Monday, May 9, 2011

Waves (Or, The Day I Saw God)

The following is an essay I wrote a few years ago. I may or may not fix it up. Here it is in first draft format. We'll see if a second draft comes along. 

In 1923, poet William Carlos Williams wrote, “so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow.” Well, pardon the thievery, Mr. Williams,  but I must insist, that in fact, so much depends upon the ocean. Until last year, I’d forgotten how big the ocean is. It sounds a silly thing to say, I know. Obviously the ocean is gigantic, who forgets that? Though large it is, it is the vastness that makes me stand in awe. It is here, gazing upon the ocean, mouth agape at its awesomeness, that one stares into the face of an entity infinitely bigger than the self. Together, here, on the shore of the sea, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, and others find a commonality in the immensity of such a sight. Though perhaps others experience different, I saw God at the Ocean.

I awoke in the apartment that was still quite foreign to me, in a city I couldn’t yet tell would be home. Shifting on the futon my hosts had so graciously allowed me for the week, I stared at the grey hovering masses of mist and cloud passing the window, wondering what I might do with my time that bleak Sunday morning. The previous Sunday morning found me snug in the bed of the wicker room, while my grandmother busily placed the Christmas decorations back in what would be their cardboard homes for the next 12 months. Just weeks prior to that, my college diploma was plopped in my hands, my roommates had moved on, and the end of an era came crashing down around me.

Not more than a month earlier, I was to be found sitting at a desk three times a week studying the book of Genesis. Being in so much contact with Abraham at the end of an era is a precarious thing when you’re the owner of a restless heart, or you’ve just quit your job, and have nearly everything you own in your car. Or all of the above.

So six days after deciding to move to Seattle and three days after arriving there, I listened to the hum of the city below me. Seeing as how I couldn’t look for a job or a place to live as it was Sunday, I came up with the only logical solution. I was going to the Ocean. Geography will tell you that Seattle is not situated directly next to the Pacific Ocean. Growing up in a Midwestern landlocked state will tell you that is not important when you’ve just driven 1500 miles. What’s 100 more?

After a lunch at Barbara’s by the Sea, a quaint little cafĂ©’ overlooking the docks, I pulled my car into a parking lot next to the breaking wall. As I opened my door my ears were greeted by the sound of thunderous waves demanding to know why I hadn’t been to visit in so long. I ran to them as after a long lost love. They were a long lost love, and we had found each other at last. And we embraced.

I stood at the edge of the water, staring into the infinite sea. I waited. At any given moment I would be engulfed, the vastness would overtake me and I would be swept out to sea, forever to be with my beloved. But, alas, the waves landed consistently at my feet, making fall in the same place they had collapsed daily for millennia upon millennia. This would not be the day I would be taken. Today, only my toes would taste its frigid kiss, my nostrils seduced with its cool salty air.

I drew back from the line where water met earth. I pulled my scarf nearer, as the January wind blew in harshly against my face. I found myself entranced by broken sea shells that littered the shore. I felt an affinity for their beautiful brokenness and saw myself in them. I took my place on a piece of driftwood, piled up with thousands of other pieces the ocean had enticed in some far off land and spit out miles away from home. The dull grey sky loomed overhead.

And then, they arrived. Silhouette’s down the shore, making their way toward my ocean. I burned with anger that others would infringe on my interlude with the sea. I’d have cast stones, had my good Midwestern upbringing not thought it impolite. Yet as I sneered, the two silhouettes took their places silently on the sandy shore, assuming the same position I found myself in, gazing at the boundless sea, waiting to be engulfed, swept up by their beloved. Then suddenly, as if granted permission after a silent prayer, a single silhouette strode toward water. His shadowy surfboard hit the waves and he sailed away from the shore. He paddled farther out and my heart chased him, envious of his ability to be joined with the water. As he made his home among the waves, my eyes found their way to his companion, sitting silently on the shore, still, as I was, contemplating the sea. The sky began to send us a mist. Neither of us moved. The sight was too grand. From behind the mist came the setting sun. No bright orb present, but an orange glowing curtain draping itself over us. The radiant mist hung heavily as even the infinite waters were absorbed by the light. What were Moses’ thoughts when God placed him in a cleft and passed by in all his glory? Here sat mortals contemplating the infinite, the infinite then dwarfed by the divine. Surely, this is how Moses saw, nestled in the cleft, eyes upon the ocean of God.

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