Posted by: jeanne | August 13, 2010

two sides of the atlantic

my typical reaction to being at the beach in south carolina is thoughts of death.  the second typical reaction.  the first reaction is relief that we finally got to the coast after hours of monotonous driving and satellite radio.  and then the sterility and immensity and relentlessness of it all gets to me and i start to think that i am an endangered species.  every living thing at the beach wants to eat me, and won’t even wait until i stop moving before taking chunks out of me.

the ocean is flat and neverending, and it never stops coming.  it’s immense and flat and there’s nothing out there but ocean, it merges with the beach in rolling surf and rises and falls as if it were sneaking up on you.  i’m just a speck like all the other specks scrambling around in the searing sun and salty air.  just waiting to get sucked in and drowned.  the sun is deadly, the sea is deep and dark and unknown, the sand is devoid of visible life, and what life is there functions by quickly and efficiently stripping the edible bits off of anything that washes in with the tide.  it’s an environment that reminds me of the struggle that is life, the pitiless scramble to survive, to put roots down no matter how temporarily, to flourish and luxuriate for a season or many years, and then to get washed into the sea and become food for critters.

things that wash up are dead.

it’s no wonder i get chiggers.  i like the lagoon side, the salt marsh side, where life is so abundant that the mud creaks and clatters with all the moving beings gathering lunch.  the ground pulses and crawls with moving beings that other beings love to catch and eat, including us.  a pot o’boiling water and some shrimp boil and a beer.

that’s the east coast of the midatlantic states.

on the west coast of the northwest fringe of europe, the sea is a different man entirely.  it’s not flat, for one thing.  the sea merges with the horizon in distant mist and gloom underneath the bank of clouds making its way from america.  the shore isn’t miles of sandy beach but rocky headlands and shattered pebbles, where every wall and every house braces its shoulder against the wind.

there’s no getting depressed thinking about mortality here.  there’s no sameness, no monotonous rolling waves, no stultifying solar radiation.  it rains one minute and the sun breaks thru the next.  the weather is a living, breathing creature hovering all around, speaking and directing.  back on the barrier islands of the western atlantic the weather is sultry, or balmy, or ferocious in a thunderstorm, but mainly it’s distant and gloriously lit by the setting sun.  on the embattled shores of the eastern atlantic the weather is immediate and personal.

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