Monday, 4 August 2014

Ocean Swells

I used to sail; there's a lot of "used to" in my life, sailing is just one. I loved it, to be free on the ocean, to feel the wind in my face and the sweep of the sea past the tiller in my hand. I miss it, that sense of adventure, the feeling of wonder from seeing whales and porpoises and dolphins, the separation by mere yards from life ashore, the camaraderie of boaters both power and sail. One of the things I miss the most is the power of the sea, it's vastness and variety.

I was sailing off the coast of Vancouver Island some years ago when I truly began to understand how insignificant my boat and I were against the vast Pacific Ocean. I had come around the top of Vancouver Island and was headed down its west coast. The previous night had been in a tiny little hideaway called Sea Otter Cove; this day was dedicated to making it into Quatsino Sound. When I left my anchorage in the morning, there was fog; while I could hear the waves breaking onshore I could not see them. I navigated out to sea a couple of miles, safe from the dangers of a rugged coast strewn with random rocks and jagged shores.

It was there that I felt, not for the first time, the long rolling swells of the open sea, gently rising beneath me, lifting me and my little sailboat high up, and gently putting us down. I looked out to sea and saw only gentle ocean, no threat and certainly not high swells. I set my sails and made my way, confident in the knowledge that today on the sea would be safe.

After a couple of hours the fog began to lift, slowly revealing the wilderness coast through a gauze of mist and gentle rain. The sun came out; I could see the trees off on the shoreline a couple of miles away. That's when I noticed it, that the swells out to sea looked nowhere near like they did with the land in the backdrop. I realized that, with each swell that passed, the first couple of rows of trees on the shoreline would disappear completely behind the rising swell as it passed underneath me and on towards the shore. While triangulation and distance certainly amplified the area blocked out by the passing water, it was enough to make me wonder how big these swells really were.

I looked out to sea again in an attempt to gauge their size, just in case there was trouble to come. Yet the sky was clear and cool, the wind was moderate, and the sailing easy. The ocean looked as its name would suggest; Pacific. Looking out to sea gave me no perspective for understanding the size of the swell. I needed the land to understand the sea.

My life is like that these days. I sometimes lose the sense of the size of what I am dealing with. I need to take time, to gain perspective, to understand the changes that are going on in my life. The ocean of my daily life rolls on, lifting me up and taking me down on an irregular rhythm. When I am in the trough, I lose site of those thing that would give me perspective. When I look away from the things I must face, the ocean of my life seems calmer, less threatening. When the swell of life lifts me once again, I can see that there is much more before me than behind me, much more to live with. I just have to wait for the sea to change my point of view, and keep my boat off the rocks.

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