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How do you describe the ocean to someone who has never been there?

I can show you pictures:

Waves cresting on the beach, the sparkle of sun on the water, crabs scuttling over the sand.

I can play a recording of the cries of seagulls, crashing waves over rock, the happy cries of children.

I can describe how it feels to have the sun kiss your skin as you lie with your face pressed against a rough towel, hair wet and wild over your face, the shock and delight of stepping into icy water, the pull of the ocean drawing you in.

And the smell! The tang of salt and seaweed, strong enough to catch on the breeze even before your first glimpse of the sea.

If my description is vivid enough, you may think you know the ocean. You may beg me to tell you of its beauty over and over, like a child asking for a favorite bedtime story.

“The ocean is my favorite place,” you say.

But you have never been there. You do not know it.

You spend your whole life longing to come home to the favorite place you have never been, reading stories about its wonders, watching movies, imagining yourself standing at the place where land meets sea.

Until, one day I take you by the hand, lead you from your darkened room out into the light, and down the winding path to the eternity of the ocean itself.

“It’s so big!” you gasp. “Is it endless? I cannot see the other side.”

I do not answer, only leading you deeper, down the beach, across the sand to stand at the shoreline.

You close your eyes, feel the waves lap your feet and inhale the salty air. It’s like breathing for the first time.

“I am home,” you sigh.

Closer, but still, you do not know.

I draw you deeper into the water, past your knees, where the waves buffet you. You laugh, invigorated and enlivened by the ocean’s cold embrace.

We wade out past our chests, and a wave breaks over our heads, knocking our feet from underneath us. You come up sputtering, spitting salt and grinning.

We stay and play with the waves, running in and out of them like children, daring the tide to chase us. Then we stand, lungs aching, to take in the setting sun. 

“I never want to leave,” you say to me with shining eyes.

Now, you are ready.

I take your hand and place it over your heart. You look down in surprise as the sea wells up from your chest, courses through your veins, spills over into your tears.

“The sea is within me!” you cry.

“Look deeper.”

You gaze into the ocean depths within and as you do, the edges of our bodies blur and we are one: sea, sand and sun.

You feel the tide moving as you, and together, we know ourselves as the ocean.

“Now,” I say. “Now you know what you have always been.”


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