Just spent four days on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The surf below our cabin was a frothing cauldron the entire time we were there, with car-sized rock being pummeled non-stop by rolls of sea. We could see sea from the deck, the yard, the hot tub, the dinner table, the living room, the bedrooms, the "office" and the guest house. We could hear the rumble of surf all the time, a soothing white noise, occasionally punched with the crashing roar of a surfer's dream.
Since we were 150 feet above the water, we didn't fret about tsunamis. But in transit, in town, we were very aware of the threat that coastal folks face 24/7. Signs broadcasting hazard zones and escape routes and instructional brochures reminded visitors like us that complacency about the ocean could be a fatal error. Baristas compared their preferred routes if an alarm blared. Volunteer emergency workers reviewed a recent drill.
Sobered me out my dreamy idealization of the sea. The astounding videos and satellite images of Japan seared my mind, reminded me that this incredibly soothing waterbody can be a giant of unimaginable destruction. Each wave that I tracked to its foamy dissolution took on a duality, a polarity of beauty and ferocity. Annie Dillard's writing came to mind, as she zeroes in so often on that dichotomy of the natural world. Her introduction to "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," in which she describes the bloody pawprints of her cat tracking across her nightgown, exemplifies that contrast. The pawprints, evidence of a recent kill, look like roses. Nature is incredibly beautiful and incredibly cruel.
The ocean is incredibly beautiful and incredibly cruel.
That thought stays with me. Yes, I was blessed this week to savor images of this amazing union of water and continent's edge. Yes, I'll turn to those images in memory and tiny videos when the land-locked location of my high desert home seems too confining. And, yes, I'll be reminded again of both the demonic and soothing character of the sea.