Have you ever seen an ocean? I know that for some of you, who live on islands, boats, or coastlines, the idea of not having seen one might seem as alien as a landlocked desert or outer space – but I’m an American, and America is one of those places that sprawls out, as the old song says, “from sea to shining sea.” And there happens to be a lot of land between those seas.
I’m from the Northeast, New York State, specifically – but New York’s coastline surrounds New York City and Long Island. The rest of the state, including Saratoga County, where I grew up, and where we live now, is inland. We’ve got rivers, lakes, streams, springs, and ponds in abundance- but no ocean in sight.
I first saw the Pacific Ocean when I was 28 years. I still remember that first day of driving along the Coastal Highway with my new spouse, the vistas unrolling, and the first time of many that he stopped so that we could play with the waves, comb the beach for shells, or just watch. Florence became a special place for us; our little getaway spot was Honeyman State Park, where we would truck camp in Gus, and play in the surf and the dunes all day, eat smoked salmon and raw oysters on the half shell, and watch the dog play, or just connect.
We took the kids to Florence, and the Pacific, this February. We made the strenuous climb up over the dunes, and then the kids were way out ahead of us, learning the waves of a new ocean, so we found some comfy driftwood logs and sat to watch them in an echo of the way we used to watch the Bunko-dog. We found some shells, and a whole sand dollar, and Annalise made a driftwood fort. I found two bubble wands discarded on the empty beach, and the kids had fun adding bubbles to the ocean. Then we walked to the South Jetty, stopping to create art in the sand. We saw cormorants and watched the crashing of the waves on both sides of the rock barrier as we walked to the end of the maintained trail. We watched some young people trying to get two four wheel drive vehicles unstuck from the sand; they’d misjudged their vehicles’ capacity. Later, we drove up along the coast to Newport, admiring the sunset over the water…and speaking of water…
I was SCUBA certified at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, Florida. I thought I was ready; we’d been snorkeling in Biscayne Bay, after all – and I’d passed all my written exams and completed my pool work –
But the ocean isn’t a swimming pool.
As luck would have it, my Open Water Certification dives (a series of four dives that assess the skills needed to operate SCUBA gear, dive in a safe manner, and deal with emergency situations that might arise) was scheduled for days when the water was very choppy. The swells on the surface were strong, and the current high. As more luck would have it, this child of a naval family, who once, as a toddler, had a boat named after her, tends toward seasickness (or maybe that was the saltwater I swallowed in during the free dive, when I forgot that it was a snorkel tube, and not a SCUBA air regulator, that I had in my mouth – durned nerves!).
At any rate, one dive required us to take off our buoyancy control devices (the gear vests divers wear, which are also flotation devices), and put them on again within one minute, at surface. The problem was that the chop of the waves made it impossible for any of us to do this without letting go of the guide rope connected to the boat, so we ended up completing a complicated maneuver in churning water – with one hand!
But, eventually, it was time to descend to the floor of the ocean, at about 30 feet depth, and do the underwater tests. It was a different reality down there – calm and rich in coral, fish, and even a large barracuda and a larger statue of Jesus – the Christ of the Abyss. Those tests went much more quickly, and then we were free to explore- and I was lucky enough that spouses were allowed on the dives, so my Accomplice was there exploring with me.
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So, have you seen an ocean? Traveled on one? Played in the surf, or surfed the waves? Immersed yourself in the world that lies beneath, unseen from above? Gotten seasick? Tell us all about it in the box below!