The Seasonless Sea

Photo: The Seasonless SeaOpen water. The image in my mind is rarely of swimming there; growing up on a northern section of the Pacific Ocean’s edge, I knew of the sea as a place for wading and the rare venture to splash in a bit farther than ankle-deep, but also as bitingly cold, rocky, and full of sharp shells and ethereal but menacing jellyfish. A lake, while it might be at least marginally warmer, held in my mind multitudes of the same creatures that live in children’s closets and under their beds, but wetter and slimier and without a single door or mattress to deter their finding and nastily clinging to every immersed cell of my body. Rivers were icy highways relentlessly pulling me into the thick of their mad traffic unless I had oars with which to do battle against the current. Open water was, for me, always best admired and appreciated from docks and bridges, boats and beaches.

But, as my mind has always been willing to venture into places my body had no intention of visiting, I also know oceans and lakes, rivers and streams, as realms of inviting mystery and magical adventure. Under the surface of every body of water, there are endless natural beauties and curiosities of wildly diverse sea creatures and aquatic gardens, landscapes of great magnitude and delicate detail, and biological wonders that rival the most fantastic notions of primordial soup. There are also, for me, equally magnificent and splendid worlds of the fantastic. I see, in my mind’s eye, tremendous tales of adventure and romance and daring and delight all over in the rippling, dappled light below the surface. Every sighting of a coelacanth, of gulper eels and viperfishes, confirms my belief in the literally outlandish contents of the oceans’ depths.

I understand that from a climatic and biological viewpoint, open water is of course affected by and dependent upon seasonal changes. It’s perfectly logical that, metaphorically, a sea change should refer to a significant transformation or metamorphosis. That the seas themselves undergo tremendous changes as the weather and tides and time pass over them has potent enough impact on the realities of this world; what the seas do, in turn, to anything while it is immersed in them adds to that alchemical appearance. Ariel’s song reminds us that what is embraced by the ocean’s depths becomes one with the ocean in profound ways. The possible applications of such a metaphor are so numerous and so thought-provoking that I could probably write a thousand posts about those alone, but the effects of existing immersed in open water are the ones that lap up against my attention and flow through my imaginings the most often, so it is on those shores I will continue to do my wandering and beachcombing.

Best place to find mer-people and coelacanths: open water. In the seas of my fantasies, there are no seasons. I will always be able to dive deeply among mysterious and wonderful events and creatures in my dreams.

Deep Sea Wishing

Digital illustration: Psychedelic PstarfishPsychedelic Pstarfish

Seems sillier than psyllium to sing of starry seas,

Yet so the ocean’s silken shore’s sufficient proof of these

That sparkling in such shady deep, something is sure to gleam

In stunning stellar specks and sparks in that submergèd stream,

So sing we sweet and shining songs of starfish as we wish

Upon the evening star to see a firmament of fish

The Bones of the Beach

I grew up pretty near the Pacific Ocean. It was a matter of a couple of hours to get to its shores from home, and mere minutes’ drive to Puget Sound, and I have always loved any chance to spend time along the water. At home in Texas, it’s not so easy: there are a few man-made lakes within a short drive, with a few public beach spots along the edges of each, most of the time too hot for strolling, and that’s about it. So that recent trip to Puerto Rico was a brief but lovely reminder of what pleasure I find in wandering the beach when I can, absorbing not only a bit of salt water through my happy bare feet and the tangy air through my expanding lungs but also the great sense of history and adventure inherent in all of the findings strewn along the tidal brink.Digital collage: Beachcomber's Trove

Despite being so much a water-baby at heart, I’ve never so much loved open water swimming—after all, my people are the pale, easily fried folk of Norway who transplanted to the familiarly brisk spank of the coastal waters to fish and farm and forest-hunt as they’d done back in the old country. But I’m drawn all the same to explore the tide-pools and comb through the heaps of hidden-and-revealed treasure that line the beach, sucking deep breaths of sea breeze happily right down to my soul. I love to see all of the bits of shell and bone and stone piled up and intermingled with molted feathers, ship detritus and the petrified lace of corals and seaweed. Every tiny piece seems to hold such a storied past that I can stare and sift and dream endlessly.Photos: Beach Bones

