There's an Ocean at the End of the Street
I was driving along the other day in Santa Monica- can’t remember where I was going- the lavender dreaminess of the place will do that to you. Suddenly up ahead in the distance at the end of the street I saw the ocean gleaming mischievous and silvery bright in the early afternoon sun. Just knowing that it’s there, lurking playfully, is a whimsical feeling. The presence of the ocean pokes fun at the loud bustle of the cars, commerce and city living which happens right up to its very edge. One can catch the water’s whispers on the breeze, ‘Slow down, come sit with me a while and remember that you have world enough and time to gaze into me, over me, above me or beyond me into the limitless horizon of all your tomorrows that are yet to be born.’
I am deeply happy spending time by the ocean yet I am the furthest creature from a beach lover, in the Californian sense of the word, that it’s probably possible to find. People here stare in disbelief when I confess that after six, yes six years, of living in Southern California I have yet to swim or even paddle convincingly - at all! My children are both water creatures- as is my husband; my son has always been utterly fearless and my daughter seems to be following closely in his footsteps. They can enjoy hours of beach activity, whether in the waves or on the sand, without taking a breath. When I think about this I’m always reminded of a comment of Hope Edelman’s in the final paragraphs of her essay ‘You are Here’,
My daughters [read children for me] are children of freeways and wildfires and coyotes, not of subways and summer rain and grey winter slush.’
I read the essay a few years ago in the collection Goodbye to All That, shortly after leaving the East Coast for the sunnier climes of today. Named for the famous essay by Joan Didion it’s an anthology of essays by writers who have all lived in New York and loved the place before an inevitable departure. I would recommend it in general and in particular to anyone who has felt the utter conviction that leaving this maddening, magnetic city is absolutely the correct course of action only to be overwhelmed by an inexplicable grief and a desperate desire to return once one has departed and there is no possible route back.
It is sometimes difficult to comprehend that we’ve been lucky enough to live in the ocean’s neighbourhood for almost six years now. I walk barefoot on the wet sand along the water’s edge feeling the ebb and flow of the waves on the shore beside me. As I sit gazing into the endlessly beautiful blue I can feel that fluid sense of happy simplicity. My ocean is a dear old friend to whom I love to listen and I am so very glad that he lives at the end of the street.