration and the shore churns with life. I stoop to examine rock pools with writhing crustaceans and plant life alike, and explore tiny caves with walls which enclose like an embrace. I'm not claustrophobic -- who could be with that sprawling expanse of infinity a stone's throw away? Stone skimming, too, is a fulfilling past-time in the most basic of ways -- the sense of pride you get following a high number of consecutive bounces is nonsensical, completely unwarranted, and yet intensely satisfying.

In autumn, the sea transforms into a callow, adolescent beast. The wind howls in a juvenile tantrum, whipping my hair so it slaps against my face. Rain stings my cheeks and brings out a red flush, and the rawness of the air catches the back of my throat. I climb rocks and feel the scrapes on my bare hands, and, once at the top, I smile as the sea spray assaults me further. There's no room for thinking, and sometimes I need that.

Now, I realise that the sea has been an inspiration for many an author, philosopher or poet. I know that I cannot make the sea personal any more than I can fit a mountain in my pocket. But still, there is nothing else that drives me like my love for the sea. I think sometimes that humans need space like that, to know that there is something, at least, they cannot conquer -- the same tranquillity is felt when looking at the sky, whether the endless blue domain of daylight, or the star-peppered stretch of space -- perhaps one day that will change, but for now, to know that we are not invincible is a humbling and necessary realisation.

Sometimes I take my friends and we roll and talk and chase and the sand doesn't come out my hair for days; the sand smoothes out my palms and the soles of my feet; and the sun sets, orange and mellow -- a Kodak moment. Other times I sit at the pier, kicking my feet at the edge and enjoying the company of myself -- solitude is ‘uncool' these days, but I don't really mind -- what's ‘cool', changes like the tides: there are ins and outs, and the eternal struggle not to get washed up -- last season's driftwood is next week's campfire, and we all burn out, in the end.

All I know is that the sea -- those broiling, perpetually shifting waters, housing life and death, indiscriminating in its ardency -- is the one constant in my life. They say that the planet is shrinking all the time, but it still takes nine hours to cross the Pacific.

The End

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