Something happens to me when I get near the ocean. My whole body starts to tingle, responding to the smell of the sea, the flow of the tide. I listen for the sound of the waves at the shore, the creak of the cradle that rocks me to sleep. I overlook the bay, or the surf, or the great Atlantic swells, wanting to be close to that rhythmic, restless water.
I feel this way about mountains, too, and deserts, but these are generally static affairs, and my experience is one of being in motion within those landscapes. A great summer storm roiling over the crest of the hills or the shimmer of heat haze may animate these places, but for me the ocean itself is a living thing. I do not presume to know its moods, or ascribe intentionality to its actions, but I do see its power, and feel its pulse.
I have never been a blue water sailor. One summer, though, at just this time of year, I did sail from Cape Cod to Rockland, and had the dog watch during the Perseid meteor shower far out in the Gulf of Maine. That was a night where only the winking lights of distant watercraft vied with the display in the vault of the sky. I remember trails of green fire, and imagining longboats from Greenland making such a journey a thousand years before.I'm not at all sure there is a mask around anymore that will fit me, as my diving gear is long gone, but if so I may go out to the breakwater and dip beneath the surface to explore the old rocks and crevasses to see what they conceal. The pouting white lips and crooked teeth of Tautaug, or a sleek gray eel, or the mottled claws of lobsters are all possibilities. I love being under the water, in the very element that so captivates and intrigues.
This year there are many blue crabs in the warm waters of Buzzards Bay. I saw one in the shallows when I was rooting for quahogs with my toes, and evidence of others up and down the beach. Maybe this coming week when I am at the shore I will go crabbing in the Weweantic River (avoiding the Agawam with its swans and algae and treatment plant). Maybe I will gather fiddler crabs and fish with my children and nephews and their second cousins with bamboo poles at high tide. Or maybe I will sit, contented on shore, and watch these children splash and play, and let the weary weight of my complicated life drain away with the falling tide. Sand between the toes and salt on the skin is just the balm I need.Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
- Shakespeare (The Tempest)