Monday, March 26, 2007

When the ocean met the sky...

I'm here

For growing up west of Malibu, it's surprising how little my parents took us to the beach. White zinc oxide and Irish fair skin, sand that gets in the car and house. They just didn't do it too often.

By 16, I drove to the beach every chance I got--right over Topanga or Malibu canyon. I didn't surf (I should have tried it at least once - I did skateboard after all). I didn't lay out (my skin freckled or burned, didn't turn Farrah Faucett brown). I swam or body surfed in summer.

Mostly I walked or ran in the sand, listening to the waves. Sometimes I bought plain yogurt with granola at the local health food store and ate it while sitting on a rock and watching the surf.

The ocean has this immovable presence, this vast sameness yet changeableness that I knew to be God. When we moved to the midwest, I missed the ocean every single day... for the first five years. Someone would ask me if I missed California and I'd reply "Every single day." What I meant: "I miss the ocean every single day."

I woke up some days craving flip flops, salt air, sand between my toes and looking out at the sea. Being landlocked made me claustrophobic. I couldn't figure out how to get that sense of expansiveness, that beyondness that fueled my imagination, that soothed me. I needed to see - to see beyond.

Then one day, in spring, I looked up... above the trees, above the farms and saw the midwestern sky. Big, open, unbounded by mountains and skyscrapers, unpolluted, blue. A midwestern sea. An ocean of imagination and soothing, too.

I noticed that I'd go days without thinking about the ocean. I found myself pausing in the middle of a parking lot to look up. I stared out a window while eating yogurt and granola. I'd found my God-spot.

Now, I try to get to the beach once per year. It's my private pilgrammage. Walking in the sun, iPod plugged in, gulls circling, sand pipers scurrying, surf rushing up the beach... church and congregation.

But coming home today, the spring sky greeted me and I felt I hadn't travelled so far.


jo(e) said...

Beautiful post.

My mother grew up near the ocean (east coast instead of west coast -- the Jersey shore) and she passed that kind of love of the ocean onto her kids.

Have you read Kathleen Norris' book Dakota? She has a chapter about the plains of Dakota being like a sea -- your post reminded me of that.

Maria said...


When I moved to So. Cal. it took my about 6 months to realize what I was missing -- running water. Not out of the tap, but in streams, rivers, lakes, ponds. It finally hit home that I was living in a desert that seemed incredibly green only because of a lot of misappropriated water spewed out through sprinkler systems. There's actually a move afoot to turn the LA river back into, well, a river, rather than a concrete channel. I've found a little place of refuge -- my "God-spot" -- right above the Sepulveda dam. God provides.

SusansPlace said...

Lovely words. I am glad you were able to get away to the beach once again and enjoy it to the fullest, all the while coming home and recognizing the beauty that is in your own backyard. What a blessing!


Ampersand said...

Loved reading your words about the beach and what it means to you...and how you've come to have an attachement to your *new* geography.

Steve said...

Beautiful, Julie. Its good to know that its not only me looking up at the sky, or out at the ocean, or into the eyes of my daughters, and finding a "God-spot".

Go Bruins!