afternoon post, Oct. 16, 2017



The waves breaking before me are grey green.  The color of the sea at Normandy when our troops waded out of the carrier boats into the cold surf and into Nazi gunfire; like the sea on some clouded day in February that is marked by the wake of some slow tanker and that carries the smell of its engines, the smell of ancient industry.  And the clouds above the sea are likewise grey and the light so absent that even the white gulls are dark in the air.


But I know of other waves.  First in description.  Those I learned of only in song and story. Those sun-kissed, blue waves of the Pacific, of Malibu, that broke long and hollow and carried surfers, tall and tanned, along on their striped longboards while music played.

And then those of my own youth; my own experience.  When I had learned that this game was worth the candle and that all of the work getting out through the breakers was worth it and all of the threats of sharks and stingrays out there should not be enough to prevent one from taking advantage of this thrill, this sacrament of nature, that was offered nowhere else in the world; to be lifted into weightlessness and be borne along by some breaking force that has inside it all the power of the ocean and is at the command of the moon and of winds some thousand miles away.

There were days that brought perfection. When the waves were big, but not too big and they came, one after another so that there was only time to catch one’s breath before the next ride.  On those days, each wave was different; some taking you sideways along the break, parallel with the shoreline; on others you may have started high on the crest and slid down the sparkling wall of water and then been covered over with a blanket of white foam.

These days – there were only a few of them – gave one an everlasting memory that was unmatched by any other experience.  It reminded us that the things the poets sang about really were true, even if they were rare and demanded strength and daring.  These memories, burned deeply into consciousness, gave one the fuel to withstand decades of the grey and ordinary and to bring into those stagnant waters a ray of sunshine and the assurance that, indeed, all will be well.

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