Growing up in the North Country and with family well inland in Pennsylvania and Indiana, I was twelve before I ever saw the ocean. I couldn’t get my mind around it. I still can’t, but I find myself drawn there whenever the opportunity arises.
So I spent the week before this with my wife in southern Maine, along one of our favorites stretches of the land’s margin.
Shorebirds run back and forth in time
with the surf that gains a few inches
with each pulse of rising tide. Benches
along The Marginal Way are full today –
finally some sun and that unbroken view
from here clear to the curve of the earth.
What is near is sweet: sun, wind, rock
breaking water, water breaking rock,
plains of marsh grass, bright beach rose
and gnarled cedar, your arm around me,
the cries of gulls, the trill of songbirds.
But my eyes seek beyond the breakers.
The ocean drags at me as the moon
drags at the sea. Just to see is to be
immersed; just to hear to be in synch.
“Attention,” Mary Oliver writes,
“is the beginning of devotion.” And
my attention is drawn to distances.
Winding our way back, I drift in
and out of our conversation, distracted
by the one word the Atlantic booms
without ceasing. I break upon the edge
of understanding it, only to fall away.
The sea, too, finds its limit at the shore.