Life and the Sea
It promised to be a glorious morning. The air was cool and still, quiet seabirds glided by, faint shadows in the predawn light. Their unusual silence seemed a reverent bow to the new day, a kind of homage paid to creation. I had come to this quiet little dock in Manset Harbor, Maine to experience the unfiltered dawn. To simply be with the quiet of the moment. No masses of brightly dressed vacationers obnoxiously oblivious to anything but their own agenda, just a little time of peaceful reflection. Fishing boats, the work horses of the sea with their rusted booms and chains moored alongside sleek sailboats with their bare masts, pleasure craft of every description and of course lobster boats all bobbed up and down in harmony on the gentle swell. Across the water, the dark outline of a distant shore was barely visible, shrouded in the mystery of shadowy darkness. As my mind drifted and wandered with the motion of the water, the colors and tempo of the world around me began to brighten. Low clouds on the horizon were slowly painted with the first glow of dawn in depths of purple with a few hints of gold, foretelling the arrival of the sun.
There is something about the sea, with its many moods, that draws me to it. The smell of fresh salt air brings with it many happy childhood memories. The sound and sight of waves stirred by a storm, rising up and curling their foamy way toward shore and then breaking violently with a deep roar, followed by the sizzle of spray raining gently back down. Relentlessly the waves assault the rocks and sands, as gulls battle the wind crying out in defiance. Then there are moments of serenity as gentle rollers kiss the sands washing away the sorrows of the world as a pod of dolphins playfully feed just beyond the breakers.
Many who go to “the beach” fail to see the ocean. Yes, they see the waves, splash about, bake themselves under the blistering sun, then trudge their way across the scorching sand back to the rental. There is of course nothing wrong with this if it brings one happiness. The beach as a place to play is truly a gift. For myself I have found to fully experience the ocean one needs to be aware of its connectedness to all things; the winds, tides and currents and take the time to observe them. The phases of the moon do so much more than create the tides. An integral part of the cycle of life many creatures of the sea take their cue from moonlight on everything from spawning to feeding.
Waves are a wonder of change. From day to day or hour to hour they may turn from pacified to raging. At times slanting their way toward shore from one direction or another while at other times they bully their way in head on. I truly enjoy the ocean when the weather is a little sketchy, how a strong wind from shore blows off the top of the curlers creating a rain of spray and mist. I imagine the swell of the moment being the result of a hurricane hundreds of miles off shore.
From one of my favorite places on the Outer Banks of North Carolina I can watch the horizon and the distant clouds floating above the warmer northward bound waters of the Gulf Stream as it collides with its lesser known southward bound brother the cold watered Labrador Current. The amount of water transported in the Gulf Stream is an incredible 150 million cubic feet per second, to the Labrador’s 125 million cubic feet per second. Compare these to the mere 200 thousand per second of the Amazon river and you get a clearer picture of how vast and powerful these rivers of the sea truly are.
Surf fisherman are often some of the keenest observers of changes along the shore. They tend to make a study of the sands at lower tides to understand where fish may be feeding. They look for troughs, which are like little highways that fish travel through. Holes or depressions which may offer good places for feeding. Is it a flat beach, shallow to the breakers? Where are the little rivulets which carry nutrients and attract small fish which of course then attract larger fish occurring? Surf fisherman are also astute observers of seabirds. They know to watch where they are feeding and how they are moving.
The life giving and healing properties of the oceans are enormous. They can be food for the spirit giving us time to pause, reflect and perhaps change the course of our lives. The oceans provide 70 percent of the Earths oxygen and food for the table. However, the bounty of the sea is not endless and the huge floating fish factories, with their enormous nets are depleting this resource at a staggering rate. Plastics and other waste we dump into the oceans have created the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. An estimated 80,000 metric tons of plastic are said to inhabit the patch.
As the elder and said to be wiser of all the creatures of the Earth we have a responsibility to be good stewards of this wondrous gift we have been given. Some of the issues mentioned are far away, so we feel disconnected from them. However far the may seem, they are actually close and immediate, are affecting all life on Mother Earth. To combat this takes all of us and the best way to start is by educating ourselves on what we can do as individuals, communities and nations.
Life began in the oceans and long after man is gone the oceans will heal themselves.
William C. Judge 2019