It is rare that I am awake in any valuable sense by the pink hours of the morning–those moments when light through he windows offers its most gentle invitation to wake. But today, I know that there is the promise of wildness just a few blocks from where I lay and so am summoned forth with less struggle than usual. Given the choice between my bed and the sea, I find it easier to rise, more purposeful.
The sleeping house creaks against the pressure of my wakefulness as I move to get dressed, fill my pen, grab a notebook. I do not want to wake anyone. I am covetous of this promise of solitude.
As soon as I slip outside, I catch the whiteness of noise I know is the infinite rhythm of liminal space–the meeting of water and land, of a tide, already manipulated by the moon, dragging her feet in protest as she’s pushed forward to the point of breaking, of falling, of landing on that which is not her and whose solidity is relief. But I do not dare to believe that this is what I’m hearing. Some part of me that knows the ache of wrong assumptions cautions my ear to wait.
I content myself with the various and minor roars I encounter on my walk. Do I mistake the sounds of landlocked life for what I long to hear?
I walk through the neighborhood shoreward and hold each domestic noise against the deeper one, hoping it proves my ear true and yet holding room for disappointment. A single air conditioner cycles on, startling me in the comfortable, breezy cool, and in acknowledging it, I also listen past it. The roar is still there.
Three houses run sprinklers that slap water with a dreary thaw against blue vinyl siding. The lawns are half-brown and sad, stretched as they are to meet the marsh that sits confidently populated with wetland grasses, tall and wild with heads full of grains the size of my thumbnail. How pathetic spray of the sprinklers against the wild sponge of earth. The birds know this too, and speak to each other from the marsh, ignoring the embarrassment of yard nearby.
I cut through the path where the marsh meets a baseball field and the grasses tower over me. In this tunnel, the wind picks up and I doubt I bob so gracefully through it as they do.
The sidewalk widens luxuriously as I pass through a few blocks of massive homes, divided and advertised for rental. What is it like to sleep within earshot of this white sound I move toward. I keep watch for a window that might be cracked with this intention, but fail. All are sealed up tight and fogged with humidity, another meeting place of elements.
The beach access is before me, dunes signaling a final barrier and test, but no, not even the wind singing through the reeds could be mistaken for the sound of the tumbling water. I finally catch sight of it myself–a vast and detailed landscape that I cannot fully take in, must slow my pace to catch up to my mind’s stunned state. I find myself relieved and surprised–the noise alone was never enough for me to believe that the ocean was here. Until I saw the busy way she dances, I could not believe her song.
I am awkward on the sand an do not walk far. The harder sand still imprinted with the tide’s departure is dotted with mounds of foam that roll and settle with a solidity that disappears when I try to handle them. My mind expected a snowball, I think, but this was air made just barely solid. I find that I struggle to look directly at the waters, my mind busying itself instead with the various detritus left onto sand–rags of sea plants and skeletons of small crabs, the woman upshore dressed all in white drinking coffee. (I consider a proper greeting, but turn to the water instead). There, too, I find I am shy and settle a number of feet beyond the reach of the waves, not yet ready for a formal meeting, preferring to allow myself to become sure of her existence at all.
The sound surrounds me here, and I pick out the tune of the individual waves, the wind, the clapping of water thrown against itself in audible affirmation of its abundance. I do not notice the roar. I am no longer listening for it.
I do not hear it again until I make my way back toward home and am surprised to encounter my unbelief along side it. How many times will I have to see before her presence becomes unquestionable?