The sea taught me the feel and taste and sound of distance; the meaning of depth. My world and my eternity would be flatter without the sea.
I study the stars. When I was in grade school I would sit in the summer dusk, watching fireflies and stars. Watching the stars become brighter as the fireflies dimmed. Looking at the spaces between the shining points. Wondering at the idea of infinity. Trying to plunge further amongst them. I could never make the spaces between stretch as they should. I could never make them deeper the further I went.
But I have loved the sea far longer than the stars.
When I was 3 we spent the summer at
When I was 10 we spent a week in
When I was 12 we spent the summer in a South Indian village not a mile from the sea. The beach is called Thirimiruvallum, a brief curve of sea-borne sand in the granite seawall. I was the only girl swimming, surrounded by a cortege of male relatives. We swam until I lost the bottom for the first time, I and my brother dolphining over the swells. But we went no farther. The water, free of the riptides that spin further up the coast, is still dangerous. I could feel safety drop away beneath my feet, lying deeper and deeper the further I went.
When I was 15 we returned to
When I was 16 we spent a week in
When I was 19 we spent a week in
When I was 27 I spent 10 days in
I’ve longed for the ocean for years now. It is an odd, contented ache; I will go, whether sooner or later. It soothes me to know that soon or late it will be there waiting, sand and rock still falling away beneath the singing waves.
It comforts me to my center to know that when I am gone from it entirely, no more than a memory and then not even that, the sea will remain. It will roar against whatever coast it has shaped for itself, wearing ceaselessly against sand and stone. It will sustain its slow and swift and shimmering grace, its shallows’ turn and thrum and tumble, its deeps’ scored stretches falling and falling and falling away.
There is solace in the knowledge that the sea will continue long past the time when there are none to name or recall it.
Stars were, long before the ocean, and long after it they will endure. But I will never submerge my body in their lives, never swirl my hands through their substance, never comprehend the spread of their shores, never swim in the endlessness between them as it falls away beneath me. I will study all these things, yes. But I will never feel them against my skin.
The sea waits for my touch: here, now. While I am still here to remember it. While I can still cherish its teaching.
While I can still understand that all things get deeper the further I go.