I was 19 when I first saw an ocean. Flying into Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts we flew over the bay as the January sun was setting. I could only see a glimpse of the purple water, but I remember understanding from that point on the Atlantic ocean would always have a very important place in me. I could not wait to touch it and though I was (and still am) a terrible swimmer, I wanted to dive in it. I could not comprehend or really imagine what that would feel like. Would it be bitingly cold? How salty would it taste? I have lived near the Great Salt Lake most of my life and that is not a tiny body of water. There are places where you cannot see the other side, but this brief glimpse of the massive ocean left me in wonder and I knew that any lake of any size would never be able to compare.
I stood on the rocky shore in Machias, Maine, that following June. Machias is located in what they call “Down East” where the inlets and bays are numerous. It looks more like the finger of a lake than the ocean, but you can smell the fish and the salt. I walked on pebbles and put my bare feet and hands into the water. It was still cold from the long and harsh winter. It was not the time or place to run or swim in the water, but I wrote in my journal that I had finally seen the ocean, finally put my hands in the water.
It wasn’t until September that I stood on a sandy beach and stared across the vastness, stretching to the east and south at Kennebunk beach.
This place will always be my favorite. Whenever I think of the ocean I think of it here, in this kind of light, low tide with the subtle waves sliding in. From this beach I have pondered my life, how I fit in the world and how insignificant I can feel in the presence of something so powerful. I have thought about the life of stones, how they have been washed and polished by the water, thrown about for centuries before finally ending up lodged in the sand of this beach. I know what it means when I toss it back. I have seen the waves rise just after a hurricane and understood fear on a level I have not reached since. I love this ocean as much as I respect it. Tasting it was like tasting my past. I love the salty residue it leaves behind on my skin and in my mouth. I trust the ocean. It expects nothing from me.
I have been to the pacific and seen how much more violent it can be, yet I am still drawn to the Atlantic. It will always be “The Ocean” to me. It has lived inside me since that time, it remains with me.
Too poetic and cheesy? Maybe. I am ok with that.