For those who may not know, I was born in Florida. I grew up there and never learned to swim, despite being thirty minutes away from the ocean the entire time. I’ve since moved away, found my calling in life, and for a while had developed an intense fear of deep water, and the ocean.
You know that feeling when you lose contact with someone and you feel like you ought to reach out to them, but the longer you wait the more awkward it feels, until that strange guilt overpowers your desire to see them again? That’s kind of where my fear of the ocean came from, I think.
For the holidays this year, my husband and I went to visit his parents at a condo in central Florida. The weather was gorgeous (alarmingly so), and we spent two of our three days there out on the beach. It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea of playing in the water the way I used to as a child, but once I did, it felt so much like a homecoming that I couldn’t believe I’d ever been scared.
I love the ocean, and I have such a clear picture of myself living as a beach bum in a small, artsy town somewhere in Florida before all the developments began that I imagine I must be seeing some flash of a past life. She’s like an old relationship that has long since ended, but you both still love each other, even if you both know it could never work. Our roads have diverged– we’ll wish each other the best on our paths and never be true strangers again, but our futures are no longer intertwined.
We sat on the edge of the waves today, water rushing around us as seagulls (hundreds of them!) flew overhead. The sand bubbled with little shelled creatures burrowing beneath as the waves dug them up again. Adam found a snail in the water and as I watched it crawl over my hands, I understood what it meant to see nature as a theophany, an outpouring of divinity in every aspect.
I’ve never seen so much life at the beach. We found a few more shelled gastropods, and even a little crab scuttling along in the water. It felt like she was catching me up on all the things that had happened with our friends since I’d left.
Maybe I was a sea witch once. I’ve wondered more than once why I’m not one now, but I think I understand that I have a different goal this time around that will take me into forests and mountains, and that my love of the ocean is simply nostalgia for a life already lived.