For nine years I lived within five miles of the Pacific Ocean. I breathed its salt air, I lived for the invigorating breezes that freshened every morning and evening. As often as I could, I stood with my toes in the foaming ocean water and looked West into infinity. As I stood there, infinity rolled back to me on the white wash of the returning wave. I thought I would never be able to live anywhere I couldn’t see and hear the continual rising and falling of the water.
Surprise, surprise. Life is notable for bringing change. It wasn’t long after I had stood at the water’s edge for the last time, wondering how I would ever live away from it that I discovered the answer to my question. When my family moved to Oklahoma, I reeled and foundered, trying to adjust and find a way to survive far from the ocean I loved.
For months, I simply hung on to my memories and listened to audio tapes that replicated the sea’s pounding thunder. But after a while, I began to look around. A college friend had a balcony apartment overlooking a wheat field. One day I sat on the porch and watched the wind move through a nearly ripened wheat field. Those of you who have done the same know what I saw. An ocean, an ocean of wheat rolling over the prairie. Once again I watched infinite waves roll in, one right after the other. My friend who had grown up on a farm was puzzled by my fascination, but former sea dwellers recognize what I found that day.
Many years later, far more than I ever spent living near the ocean, I still miss the grey- green water capped lightly with foam. I miss the rising and falling of the tides, the waxing and waning of the waters. I miss the roar of the sea, the feel of the tangy wind against my face, the discovery of delicate shells beneath my feet.
But I don’t miss them too much. I have discovered that I now live in an ancient sea bed. I find shells in my driveway and on the hillside by my house. I find shell imprints in the thousand limestone posts and blocks dotting the countryside. But even better, I have found the sea again.
Walking the country roads of Kansas, I listen only a short while before I hear the echo of ancient waves carried on the wind. When I stand on a hill overlooking somebody’s wheat field, I can imagine myself standing at the edge of infinity listening to a roaring tide pour in. Wave after wave of rolling wheat reminds me that eons ago, this land where I now stand teemed with sea creatures great and small.
As I walk into the wind, I hear an ocean within as my own blood pounds and pulses in tune to the clamor without. This child of the sea stands rooted to an ancient seabed, feeling the pulse of eternity on a Kansas hillside.