By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 4, 2015
Until last weekend, I think it had been four and a half years since I’d been on the beach. (Those seaside sojourns, incidentally, were related to my jaunt to Miami for the Jan. 3, 2011, Orange Bowl.)
I was fortunate, however, to have been invited to the Maryland community that my sister-in-law’s family has been visiting for about three decades, and perhaps longer. And on Sunday, I went in the water.
A young relative grabbed my hand and led me down the beach into the Atlantic Ocean. I winced and belly-ached at the temperature of the water for a few minutes. Then my body adjusted, and I tried to accommodate my companion’s demands to jump and duck and turn my back to the waves.
I never quite got the hang of that game. But being in the Atlantic reminded me of paddling in and looking at the ocean as a boy. I suspected that gazing at the waves long enough would enable me to unlock some kind of secret key to the universe. Look long enough and I’d apprehend a formula that would enable me to predict the height and strength and direction of the next wave and of the one after that and the one after that.
Of course, this was a complicated venture. Wind velocity played a role in the waves. Also the precise geography (above- and underwater) of the place where I was standing. The temperature of the water. Weather conditions here and a 100 miles away and maybe even 500 and 1,000 miles away. The effects of boats and ships passing in the vicinity, and maybe even of whales or large sharks. There were plenty of things I’d have to understand before I could hope to find this secret of the world.
Suffice to say that I never found that formula. Nowadays, on the rare occasions when I find myself entering the ocean, I wade in and cringe at the temperature — So cold! — before growing accustomed to it. Then I move further in and duck my head underwater and float and hop and bob and swim a few strokes and drop to the bottom and zip around (for just a few seconds!) entirely submerged as the swells buffet me.
I don’t understand much, but I do enjoy it.
And if I’m lucky, I don’t get badly sunburned.