The beach attendants were struggling to secure the umbrellas in the soft sand. A strong wind out of the east was causing havoc, especially with the ocean, deeming it off limits for human entry. The unmagnanimous riptide of the world’s largest organism, a constant rapid fire of crashing waves was creating a sound I long to hear into eternity. The white capped water rushed to my feet only to return back to whence it came. Early in the morning, the deep blue sea, is a sanctuary to the dreamers, the thinkers, and the writers who sporadically line the beach sharing the same muse. They are alone with their thoughts, their dreams, their reflections, staring in awe into the abyss searching for the horizon, trying to find the words that can make some sort of sense of this enigmatic world we inhabit. If there is one thing that gives an individual a perspective of their significance in this life it is the ocean. The science says the ocean is where we all originate and there comes a day we all return home. Possibly, it is why I have my most clear vision, my sharpest memories, and my heart is fuller. I have this feeling that I have indeed returned all the way home, or at least close enough to touch the serenity I have sought in so many of my lives that came before.
At last I am the tortured proser searching for a unique grain of sand on a beach full of an infinite amount. In the presence of the ocean the words come easier, I see the pain and the joy of the past in the distance. My hopes and dreams of the future seem touchable. James Agee, in his novel ‘A Death in the Family’ makes the point that “we can never go home again.” On the surface this sounds like such a sad message, yet when you stop and contemplate Agee’s words, the “home” he is talking about is that short span of time we are young and innocent. The magical portion of adolescence when we are in the comfort of our parents bosom. That moment, that not all of us are fortunate to share, when we haven’t a care, except for running through the grassy sun filled fields of our youth. The “home” that is the preparatory laboratory, which is the training ground for departure. As the foaming white water approached my bare toes I watched a small seabird picking up a morsel of a snack before flying off to eat in peace. The little fellow did not appear to be intimidated as he flew out over the vastness of a domain that was its abode.
We had come to the home of the seagulls and pelicans, a place where even the proudest amongst us, full of self esteem and self worth, can’t help but to check their egos. A place where left alone, it is possible to make a rare connection to the cosmos. The French philosopher Pierre Hadot has referred to it as the “oceanic feeling”. A sense of belonging to something larger, understanding that “humans things are an infinitesimal point in the enormity.” Facing the ocean there is no place for ego, only the opportunity to reflect on the quintessential questions of who we are and what our purpose is in the crazy scheme of life? In the midst of my reflections, and sunrise aloneness, I was otherwise surrounded by family consisting of my wife, two daughters and their boyfriends. We had traveled from New York and Atlanta respectfully to a secluded waterfront house in Northwest Florida. We were all running away for a variety of reasons including; work, grad school, politics, Covid 19, but mostly the annoying noises of our daily lives. For a broader project I have in recent months been doing some writing in regard to the concept of “home.” Somewhere in the sounds of the roaring waves I was reminded of answers I had heard before. Home is where your heart is. Home is where family is all together as one.
It has been nearly 20 years since my parents and my immediate family went on vacations together. We were so fortunate to be able to have five or six years where my parents were healthy enough to enjoy helping their daughters build castles in the sand. It is still easy to see the look in my mother and father’s eyes holding hands with my girls walking to dinner. There was never anything said but it was easy to read their faces. The look of a couple who had been married, at the time some 45 years, who were reaping the awards of putting a loving family together. The son who they thought would never grow up raising a beautiful family of his own, a dynamic independent daughter in law who they loved like their own, and two cute, eager little cherubs to spoil excessively. I couldn’t help to think of my mom and dad as I watched Laura and Mary Kate searching for a giant wave while the guys threw the football around on the water’s edge. This life is mostly about suffering and overcoming a constant series of obstacles. It is the days like the one in front of me that makes every inch of pain worth those struggles. I have spent far too much time searching for the perfect wave, waiting for the time when all my problems are behind me. We all know perfection doesn’t exist and our lives would be meaningless without problems to solve.
We all spend so much energy, me included, trying to live life balancing the two popular concepts of; “pay attention to details,” and “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Of course the ideas contradict each other on the surface yet we all understand the importance of implementing both in moderation. At this stage in my life the details are about doctors appointments, perpetuation plans in business, and family. The small stuff that I try to no longer sweat include; car problems, bills, work, and daily time schedules. Although I was wasn’t very good at it, I am a big believer in a long term plan. I would guess I am normal in that I never allowed myself to think or envision life more than a year out. The ‘curve balls’ that get thrown to us all, make it hard to write a script with an ending that we can predict. I am a big fan of happy endings but practical enough to understand nobody escapes disappointment and regret. The sun was reaching it’s zenith for the day and my skin coloring was turning a fiery red. Before I headed back to the house to seek shelter from the rays I watched two pelicans dive bombing the water in search of their prey. After five or six dives the pelicans had their fill and headed off to swoon over their boundless empire, and I headed back to my ocean home.
According to google the ocean makes up appoximately 65% of the earth’s surface. The human body is made up of 65% water. I am not much of a scientist but those two facts are enough evidence to convince me that we were spawned by the ocean, and to the ocean our physical remains will return. ” How far we all come from ourselves, so far, so much inbetween, you can never go home again,” James Agee wrote. In a very personal way those words have haunted me since I read them in my junior year of college taking a literature class. Most of us spend ample time in our lives attempting to get away from home only to find once we leave an immediate search to find our way back. The ocean has a way of putting our significangce in this life into perspective. For a very short time humans get a chance to be part of a universe that is infinite. Throughout our living years we toil in day to day activities trying to make ourselves better, our families stronger. I am convinced life has meaning and we all have a purpose. Still, sitting in front of God’s most amazing creation I found myself challenging Agee’s assertion. As I looked over to Donna getting drenched by the warmth of the sun and my favorite four adults within view, I knew I had finally come all the way home.