In order for you to better understand why this is so, I would like to share with you a poem I wrote:
The Ocean Is My Place
The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my heart.
In the everyday life of love and grief, I am enveloped by its strength.
The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my voice.
In the silence of loud voices, I am reassured by its quiet ear.
The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my balance.
In the push and pull of what I should be, I am steadied by the tide.
The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my rest.
In the angst of worry and what if’s, I am rocked to sleep by the sunset.
The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my music.
In the cacophony of dissonant notes, I am comforted by her song.
The Ocean is my home for it there I find myself.
In the crowded streets when I am lost, by the Ocean I am seen.
The ocean has and always will be my place. While I live about 45 minutes away (in the suburbs) from what I have always referred to as “the shore” (Jersey girl here); it is the place where I find much of who I am.
As a young girl the ocean meant family vacations. It was a place of rest, relaxation, connection, time to play, and regroup. From the beaches along the Jersey shore, down the eastern coast to the Carolinas, as far south as Key West or up to the stunning New England beaches of Massachusetts and the shores of Nantucket Island. The beach has always spoken to me and grounded me. I think of bell hooks when she said, “When we love the Earth, we are able to love ourselves more fully” (hooks, 363). This resonates with me in that it is here that I feel most organic and even childlike in terms of my ability to think and feel with less of a filter. When I was a child, my father would call my sister and I fish as we would stay in the water for hours. Upon return to shore, our hands and feet were pruned and cheeks a bit rosy and salty.
When I look at the ocean, I feel an interconnectedness to not only the earth but to myself. Ever since I was a child, I would sit by the water’s edge and contemplate what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, and I would compose my dreams and transform them from mere ideas into possibilities. I go there to think. It is why I especially love it in the off-season months. While I appreciate the hustle and bustle of the summer as children giggle and splash, I am able to decompress most when the weather is cooler, and I am wrapped in a blanket. Terry Tempest Williams captured this emotion for me when she said, “falling in love with a place, being in love with a place, wanting to care for a place and see it remain intact as a wild piece of the planet” (Williams, 16).
I have deep concerns for its ecosystem. I remember back in the 1980’s there was a lot of buzz about the future of our beautiful humpback whales. There have been oil spills (Exxon, BP, and others), the over-fishing that is leading to less and less resources and species of particular fish, the ocean dumping that has created catastrophic damage for which my generation will never see the full repair. I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that during my senior (high school) prom the beaches were closed due to pollution as a result of medical waste dumping. A few of us were thrown in the water (as a joke) and suffered the consequences in the form of rashes that had to be treated with antibiotics. My heart hurt even then to think…. I have this medication that will heal my body… what does the ocean have? What solution could possibly rid it of so much contamination caused by us? It has been assault after assault. Helpless and at our mercy, we show her little grace.
Conversations of conservation and protection come from a soulful place. It is very personal. It is about mothering the land. It is about giving it back a small piece of what it has given me. It is anything but irrelevant as it is where I find myself, my family, and my sense of community. “Each of us belongs to a particular landscape, one that informs who we are, a place that carries our history, our dreams, holds us to a moral line of behavior that transcends thought” (Williams, 19). About eight weeks before my sister died I took her for a “sisters” day to the beach. We sat in our chairs (it was a chilly but sunny April day) and we talked and talked. We reminisced. We told each other our dreams. We laughed and we cried as she told me some of her wishes.
About four weeks later we headed back down there to a house I rented in order for her to rest and recover from the chemotherapy. She didn’t make it twelve hours there before we had to take her to a hospital where only eleven days later, she would pass away. During those twelve hours at the beach, she sat in her wheelchair on the porch and watched the water. She ate ice cream. We held hands and barely spoke. We knew what was coming but for those moments outside, we were connected to everything and our history was in every moment. I watched her close her eyes as she breathed in the sea air as a small smile spread over face. She watched the boats come in, bend around the jetty and slowly glide into the harbor as if she was intently listening to a piece of music. It was always our favorite place. It gave to us endlessly. When I think of her in those moments, I think of Barbara Kingslover’s reference, “The window is the world opening into me. I find I don’t look out, so much as it pours in” (Kingslover, 1). To watch her was to know that we need the wild and that in those final days, it was the wild places that brought her so much peace and calmness. It is where I find her even now.
While I cannot stand with my sister in person anymore, I understand what Williams meant when she said, “This is the hope of a bedrock democracy, standing our ground in the places we love, together” (Williams, 19). Through our shared stories and histories, the commonality we share is the very bedrock upon which we can affect change and bring awareness despite our differences. It is where our stories can bring about change by evoking feelings of importance and the need for action.
As this was an especially personal blog, I wanted to share a song that I love by Edie Brickell (& The New Bohemians) called Me By The Sea.
hooks, bell. Touching the Earth. http://jdyck.weebly.com/uploads/1/9/1/5/19153179/touching_the_earth.pdf.
Kingslover, Barbara. Knowing Our Place . https://svacanvas.sva.edu/content/mfa_ap/fa16/apg5350/s1/downloads/Session_pre-02_H03_Kingsolver_2.pdf.
Williams, Terry Tempest. “ ‘Home Work’. Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert.” 2002, pp. 3–19.