Today I am wondering about the attraction and fondness I have, and have always had, for the Ocean. I have loved being near it since I was a child. Being born in Portland, I grew up taking it for granted. We lived for many years a mere few hundred feet from the ocean, and I could see it from almost every window in our home. As an adult, I lived in four other States; but where I lived (Boston, San Francisco, Homer, Alaska, and Sanibel Island, Florida) was always near the Sea.
I think sometimes about what it would have been like to grow up in the Midwest, or anywhere so far inland that seeing the Ocean would be impossible. Would I have this same love for it? Is it true that what you don’t know, you don’t miss?
I also wonder if this love is genetic;can something like the deep satisfaction of walking along the shore squishing sand between your toes be in your DNA? My questions brought me to thinking about my Dad’s grandfather, Captain Fred Beardsley, a Sea Captain who migrated from his home in Nova Scotia to Boston. My Father had a close relationship with his Grandpa, being his first grandchild; Dad used to tell me stories of the Depression years when he and Captain Fred would comb the streets of Boston to collect papers to redeem for a few pennies. Times were hard.
Another story that my Dad told me (and you know any of us with a drop of Irish blood love to tell stories), was about a daring rescue in the Caribbean. It seems that my Great-Grandfather was a Rum-runner in the Prohibition days. He sailed to those sultry places where the rum was abundant and smuggled it back to the U.S. Apparently at some point, he was conscripted to help smuggle another item out of the Dominican Republic: its ousted leader! I wish I had taken notes on this, because I am not sure of the year or the Presidente, but it all happened under cover of darkness, and the man who needed rescue was safely whisked away by the intrepid Captain Fred.
The photo above is the only photograph I have of my Great Grandfather. He appears very serious and his face tells some rather sad stories. I wish there were someone left to ask about the personal details of his life…but they are all gone. I can only assume, from what I do know, that he was quite the swashbuckling fellow, and that he had real courage.
So, I could have inherited some of those kelp-laden chromosomes from Captain Fred. I know that the Ocean is always comforting to me, in an inexplicable way. Its mystery and majesty is both soothing and startling; I love the power of it, and I never tire of seeing, smelling, or touching it. I now live farther from the Ocean than I ever have as an adult..about 30 miles. Part of me always misses it, but I am close enough to get there frequently for a “fix”. Perhaps John Masefield summed up my passion in his poem “Sea Fever” when he wrote:”I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide, Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, and the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying”.