We parked on a steep street in Oceanside. There was a fog in the sky and the sun had dipped into the horizon. The sky was now the hazy blue of dawn, the time of reflection.
I could hear the ocean from the car, through the cracked windows; collapsing over itself and onto the beach. It was warm still, in the car, and Sam was asleep, or trying to fall asleep, and I was reading Gaiman and I was reminded of old, ancient days. Of times when there were only oceans and beaches; only forests and mountains; only the hills and only the sun and moon and a trillion stars in the sky. I couldn’t focus on the book so I set it down and thought about the ocean.
When I was a boy my brother and I caught crabs and shrimp from the ocean in France. There are old WW2 bunkers there, and during the right tide we’d paddle over the water with our boogie boards and our buckets and nets and float into the bunkers and catch the coolest ones we could find. We just kept them in our buckets until we left and then let them go. I can only assume the psychological trauma these crabs sustained.
When I came to America I didn’t see the ocean again until I was fourteen, in Santa Monica, and it was dirty and full of tourists like myself and I didn’t care for it. It wasn’t until my mother and father drove me up to San Luis Obispo that I went into the ocean, and it was a wild ocean, and cold, and I enjoyed it because I thought I ought to enjoy the ocean. I didn’t swim in the ocean again for the rest of my teens.
I remembered to love oceans again as an adult, when Sam and I went to San Francisco, and we watched the Golden Gate Bridge reflect in the bay water from our car in Sausalito and heard the bells and masts of harbored boats chime against each other. Then again in Boston, the familiar smell of the Atlantic, of salt water and fried food and oil from the boats, and of Sam. The smell of her hairspray tingeing my nose, the comfort of her warm skin in the spray of crashing waves.
We visited the beach from my childhood, a few years ago, in Soulac Sur Mer, and I swam in the same waves my brother and I used to swim in. I remembered why it is important to swim in the ocean. It is the wild of it, the untamed, unmarked land. It begs for you to fight for it, to prove what it’s worth to you.
And then in Oceanside, in Oregon, in a warm car thinking about ocean, and how I kept coming back to it, and what memories the waves will wash to shore for me in the years to come. I picked up my book and kept reading – I was reading Norse Mythology, and soon I would get to the last chapter: Ragnarok.
At the end of all time, the oceans will still be lapping at the land. Long after I have finished swimming in them. Long after I have had my last breath.
I wonder what memories these waves have been a part of.