There really isn’t anything anywhere that compares with the ocean. A writer can use up a book full of adjectives to describe the size, the color, and the vastness, the motion and the mood of the sea, and never really do it justice. Almost everyone remembers the first time they saw the ocean, if they were not born to those who live or work near it. Almost everyone feels the same sense of awesomeness that accompanies the idea that something that size is that close to where they are standing. The stars in the sky seems far away and they are. But the ocean is right before the eyes and the toes can be dipped into it.
It seems so pretty, so innocuous, and so incredible to stand in the wet sand in front of the ocean and feel the water lapping around the feet and the waves breaking gently, yet noisily at knee level, and it’s easy to forget that thousands, maybe millions of human beings have been killed by this thing. Its hunger for human flesh and bones is as insatiable as the human desire to be near the ocean, in the ocean, to sail and play, to fish and explore, and to die, in the ocean.
Good men, good sailors, great captains, worthy ships and fools all drown and are destroyed by the ocean, when the time comes. “Lost with all hands” is an expression invented by humans to tell other people that the ocean took a ship and everyone on in down to the bottom, once again. Unsinkable vessels litter the depths of the ocean, debris fallen from the watery sky down to the denizens who await a meal. Sailing vessels and skiffs, simple wooden rowboats and battleships become too heavy to float so they sail downward now; their last voyage so many have taken, those who took to the sea, and no matter what gods they prayed to or what they believed of a life after this one, or who they were, the ocean took them inside of itself and the ocean would keep most of the bodies and nearly all of the ships, never to see the sky again.
Everyone laughed at the premise of “LOST” because there was no way, with all of our modern search devises, that an entire airliner, filled with people, could be taken by the ocean without a trace. Yet the Indian Ocean devoured a plane three years ago and they think, possibly, some tiny pieces could be, from that wreck. Those who look for wrecks and the survivors know. They know if not soon then likely never. As benign and wonderful as it is to play in the salt water it is perilous and deadly to be stranded in it. The lifespan of humans caught in open water can be measured in hours and sometimes minutes.
The ocean allows that its edge be a playground, its vast open mouth be entered without fear of death or harm, so that going deeper in seems equally harmless. The further from the sand castles a human gets the greater possibility of being laid to rest in the world’s largest mausoleum. Fools are eaten first, and the skillful can only hope for good luck, favorable winds, and to survive each voyage out into the sea.
How could I not write about the ocean while sitting less than a hundred meters from it? I sleep so close to the shore I could hear it were I not inside. I can awaken and sit twenty meters on a balcony and before me is the ocean. The Gulf of Mexico, technically, yet no less a part of the great water that takes up most of the surface of the earth, and the mass of our bodies, and the whole of our nature.
Create some work, Mike, the ocean calls out to me, that might reflect some part of the glory of the sea with mere words. Use the colors and descriptions that have all been used before, if you will, or invent new ones, or rearrange the old ones, it matters not at all, the ocean tells me. There is nothing greater to compare this to and only lesser wonders can be held up before it, as if I was a caveman trying to explain the nature of the sun by holding up a burning twig. All words fail, these words fail, fail as surely, just like so many great ships and great people who have gone forth to sail the seas just to experience the thrill of not being killed this time by it.
So many people, right there before me, littering the edge of the sea with their plastic toys and their chemicals to keep the sun at bay. They line the mouth of the sea like so many gnats that swarm around the mouth of a dragon, knowing that they are far too insignificant to be eaten. They are safe only through their inability to be discerned or noticed. Even their infants are safe here, and the sea yawns with boredom at their delusion.
Fish, shelled creatures, and other animals in the sea have filled the bellies of humans through eons of time as the sea filled its belly with them. I watch as tiny flashes of light explode at the water’s edge, and millions of photos of the ocean are taken away, see, I tell you, it is harmless and wonderful, the ocean is, say the tourists taking photos of a captured tiger tells me, as they stand behind the glass cage.
The ink that flows through my veins and pumped through my heart tastes of salt. Tears, sweat, blood, and ink cannot exist without part of the ocean being present. The first ink was donated by sea creatures and this ink, bound by electrons and sailed through a space that doesn’t exist, is still powered by the ocean. A writer cannot visit the shore without feeling the yearning to write about it, to shout out to the rest of humanity that such a marvel exists, no lesser wonder than the stars and no smaller than love.