Happily Overpowered by the Ocean


She is a seductive sea, drawing one in with the innocuous first approach of her gentle lapping at the shore. She licks timidly at the toes, gradually pulling one into her realm with insistence and delicious disorientation. By the time you realize what is happening, she’s shackled your ankles with the warmth of her salty breath. In the midday warmth, her touch is cool and refreshing, so you tread a little deeper. Shards of light bounce off her surface, sunlight and bubbles and swirls of a mist and haze so entrancing you easily lose your bearings, willingly and gleefully.

She plays with you at first, gently rolling you in her advancing power. Churning sand and stone, shells and seaweed, she tosses everything into a giddy mélange of salty fun. The delighted squeals of fellow swimmers give call-back to the seagulls, who alternately soar and dive, their sight sharp and instantly able to pick out a meal darting about in the water.

As the day progresses and the tide comes in, she gains in energy and might. Conspiring with the moon, she lets loose a series of escalating waves, pounding the shore with her power and slamming her weight down upon the sand. For the first time, one gets a hint of her fury.

As she reached her strong arm onto the sand in a ripped curl of a wave, I extended my arm in unison and let her pull me in. But as much as she could embrace, she could just as easily and flippantly thrash you about, tumbling and destroying any sense of equilibrium or stability. She is dangerous that way, and though you may want to pause to catch your breath after she knocks you down, she will never wait. There is always another wave coming.

Taller than me, and wider than the eye can see, each onslaught is a thrilling exercise of her sovereignty, and it need not be benevolent. I get pulled down only twice in my days within her ambivalent grasp, but each time is memorably dizzying. I consider myself fairly strong and steady on my feet, but I am no match for the force of her will. Mostly, I dive into her limitless arsenal before the waves break, sliding under and skirting the pull of each wave as it gains in power. For the smaller ones I can jump above the gathering rolls. But every once in a while I’m in the perfect spot for her to capture me, and there is nowhere to run or jump or dive or hide, and she takes me down. There’s a thrill to such violence, a buzz to being in such close proximity to that kind of dominion.

For someone who demands complete control, I find relief and release in being tossed around like some worn-out rag doll. The ocean forces me to loosen any rigidity, to go with the grandness of her flow, and to put myself in submission to a force greater than my collective self. There is freedom in that.

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