by Lindsey Goldstein
Ever since I was little, I’ve found great solace in being near the ocean. It’s always been the place where thoughts either congeal into something concrete, or I’ve been able to disperse thoughts from my cluttered mind, freeing the space and enabling an inner tranquility.
Lured by friends’ photos who’ve gone to witness the bioluminescence event at our local shores, my family and I decided to make the trip ourselves. The beaches are closed and police swarm the area, ready to cite or at least disperse crowds should anyone approach the sand. During a reconnaissance mission in the day to determine where we’d be able to view the water, we inched along an oceanfront drive, mindful of where we could see the waves from the car. The low tides, which appeared red-hued during the day, lay invitingly before us, tempting us to run along the sand or dip our toes in the water. With our windows down, we drove, noting the sidewalk closures and the threatening signs of citations, or worse, should anyone breach the blockades. We decided to return after dark to see what we could, or at least return home afterward knowing we’d tried.
In the evening, my husband and I readied our two kids for bed. In their pajamas, with their teeth brushed, and blankets tucked around them in their car seats, we ventured west toward the sea. Not surprisingly, people jockeyed for position on the esplanade adjacent to the beach, trying to decide whether they could pull to the side for even a moment to glimpse the natural phenomenon. Harsh, bright lights emanated from police cars parked every block, monitoring the activity of people angling for a view. Suddenly, a woman pulled into a parking space, rolled her window down, and gestured to the police officer who already was exiting his vehicle, a giant flashlight in his hand. We waited, watching, to see what would happen. Surprisingly, he broke into a grin, clearly recognizing the woman. So, we seized our opportunity. I rolled past his vehicle, pulled to the side, and opened the windows. Immediately, the sweet, salty smell of the ocean wafted into the car. Nothing but the sound of waves filled my ears and then, we saw it.
Electric blue waves rolled, one after the other, onto the shore, eliciting a feeling of excitement in me I hadn’t felt in a while. I breathed in deeply, eager to fill my lungs with the damp, briny air. Far out to sea, quick bolts of blue crested in the otherwise murky waters, as wind ruffled the surface of the water. For a moment, I forgot about quarantine, about viruses, about grief and suffering, and the mighty unknown of the current situation. The familiar peace I associate with being near the ocean flooded my body. We watched for several minutes before reality intruded again. Car after car, obviously making the same decision we had, pulled to the side, also wanting to see the view. Some people risked citation by jumping out of their cars to get a closer view. Some leaned over the wall to take a photo. Others quickly pulled small children out of their cars, rushing them to the retainer wall, so they too could see the blue waves.
I closed my eyes for a second, imprinting the view on my brain for later. And I filled my lungs one more time with the ocean breeze. No matter what is happening in the world, the ocean is constant. From the time we first feel sand between our toes, the initial shock of water over our feet, and the cleansing wash of a wave over our heads, the sensation is the same each time we return. The waves rush onto shore and ripple right back. Over and over. I looked around at the other people, also wanting to see the electric blue waves and felt a human connection I’d dearly missed.
During a time when the meaning of human connection is changing, there is still a thread of object continuity—a yearning to connect with nature, to revel in her embrace, to remember we are more than a moment in history. But more than anything, we are all in this together, tied to this planet we call home in the grandest sense. In that way, our lives are continuous, one bleeding into the next from the first humans to the present. No matter how advanced our technology, we are connected to the Earth.
Finally, with one last glance at the ocean, we closed our car windows, and slowly pulled away. People walked in the street, either back to their homes, or to their parked cars. But the expression on each person’s face we saw was a smile, a moment of repose in an otherwise chaotic time. At a glance, it looked like a regular Saturday evening stroll unencumbered by the weight of world events. When I lay down to go to sleep that night, I was able to envision the magical blue waves, rippling back and forth, promising a continuity of life that still holds surprises and beauty yet to come.