The Edge of the World

Written for Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

Some while ago, I saw the Ocean for the first time. I intended to run up to the Edge and put my hand in it. But when I crested the embankment, I stopped still. And suddenly my concept of the Ocean as a big pool of water was as damaged as the line of beach houses behind me. Because there was no Edge; it was always moving, ever changing, too wide to see from one end to the other without turning completely around. So I went by turns. Stop and stare, then jog a few steps. Stop again in awe. Take a picture. Rather like one might approach a wild animal who would just as soon have you for lunch as pose for National Geographic.

The Wind breathed around me, sharp and crisp. The Beach was strewn with undersea relics and treasures that the Depths had given up in the recent Hurricane Sandy. The Houses behind me sagged forlornly, battered victims of a different realm — one where man is not welcome — that crashes ceaselessly on our doorstep. It roared. It writhed against its ancient boundary lines until it was not the Ocean anymore, but a living, dangerous Thing. I was in the presence of Power. And I loved it, even as I feared it.

The waves beat the shore over and over until I imagined I was not standing feet planted on Earth at all, but on the hands of a Great Clock marking the cosmic passing of Time, with the Ocean as its pendulum. Perhaps mythology had gotten it wrong, and Neptune was not the lord of the deeps, but Father Time. I could almost believe that I peered all the way back to the shore from whence my great-great-grandmother, Anna, had long ago embarked for a new life in the New World. My ancestors came over that ocean, I thought, and here I am 136 years later, looking back from the other side through some uncanny watery connection to the Old World. As if in this moment our lives touch and our eyes meet.

That fearsome Ocean swept up to me and gently poured foam over my feet. I put my hand in the water and it flowed between my fingers. To touch a thing so old, so ancient and full of life and force… The heartbeat of the Earth. I suddenly felt my existence to be very small and puny, such a minute piece in all the ages those waves have marked. They have washed and changed that sandy borderline since Time first started to pass away, and they will continue to wash, change, and litter that beach with undersea relics long after I am dead and gone until the day the Earth dies.

So much as my linear human mind can comprehend, I stood on the Edge of the World and gazed into Eternity.


6 responses to “The Edge of the World

  1. Sarah your reaction to the ocean, the first time you saw it reminds me of the first time I saw it. That ocean behaved in no way I had ever seen a lake behave. It would rise up in a wave, and come at me!!! At that moment I was standing on the shore of a little bay. (Bodega Bay), and the breakers were 6 inches high. When we drove around to other side of the head land, well, that was stupifying! It took 2 days of going to the beach that I saw that for all of its noise, the ocean would come only so far.


  2. Beautiful and atmospheric. I came back to read this again after reading it the day it was published. Water is powerful indeed, and can teach humility… I have similarly felt the ocean as a timekeeper, maintaining its rhythms through the ages, powerful in part through its endless perseverance. In creative writing, I can recall several occasions when I used the ocean wearing down rocks as a metaphor for the value in practice and persistence.

    “The heartbeat of the Earth” — perfect…such connection to creation…

    Last month I vacationed at Lake Erie with friends — it is large enough that, like the ocean, you can’t see land on the other side from the shore — just a vast stretch of waves out to the horizon. At one point, we took a night-time walk, and sensing the hugeness of what lay before me, I got goosebumps.


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