I like to say I was born in the ocean. My best first memories are foggy flashbacks of standing waist-high in winter tidepools with starfish and sea anemones glued to the whale rocks, and the way I laid on the front of a boogie-board with my dad behind me, holding the back and steering us through the wave breaks. Early times when life must have seemed stark.
Perhaps it was because I was predisposed to enjoy thrill. Perhaps it was because of my early and consistent exposure to the shoreline of Cayucos, CA. We can wonder about nature versus nurture all day, but these are the facts: my grandparents lived across the street from the stairway to the beach and my family visited them often; I would swim in the tidepools until my lips were blue and the first time I got tumbled in a crasher I came up for air grinning (in contrast to my brother’s instinct to cry).
The Beach House, as Jordan and I called it, became our alternate home, a place where the front lawn included more than the flowerbeds and fountain next to the concrete driveway. I came to know the run of the beach and the shape of the shore, came to know exactly where the danger rocks sat in the water and the way the seasons change the sand just the way I know my own neighborhood. We spent most of our vacations between that house and the sand, white foamy waves instead of Christmas snow, sandcastles instead of snowmen. It’s the place where my freckles multiplied, where my mom and I collected smooth sea glass, where I learned how to finally escape the drag of dry gravity.
The first and the simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is Curiosity. Words written in 1757 by Edmund Burke: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Read in 2013 by Humanities Seminar III: Aesthetics.
After years of watching men and mammals in the offshore playground, I decided upon my own myth: the sea is what the earth uses to laugh at the sky. When God separated the two, the sky grew haughty towards the earth because it felt so expansive and free compared to the compact of the ground. God disliked the way the sky jeered at the earth and so created the sea, that the earth could transcend through the ocean’s swells to dance in the sky without ever leaving its matter, without ever needing wings. The way the saltwater reached up to the sky tickled its underbelly, and therefore the sky ceased to be haughty; no one can remain haughty when being tickled to near death. The earth was satisfied with this joke, and told it to mankind after God created them. Mankind similarly thought the joke was great and wanted to play along, shaping boards to ride the waves, dancing and tickling the sky in tandem with the earth. Mankind was similarly relieved by the suspension from land, and this kept them from finding it necessary to evolve wings. That is why the practice of surfing is continued and widely celebrated to this day.
I picked out a 4’x7’ board of masonite with a poorly angled edge. It had laid rejected in the discount scrap wood pile outside the hardware store. Robyn pulled out a similar, slightly smaller piece. We carted the scraps inside to have their awkwardness trimmed off. An art show was in the making with our final projects due for our Aesthetics course. The ten-dollar compressed wood plus a bucket of primer was about to make my conception of Edmund Burke’s Sublime come true. The massive canvas would service the idea perfectly. Robyn and I just managed to angle the boards into the white Ford passenger van so that they fit for the ride back to campus.