Monday, January 23, 2012
into the teeth of the sea
i look back to where my mother set up our beach chairs. the hot sand is covered with a sea of colorful striped beach umbrellas. our own red, yellow and green umbrella is out there somewhere, but i can't find it. they all look the same to me. (one day—could it have been this day?—i got lost on the beach amidst all those confusing stripes, but my mother found me before i wandered too far away from our place on the sand.)
i squeeze my mother's hand. i am so little. one of my earliest memories is this day at the beach. we are walking toward the water, toward the waves. don't let go of my hand. don't let go of my hand. i am thinking those words. do i say them to her?
it seems as if we have been walking for a long time. i am tired. i notice the curvy lines the mollusk-filled, lettered olive shells create, leaving wet sand messages just like i do with a stick. i am sweaty and i want to cool off in the ocean. suddenly i see the waves. they are huge and frothy, white and noisy. my mother senses i am nervous so she encourages me by leaning down, looking into my eyes, and smiling.
"the waves are fun, you'll see. i'll lift you over them and you'll be flying along the water like a dolphin. you'll be at home in the sea like a starfish or a seahorse. and i promise i won't ever let you go," she says.
i am afraid the first time i meet the monster's foaming mouth, the waves like teeth noisily chomping at me—i wonder how hungry is the sea?—ready to snatch me up and swallow me down as i foolishly wade straight into them. a big one, a real soaker, gets me, throws its big mouth over my head trying to devour me, but my mother never lets go.
that was long ago and this is today. today i have no fear of the sea, i have only a deep, unquenchable longing for its beauty, its seductive power, its vast wildness. as much as the sea changes, turning by degrees from calm to roaring, rolling, churning, it also remains the same, an endless, comforting, back and forth—a sea time shuffle across the shore. i like that.
when i am on the island i open the sliding doors to welcome the sound and the smell of the sea into the house. the waves no longer look scary, but instead have turned into broad, toothy grins smiling up at me. the sea rushes in and does not attempt to eat me up, but greets me kindly and fills me to overflowing with peace.