When I go to the ocean now, there aren’t as many shells as there were when I was a child. Surely they aren’t all gone. Likewise, there’s no way that all the mysteries of the world will be solved and therefore gone, including the mystery of where all the sea shells have gone. It just can’t be that all the creatures that make shells have gone. Nature is inexhaustible, isn’t it? That’s what I want to believe. I’m no oceanographer, though I did begin to read a substantial book on the subject. It was the fate of the Titanic and other ships lost at sea that steered me to study the sea. I love the sound of the sea, the endless movement of the water, the brightness of the sun, the freshness of the air, and even the life-threatening storms that brew over the water.
When I think of the ocean I think of sailing, especially how much fun it was to learn to sail when I was in summer camp by the sea. I went out on a little boat with an older counselor who impressed me mightily with his knowledge. He showed me the ropes, so to speak, in a single afternoon. I was somewhat in awe of him but I became very excited at the next day’s prospect, which was sailing solo. Even though the boat was small and I couldn’t go very far into the ocean, the experience was pure magic. Sailing feels so smooth even in choppy water. Life feels more fluid out there, the softness of the water providing a cushion that’s absent from a landlubber’s life on hard ground.
Water is such a crucial part of life, among the absolute indispensables, the sine qua nons. What would life be without water? When scientists investigate far-flung planets, water is what they look for first. What does a man wandering in a desert desire most? What could substitute for water?
The ocean washes away my fears. It brings me face-to-face with something vast, something far larger than myself, and yet it’s tangible, far less abstract than the sky, for example, which appears to go nowhere at all and yet be everywhere at once. And, for most practical purposes, the ocean is just about as infinite as the sky. I think that’s what many people want: some feeling that they’re a valuable part of something larger than their own small moments, some connection to the big affair. The ocean’s a pretty big affair, but you can put just your feet in it and know that you’ve essentially put yourself in its entirety.
Sometimes I think it’s small connections I desire—to be in love again, for instance—and I deeply desire that with all its trials and pain, though I hope for something sweeter now, having felt so much pain. But people come and go and lives move very rapidly today, so maybe interpersonal love is really just a pipe dream. But I like to give it away, because that’s how it comes back.