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Peaceful Seas & Dark Waters

Pacific Ocean from Camp Pendelton 

I understand why so many people are fascinated by the sea.   Its moods can change in such rapid and interesting ways.  As I watched for just about a half hour, I saw it go from gray and calm to bluer and wilder.  Finally near sundown it became the wine-dark sea of Homeric description, as you can see on the pictures.

Lonely beach 

I was lucky enough to get a little cottage on the Pacific instead of staying at the hotel.  The trade off is that I have to walk up to the mock embassy.  Of course, that is also one of the things l like about being here.   So I guess there is no trade-off, unless you count not having Internet access.  This is why you are reading this post a few days after I wrote it.  This is the off season for these cottages. I would not be able to get a place here otherwise.  It is also unusual in that the beach in almost deserted.   There are not many places along the Southern California coast where you can look out over an empty beach.

http://johnsonmatel.com/2010/April/Beach/my_cottage.jpg 

The ocean is primal and powerful.  It puts your troubles in their proper place.   I watched the sundown yesterday and today.   I guess it is good that I don’t live here.  I would probably eventually go blind from this sort of contemplation.  I have four nights down here on the shore, until I have to move back to the regular hotel.  I don’t suppose it will hurt me in that short a time.

As a Midwestern landlubber, I didn’t see the ocean until I was twenty-three years old and I am not sure that really counts.  I flew over the Atlantic Ocean from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, so I only saw it from very high up.   I didn’t actually touch the ocean until a year later, when we drove down to Florida.  I managed to convince some of my friends to go down.  My motivation was to pick up Chrissy, who was down there with her elderly aunt.  My first ocean touch was in the Gulf of Mexico in Bradenton, Florida.  I was surprised at how clear it was and how salty it tasted.

http://johnsonmatel.com/2010/April/Beach/beach_shelter_with_birds.jpg 

My previous experience was with Lake Michigan.  It is really not that different.  Lake Michigan is too big to see across too and there are some ocean areas that look a lot like the Lakeshore.  The Baltic Sea near Gdansk, for example, reminds me a lot of home.  Maybe that is why immigrant from that area moved to the shores of the lake.  The lake doesn’t get such big waves as the ocean can, but there are lots of times when the ocean waves are no bigger.  The big difference is the lack of salt and the lack of tides.  This means that it tastes different but also that trees and plants can grow much closer to the edge of the lake.  This gives it a different aspect. 

 

I find the ocean attractive but a little scary.   I walked a short way into surf to get the picture up top and I was paying a lot more attention to the setting sun than to the oncoming surf.  I was surprised by a wave. It didn’t knock me down, but I did get a little wetter than I expected.  The sea has power.  My mind drifted wildly to tsunamis.  I suppose the chances that a big wave will sweep me and my cottage off this beach are very small, but … I am writing this in the middle of the night.  I just came in from looking out over the dark sea.   There was some light provided by the almost half moon and the man-made lights in the background, but mostly I could just hear and feel the ocean.  Suffice to say that I didn’t walk close enough that I could fall off some unseen edge or in range of an errant waves that could reach out and pull me down to Davy Jones’ locker.  Lots of things seem possible in the middle of the night that look really pretty dumb when seen in the light of day.  But it is dark out there for now.


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