By Leigh Morrow
The first time I saw any of the five bodies of water that call themselves an Ocean, I was mesmerized
For years, I had sat summer evenings on the back steps of my home in the landlocked Canadian Prairies, a shell bought at a garage sale cradled to my ear, imagining what an Ocean could possibly sound like.
I had visualized sailing a ship across any of them, but especially the Pacific, and landing in exotic sounding places like Bora Bora and Tahiti, where I would live on the beach and collect glass, polished smooth by the waves, to wear around my neck. I imagined I was Black and balanced baskets high on my head filled with sweet fruit like papayas and fragrant mangoes.
This was long before the Internet, when children had to imagine what they could not see in their own backyards. I had imagined the Ocean as vast, and blue, but nothing could have prepared me for its power.
I was just 11 when I heard the surf roar for the first time, as it pounded the Oregon coast, but was immediately struck with its omnipresence. I was hearing those waves for the first time, yet they had been pounding and crashing every few seconds, of every hour, of every day, for every year, since I was born! At 11, I wasn’t too concerned about the fact that those waves had been crashing well before I arrived into this world, but the fact that something had been happening, right alongside me while I ate and grew and slept and ran, was more than intriguing to me.
Even now, when I return to my second home on the Pacific Ocean, those first few hours when I can finally hear the waves crash again, as I unpack and then as I lie in my bed after many nights away, each wave pounding the shore, leaving its mark, reminds me of the power, and mostly the repetition, day in day out, century after century, crashing and receding, oblivious to our world, our interruptions of war and disease and death. Then, as magically, as I hear them, within a day or two, they go silent.
As I settle into the rhythms of my village, my daily chores and beach run, my new routines of Mexican life, the sound of the Ocean becomes a background noise, like elevator music, there, but not really noticed, until something reminds you to listen. I think the Ocean provides a perfect metaphor for our lives. Like the waves, life in all its sounds, smells, colors and heart-wrenching intensity, is seldom absorbed in all its vibrancy, until something shocks us, back to hear what children can naturally hear. The sound of the waves, when I first arrive in San Agustinillo, is like hearing with newborn ears, a sound so loud, yet, within days, has softened, so accustomed have I become relentless crashing.
We all become accustomed to life’s sounds, life’s colors, scents, sweetness and textures as we plod along our trail. Life slowly fades, before us, like the lens of a camera that quietly closes. The intensity of youth is no different from the intensity of Midlife, what’s changed is our ability to be mesmerized by life’s richness. While I can still hear them crash and retreat, if for just a few brief hours, I’m eleven again, and oblivious to my parents, or my siblings, the running car, or the picnic lunch, spellbound by the grandeur of a single wave whose momentum will never stop.
Leigh Morrow is a Vancouver writer who operates Casa Mihale, a vacation rental in the quaint ocean front community of San Agustinillo, Mexico. Her house can be viewed and rented at www.gosanagustinillo.com.