I was born at the end of February, so I am a Pisces. A water sign. I think if I had been born a Taurus, I would still love the ocean as I do. I was born in Texas and am told I was introduced to the Gulf coast. Padre Island. My dad was in the Navy and stationed in Corpus Christie, but I was too young to remember. Later when my dad was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, my family moved to a place across the street from the beach. It was here I had my first encounter with a jelly fish. I have vague recollections…vinegar and sand.
We moved back to Texas before kindergarten, but it was our move to California a year later, that I was introduced to the Pacific Ocean by way of San Diego. My dad was stationed on a carrier and we would take him to Fleet Landing on the harbor. There he would catch a small boat with other sailors that would take them across the harbor to the ships. I remember when we would go to North Island to pick him up, after a deployment. Back in those days before the Coronado Bridge was built, there were two ways to get to North Island or Coronado. By ferry from the city, or by going south to Imperial Beach and taking the strand over to Coronado. Similar to the Outer Banks, but at that time, I had nothing to compare it with. I just remember it took forever and my brother and I would rather ride the ferry.
When I was growing up, our favorite family beach was Torrey Pines. It was not the tourist attraction that Coronado Beach, Del Mar or even Mission Beach were, although it was the closest to La Jolla Shores, which was a another draw for tourists. Torrey Pines was rugged looking, beginning with the cliffs that bluffed out over the strips of beach below. My mom did not like to be in the sun a lot, so most outings, we would go Torrey Pines late in the day and my brother and I would swim while our parents watched the sun go down and the surfers ride the last waves of the day.
I had never seen waters so clear as when snorkeling in the Philippines, where my Dad was stationed in the 1960’s. Base beaches were netted off to keep out sharks, but I seemed destined to attract jelly fish, and this time I remembered being stung. My fondest memories of this Pacific island’s waters, was when we went deep-sea fishing. I was able to sit on the bow with a view of the sea stretching all around us, the sparsely populated shores with grass roofed huts on stilts in the distance, the jungle rising with the hills beyond the shores. Wild and exotic are words that do not seem to contain the appropriate descriptive value of these scenes from my young eyes, so many years ago.
Two summers ago my grandchildren and their parents took me to Ft. Bragg, California for a weekend. I had been there years before on a road trip that took me from the upper San Joaquin Valley to the California-Oregon border, west to the coast and back down to the Valley through Ft. Bragg. The trip two years ago, I named on my picture album, the “Mind, Body and Soul Trip” because of a sign I happened to read on the side of a narrow road we were on to get to Point Arena Lighthouse. I had not been back to the Pacific for nine years. The last trip I made to Southern California to visit my parents before they moved to Florida was in 2000 and I have this memory of the setting sun at Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad, California, the beach of my children’s’ memories. I, not only had not seen the ocean since 2000, I had not smelled the ocean since then. The smell of the sea is defining to me. It was a disappointment to me living near the Outer Banks, to be driving for a couple of hours from Evansridge and not be able to smell the sea as we neared it. My former employer, whose family fished off the coast of the Outer Banks, told me it was the seaweed that made ocean smell. Could be, I don’t know, all I know, is that you should smell the ocean before you see it.
On the “Mind, Body and Soul” trip, we were coming down from the ridge of what I can only reminded me of a logging road, when I caught a whiff of the ocean in the air. I don’t know what it is, memories of growing up, various trips to seaside towns, I can’t articulate it. All I know, is I could not wait to get out of the truck to take a look and a deeper breath of the ocean air near Point Arena. It was a repeat of similar moments all my life…on the cliff above Black’s Beach, leaning against the railing at La Jolla Shores, on a bench in Laguna Niguel, on the wet sand of Coronado Beach, walking the trail under the runway at Cubi Point, on the pier at Oceanside Beach, on the side of the road at Half Moon Bay, looking down the bluff at Coos Bay, leaning against the car at Pacifica, watching my granddaughters play at Casper Beach (again this summer in Ft. Bragg), watching dolphins ride the waves at Carlsbad Beach, a lone otter doing lazy dives in the quiet waters of Moro Bay, six months pregnant on Christmas Day at Torrey Pines…my love affair with the ocean is unending.