Friday, June 6, 2014

The Nature of the Sea

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea. ~Isak Dinesen

No catalog of nature's wonders would be complete without mention of that element that covers roughly 71 per cent of the earth's surface-the ocean. According to the National Oceanic and Atmosphetic Administration (NOAA), that percentage contains 97 per cent of the planet's entire water supply and is home to nearly half of all the species of living things on earth. And like all of  earth's other wonders, it doesn't come to us. We go to it to enjoy what is has to offer from the recreational to the aesthetic, from the adventurous to the poetic.

It's been my own observation that the sea, like all else in nature, is never static. It is always moving, changing, altering itself as it shapes, not only the shoreline's characteristics but all that exists along its ever-shifting boundaries. Years of its washing over rocks wears them gradually away, resculpts them, alters their hues and their textures much as rainfall erodes hillsides and imbues them with new complexions as time goes by. Nature, the great reconstructive surgeon, is ever at work reshaping the marine landscape so that it, like so much else around us, never looks the same two days in a row. Blink, and what you just saw you will never see again. Such is the great mass of moving water that lures us to it for reasons as varied as we are.

While the wooded places display their energy more subtly and in much slower fashion, the sea exhibits hers openly and unabashedly. Calm one day, in an uproar the next, it defies our hold over it and never fails to remind us of its power and ability to reduce our lives to debris in a very short time. As yet another aspect of nature's insistent presence among us, we have no choice but to stand in awe of it, respect its awesome power, and allow it full access into areas where it has proven fruitless to try to stop it.

On a smaller scale, the sea provides us with so much pleasure. From wading in its frigid waters to scavenging for the myriad forms of life which it deposits along the shoreline, it never disappoints. For what bored child cannot have his or her focus shifted and held by simply walking along the sand gathering stones, bits of wood or glass polished smooth by the sea's movement or wading in tidal pools in search of those small creatures who scuttle under rocks at our approach?

We flock to the shore to relax and are drawn to its majesty during storms. We gaze out at the full moon's reflection across the rippling waves and marvel at the feats of surfers who enter into a particularly intimate dance with them. We take boats out and cast fishing lines into the depths, and we here along the Maine coast think of the sea as a natural part of our lives. For those of us who live in some degree of proximity to it, it has always been there and will always be there. Its tides will continue to answer to the moon's pull, and its waves will still form to an intensity dictated by wind and weather.

Many years ago, I went with my family often to Fortunes Rocks, and it is still my favorite spot in York County along the Atlantic coastline. Facing the open ocean, the bracing cold waters are still my favorite way to cool off, and I try to get down there as often as I can. Back then, I'd always wander off to my favorite perch on the rock outcropping that juts out into the tide. I'd get out there as far as I could go and sit for hours, or at least until my father would start shouting and waving to me to return before the tide came back in and made that impossible. There was nothing about the experience that I didn't love...the smell of the seaweed baking in the sun, the water lapping at the lowest rocks, and the seagulls bobbing on the waves in the distance. And of course, the walk to and from the outcropping was always a joy as well, the air crisp and clean and invigorating even on the hottest days, for only during the rarest heat waves is true relief not to be found close to the water on that beach.

The sea is where it all began, and I like to think that all else around us, wood, field and flower, are extensions of its magnanimity. Of course, that's just me waxing sentimental again about the big wondrous world around us that we simply call nature. That tree across the street really is a part of the process, for at some point this summer, moisture will exit its leaves into the atmosphere and fall as rain on the land where it will drain into a river and eventually make its way to the sea in one great cycle that never ceases to amaze.

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