What caused that lone shoe to wash up here from unknown shores? Why are those pieces of sea-soaked driftwood burnt but not in the fire pit, rather appearing like a dragon-singed skeleton in a distant heap down the shore? How did so many colors of ghostly and sandblasted beach glass come to bejewel the line of the tide together? Who were the creatures that fished the shore and left bleached fish bones here, a crab shell there? When did the storms kick up such a foment of foam that the inland side of mean high tide has a gloss of it lacquered firmly across the surface of its sand? Where are the children whose sandcastle ruins are still tucked behind the biggest boulders on the beach, waving flags of leaf and kelp from their stunted battlements? And most importantly, when can I return to the beach to stroll and dream of such things again?

The Last Place on Earth

digital collageIn Profundum Maris

Deep in the ocean, fathoms far,

Beyond the reach of the brightest star,

In the abyss of the secret sea—

Seemingly past where life could be

Sustained—lies a billowing bed of kelp

That waves in the dark, where sleep, where help,

Where mystical mending music calls

As the tides turn back and the current falls,

As the storms above relent, abate,

Becalm, bring peace—it is not too late

To dive in the depths with delight, embark

On the garden path of the ocean’s dark,

Miraculous beauty, unseen, immense,

Suffusing the soul in every sense,

To lie in the rush as the seas roll by

And think it a joy too fine,

To die…digital collage

Hot Flash Fiction 10: At the Very Back of the Shelf

In Dash’s closet there was a very hard-to-reach spot at the very back of the top shelf, and he was quite happy that his younger sister Mattie couldn’t reach anywhere near it. There was a large jar there that he prized beyond any other thing he owned, even his pocket knife and the doll that he loved as long as his parents would only call it an Action Figure in front of any of his friends. The jar gave off a very faint blue glimmer that was even visible on the darkened closet ceiling after the bedroom light was switched off, and it pulsed comfortingly at young Dash as he lay across the room gazing on it while drifting off to sleep each night, dreaming eventually of the wonderful things that would happen when the creatures he kept in the jar finally came to their full maturity. He remained, as far as I know, blissfully unaware that they were beings of his little sister’s making and left for him to find and nurture. He may have begun to wonder what exactly was brewing when his Action Figure seemed to have moved to the far end of the shelf one morning of its own volition and then disappeared entirely until it resurfaced at the end of the week in the bathtub drain, one arm missing and covered with some kind of sticky corrosive ooze, but I imagine that he guessed Mattie might have had a hand in this trickery. The relocation of Dash’s pocket knife underneath the heavy jar was a harder to explain, more puzzling development.digital collage

Neither Truth nor Consequence

digital collageTo capture the kind of innocence that little ones have would be a scientific coup beyond what even our best magicians could hope to conjure. How is it that such jaded minds and dedicated tragedians as adults can be made from the raw childhood materials of clear-eyed honesty and untouched truth and light? As an artist and writer, even simply as a grownup who believes that honesty and reality have far more forms than the dull quotidian ones in which we grownups generally clothe them to fit our fusty adult needs for blandness to feel safe, I search the boundaries between worlds endlessly in hope.

Sometimes I wonder if I have been cheating when I don’t follow precisely that stern old caveat that warns me to always Write about What You Know—that I should stay fixed in the firmament of my own particular universe, my peculiar range and realm of reality. Of course, I know that no beautiful fantasy and very little romance would ever get written by anyone if this rule were strictly adhered to in every way; what’s more, I remind myself as I write that every word I put down on the page is true, just not always for me and my own experience: perhaps it’s something I’ve known of believed or felt, translated into another person’s events, and sometimes it is perhaps best described as true of (or for) another person who herself or himself is not known on this modest three-dimensional earthly and human plane. Anyway, I am reassured that I bend the Rule a little but I never wholly break it; I tend to wander further from the truth only when I must–in order to make the truth of the matter most apparent.digital collage