I have to start by saying I have nothing against the ocean. In fact, I kind of LOVE the ocean! I’ve been fascinated with it from an early age and I’ve spent many long hours in it and by it, swimming, scuba diving, collecting shells, and basking in the sun. But the ocean seems to have a real problem with me and has attempted to kill me or mine on more than one occasion! It’s not like I litter (often) or pour oil into the sea (unless you count the baby oil I used to slather on my skin while sunbathing), so what have I done to generate this hostility? Are these homicide attempts just in my mind? I’ll let you be the judge.I was first introduced to the ocean when I was just 4 or 5 years old. My family was moving from West Virginia to Utah, and we were taking a long route so that we could stop and see my aunts in Florida for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, probably in South Carolina or Georgia, we stopped to see the ocean. I remember vividly being awed by the vastness of the water and the expanse of the beach. My folks encouraged my sister and me to shed our coats, take off our shoes, roll up our pants, and wade out into the gentle surf. Everything was great…until I looked down and saw the water flowing back out to sea and felt the sand from beneath my feet being swept away. I was sure the tide was trying to suck me out to sea and, even at that young age, I had a strong sense of self-preservation. I promptly screamed and sat down – I’m not sure how I thought that would save me from a watery grave – but I was only 4 or 5 – it wasn’t like I knew physics or anything! Of course all I accomplished in my endeavor to save myself was to totally soak the clothes I was wearing.
Now remember, it was December – and even in the south there is a chill in the air that time of year! My parents stripped off the wet clothes, but for whatever reason, decided not to unpack dry clothes for me just then. Instead, they had put me back into my sister’s old, hand me down winter coat. I still remember that coat (and hate it with a passion!) It was an ugly brown color with an attached pointy hood rimmed with white “fur” (see photo above). We then all piled back into the car and made our way to a nearby restaurant for dinner. I remember desperately not wanting to go into that public place wearing only my sister’s coat and I was horribly humiliated and self-conscious about my apparel. I felt that everyone in the restaurant must know I was naked under that coat because I knew, even then, that “normal” people did not wear their winter coats inside a restaurant during a meal.
So, as you can see – not only did the ocean attempt to murder me that day, it was a major player in the first humiliation I vividly remember as a child. It was all part of its evil plan, I’m sure – and there were other attempts!
Take, for example, the time when I was about 10 years old. The family went to Hawaii on my first ever vacation that required air travel. One day, we took a drive out to a rather remote beach to spend a day in the sun. My sister was sick at the hotel that day, so it was just me and my folks. We hiked to the beach and then began to walk along the shore. I noticed something a bit strange as we passed a group of women and a small child…everyone was naked! My parents didn’t say anything, so I didn’t either – and we kept walking. However, then we started to come up on a small group of men – who also were quite naked, and beyond them several more groups of au natural sunbathers! It was at that point that my dad decided that we had come far enough and, after consulting the guide-book again, he realized he had taken us to a fairly popular nude beach. As we were already there (and probably because my dad wasn’t adverse to some naked women), we decided to stay and found a spot between the two groups. My dad warned me that the guidebook said that the currents could be dangerous that time of year and warned me to keep close to shore. He and my mother then buttered up and then drowsed as they baked in the sun. I looked for shells for a bit, but didn’t find anything of interest. I didn’t dare go for a walk, because there were naked people about, which was just a little bit too progressive for my 10-year-old Mormon self. So finally, I decided to enter the surf.
I waded into the water up to my thighs, carefully watching for those “dangerous currents.” When the ocean didn’t immediately try to grab me, I figured my dad or the guide-book must have been wrong and I went a little further. The waves were rather large, but not too scary, so I decided to give body surfing a try. My first few attempts were lackluster at best, as I had trouble syncing my timing with incoming waves. Then I saw THE wave coming my way! I began swimming as fast as I could and felt the powerful rush when the wave caught my body and started hurtling me towards shore. I was BODY SURFING and it was incredible! Then, as if the ocean was just waiting for me to let down my guard, it struck. The wave broke over my head and smacked me down to the sea floor. My body was raked along the rough seabed and then the wave gave another giant push, which set me rolling like some sort of tumbleweed. I could not tell which way was up and I couldn’t see due to the bubbles and froth! Water was forced up my nose and, when I opened my mouth to scream for help, down my throat. Finally, as if it had tasted me and found me lacking, the ocean spit me out onto the beach.
I raised my head, coughed a few times, and inspected myself for cuts or broken bones. When no major damage was found, I hauled myself up and started back up the beach to where my parents still napped, oblivious to the fact that the ocean had nearly succeeded in its second attempt on my life. To be fair, I was rather glad of that, as I HAD disregarded the warning that dad had given me. I settled myself nearby and innocently built sand castles for the rest of the afternoon, until the ocean decided that if it could not destroy me, it would take my architectural creations as the tide came in.
The ocean was not done with its vendetta against me and mine. More close calls and adventures took place in the years that followed. It is probably not a coincidence that I finally settled in a southwest desert area, far from any ocean – one can’t be too careful, you know.