May 04, 2007

Ocean's Edge

I grew up in the land-locked town of Big Flats, so getting to the ocean took some doing. Still, my parents took us on just enough seaside vacations for me to develop an appreciation of the ocean's wonders.

My earliest memories of the ocean include fear of the unknown (what's down there, anyway?) and sometimes the known (jellyfish off the beach in Sarasota while visiting my grandparents). Once I got past the fear, I remember reveling in the extra buoyancy that the sea's saltwater offered. As an infrequent visitor, I learned to appreciate the anticipation of it. Leaning out the car window to see if the air smelled like ocean yet. Noticing that the quality of light changes when reflected off the waves, even if the waves themselves are still out of sight. Coming up over the crest of the dunes of Cape Cod and seeing the ocean for the first time in a year still gets my heart pounding.

Later, my parents saved up to buy a sailboat, and that's when my love affair with the ocean really began.

Sailing allowed us to feel more a part of the action. We dangled our toes and hands over the side, fell asleep to the gentle rocking of a boat at anchor while the halyards slapped against the mast. It was while sailing the my father taught me how to see the wind by watching its progress across the face of the water. During one scary storm, I watched my father's face and drank in his calm until I could once again move past the fear, this time to exhilaration.

In the last few years, as I've grown into my role as a parent, it's the ocean's edge that has captured my imagination. Our little guy isn't quite ready for body surfing or boogie boarding, and we don't have a sailboat, but we're both fascinated by the incredible biodiversity of the liminal space where the land ends and the ocean begins. We can and have spent hours and hours in the tidal pools at the ocean's edge, and no wonder; as Wikipedia says, liminality is sacred, alluring, and dangerous.

Oceans give us a glimpse into another way of being, and a way to remember the ways in which we are all connected. Nowadays my thoughts about our oceans are also bound up with my concern about their health. My love of the oceans and their untame-able wildness makes me think about all the truth-tellers who call us to act on our love. Mary Austin. Terry Tempest Williams. Rachel Carson. Barbara Kingsolver.

And now the Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin:

Interior Department officials -- who have maintained for months that they did not analyze how human activities were affecting Arctic warming and endangering polar bears' survival -- completed a review examining studies of this very subject less than a week before proposing that the government list the bears as threatened with extinction, according to the department's own documents.

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.
And thanks to my partner and
Thomas D. Mangelsen/
for the use of their photos.


Anonymous said...

Huh, you learn something every once in a while. I'd never heard of liminality, and now I'm fascinated. I like your use of the word for that area where the ocean's water washes, and then retreats.

In regards to the environment, Anna Crusis Women's Choir's June 2 concert has an environmental theme. We've got some warm and fuzzy stuff, funny stuff, serious stuff. It looks like I'll be working on the heaviest number with a small group: Is it possible to piss God off by mangling His/Her world?

"This is the way the world ends / not with a bang, but a bonfire!"


Crafty Green Poet said...

tidal pools are wonderful!

It's so sad that polar bears are being pushed to extinction. We're damaging the seas so much.

Anonymous said...

Great post! And those pics are so perfect...they take my breath away!

Regina Clare Jane said...

What a sweet picture! And a very good post... memories like yours are treasures indeed...
Who would have ever thought the great polar bear would be in danger of extinction?! How terrible!

Jennifer said...

I almost cried when i saw the polar bear looking all sad in the melting ice. Thanks for reminding us the care we need to take for such a beautiful place.

Rob Kistner said...

Shelley -

Thank yo or this great post.

Being in love with and spending much time at the coast here in Oregon, I am most concerned about the health of these key elements in our planetary ecosystem. They die, we die -- period!

Again, thank you for this responsible nudge.

Bongga Mom said...

I love how you're instilling in your little one a love of the ocean. If only we could do the same for all future generations and protect the ocean from further destruction.

Patois said...

A bittersweet post. Loved your tidal pool romps. So sad about the polar bears.

Self Taught Artist said...

Yours is the first that spoke of the smell, the light....I enjoyed this post for all that you noticed and experienced.