Posted by: S. Campbell | September 4, 2011

I Sit Between Land and Sea.

“You missed it. You missed the sea turtles hatching.” My stepdad had told me. It was actually one of the first statements he had made when I got off the plane at the Jacksonville International Airport two weeks ago. Sure enough, when I arrived to the beach, he was right. I had missed it.

Sitting on the beach, I realized that it wasn’t the first time I had missed it. In fact, I had only seen the sea turtles hatch on one occasion in the dark of night. Reading Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind reminded me that some of the most incredible wildlife adventures happen at twilight and night. When man is asleep and away from the beach, all sorts of incredible things can happen. Even when the sea turtles hatch, we are allowed to only stand on the boardwalks while watching from an incredible distance.

But right now, it’s daytime and the sea has an eerily calming presence, the waves are shallow, there are children running in and out of the water, knowing that all too soon, it’ll be too cold to swim with autumn fast approaching. The air is different, and I can feel the season changing. Behind me, but just before the blasphemous rows of oversized houses, are trails of sea oats that line the small sand dunes.  “By September the panicles of the sea oats in the dunes had turned a golden brown.” Carson wrote. It has just barely crossed over in September, but yes, the oats are a golden brown, but I expect them to only grow darker in the golden color as the days pass.

The ocean, the vast large body that it is, sits before me. Or I sit before it, since I am the less significant of the two. To be honest, the ocean scares me. Not in a silly way, but in the sense that I still can barely comprehend it’s long and vast existence. After only 3 feet of water, I lose sight of the bottom. Often, I will not venture much further than I can see, based purely on experience. While I sense a great apprehension towards this active yet enigmatic environment, I feel that it’s one of those things that it’s okay to feel unsure about. The ocean has both a calming and nurturing effect while it also holds a mysterious and otherworldly feel. This is what ocean ecocriticism is to me, the familiar and unfamiliar coming together. I now can rely on Carson to feed me some knowledge that I could not grasp before. She blends scientific facts (which elude me) with an imagination and storyline that draw me in and help me wrap my mind around the nature and power of the ocean. After all, despite being born along the California coast, I spent most of my years away from the coast, so the ocean only seemed to be a large body of water on either side of the country. When I first moved to Jacksonville and ended up living a 2 minute walk from the sands, I was apprehensive of just how close I was to such an unknown world. It was all natural to my mom and stepfather, but I had lived in the world of my father, who told me again and again of tidal wave or ‘perfect storm’ dreams. So living next to the ocean, I wondered how such a peaceful thing could become so violent in an instant. There are always scientific explanations, I know that much, but there is still an uncanny feel to it.

Again, I am focusing on the six inch waves and feel silly. But I am smiling and am ready to embrace whatever knowledge Ocean Ecocriticism has to offer.

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