Summer in Ogunquit ~ Lulled by the Ocean

Drawn by the undertow, my life is out of control,
I believe this wave will bear my weight so let it flow…
                      – James, Sit Down

This marks my first time at the beach since, well, my last time on the beach, which was with Andy a few years ago when we had an unusually hot spell in May. I had not, however, been on a Maine beach in the summer since my childhood.

To be honest, after childhood I didn’t get the thrill of lying on a beach. Without a sand castle to make, or a warm ocean to explore, where is the joy in sitting around? What is the point? But like my recent embracing of the joys of lying around in a pool lounger, I was hopeful that this would prove a similar rite of passage into adulthood.

The sun is strong, and while I doused myself in SPF 50, I did not prepare for the fact that I just got a super-close buzz cut, and my scalp was all sorts of exposed to the elements. On the way to the beach, I find a lightweight pink plaid fedora in one of the tourist shops, a life-saving accoutrement that matched my towel.

Paired with sunglasses and an open Hawaiian shirt, the hat makes me feel like an old man in Miami, and I love it.

We walk quite a way to find a space not entirely overrun with people, made more difficult by the encroaching high tide. (I was amazed to see the ocean completely cover about 100 feet of sand within an hour.)

We lay our towels down and follow suit on top of them, sinking gratefully into the soft warm sand. It gives exactly where you want it to give, and supports in the spots where you don’t even realize you want it. Our feet, cold from the lapping Maine sea, dig into the heat of the beach. I open up the book I’m reading, The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch, but only read a few pages of it before I’m pulled under.

The ocean gently roars at our feet, lulling with its rhythmic, intoxicating drone – the steady beat of waves upon the shore, and there is no greater inducer of sleep. Soon enough, I nod off in the baking sun, protected only by a thin layer of sun-block and a flimsy whim of a hat. Overhead, the breeze is alternately warm and cool – whichever your body most wants before it even cries out its discomfort – and suddenly the spell of the sea is upon me. There is no more peaceful, comfortable, sensual place to be.

I’d forgotten the call of the sea, the way it heals and smoothes out the wrinkles of life. A certain calm exists, even in the most tumultuous waves and how they crash on the shore, the storms and wind, the sand-blown blunting of the sharpest edge. The ocean brings irrevocable peace.

I come to and open the book again, but it is all too much, too calming – and soon enough the book falls to the side, and I am asleep in the sun, Andy beside me, and the ocean quietly crashing before us. It is this which enchants, this which binds men to mermaids and sirens – and we are powerless to its tempting call.

The spell is not easily broken – how simple, how easy it would be to stay here, to stew happily in the sun, to give in and give up – Blanche Hudson on the beach while Baby Jane dances her way to oblivion – who was better off in the end? But we awaken, and we have dinner reservations, so we make the trek back to the hotel, in the daze and blaze of the afternoon sun – unrelenting, glorious, from the beginning of time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we have to live on, or very close to, the beach. There is simply no way around it. The question is how… All I know is that a few days in that heaven has stirred a dormant passion for the sea.

Now I’m relieved to hear
That you’ve been to some far out places
It’s hard to carry on
When you feel all alone
Now I’ve swung back down again
It’s worse than it was before
If I hadn’t seen such riches
I could live with being poor
– James, Sit Down
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