Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging From A-Z 2015, Challenges and Contests, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling, Writing in Freedom

Pacific and Pennekamp (A Tale of Two Oceans): #atozchallenge, Day 18

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.


Sand and Surf Still Life. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton, February 2015, from the dunes near Florence South Jetty.

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…

Sand and Surf SIbs. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton, near Florence Oregon – South Jetty Beach, February, 2015.


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!).

Angelfish and Coral at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, August 1980. Courtesy the Dale M. McDonald Collection, State Library and Archives of Florida, via Flickr. No known copyright restrictions.

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.

Christ of the Abyss and Diver, circa 1985. Photo courtesy Florida Division of Tourism, via Flickr. No known copyright restrictions.


This post is part of the #atozchallenge. For more persuasive, pernicious, or potent “P” posts, click the banner.

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!





I am myself. I own my life, and live with three other people who own theirs. My intention is to do only those things that bring me joy, and to give myself wholly to those things I do. Writing has been my passion throughout my life, and this will become the home for my writing life...because it brings me great joy!

3 thoughts on “Pacific and Pennekamp (A Tale of Two Oceans): #atozchallenge, Day 18

  1. Having grown up in central NC with mountains and ocean equally far apart (4 hours, in those days), I’m still blown away to live in a place with both RIGHT THERE. How can this be? Amazing. We love Honeyman–one of our favorite family photos was taken from below a group leap off one of the higher dunes. Not surprised to hear it’s special to you too!

    1. I’m not the type to go leaping off a perfectly good dune, but I’d love to see that picture!

      My Accomplice’s mom and stepdad camped at Honeyman for their honeymoon, so there’s a deep history in his family. We’re very fond of Florence – first place we go to, every time we travel to the coast. So Honeyman is ideally located.

      It’s really cool that we have that in common, too! =) Maybe, someday not too distantly in the future, we can play there together! ❤

  2. I’ve seen the Atlantic Ocean many times, as my family used to go to Cape Cod every summer. When I was older, I got sick of going to the same place over and over again, and was allowed to stay home the last few times they went. Now I miss Cape Cod, and would love to revisit it as an adult.

    I’ve also been in the Gulf of Mexico, when visiting my favorite aunt and surviving grandparents in Sarasota, and in the Mediterranean Sea, while on the beach on Tel Aviv. Lake Kineret (the Sea of Galilee) is also a beautiful, peaceful body of water, though I wasn’t there when it was good swimming weather, and the one time I was in Israel in the summer, we didn’t have a chance to go in the lake in the daytime. Some of us sat by the lake at night, but we couldn’t really go swimming in the dark.

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