Every Good Morning

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Jersey surfIt sounds like a comic book sound effect – THAWPP – and the six foot roller slams into the side of your head, and down you go and the foam fills your ears and then up and into laughter at the Buster Keaton pratfall the sea just executed on you. Seven or eight of us are standing chest deep facing out to the open ocean 100 yards from the shoreline. We keep looking over our shoulders at the lifeguards, expecting that they will call us in at any moment, but we edge out even farther in crosshatching waves breaking into and over us, angling from the northeast and southeast. There is no respite from these whitecaps, and that is the best part for they treat the body like a string-puppet and push you back and to the sides. Sometimes you push off the sandbar and hurl yourself against the rise of the breaker, buoyant and riding the rip of the surge under you. The sun keeps stealing in and out of big cumulus clouds, and when it pops, the light is so rich on the green water that the crests of the waves look like ignitions sparking inside green glass. We bounce and bound like this for a long time – a ½ hour, 40 minutes; the water is so warm — each person staggers back to the beach beaming.

Later, the 88 year old father and great great grandfather, supported on either arm by his sons, walks into the sea, his forearms and hands held straight away and tight to his body. Everyone in the families stops reading and talking, stands up and walks forward until we rest in a ragged line, all of us watching this tableau, sons and father moving into the sea, bathing in the waters.

A day later, alone, you walk that 100, 120, 130 yards, and the waves have slipped away. Flat rollers vary in their appearance; they look molten with light and then gray, but shifty, all the power under the surface now, and when you go horizontal, the current feels like a warm strong hand covered in silk that takes you and begins to pull you south. No one else is in the ocean for 300 yards in either direction. The flatness of the sea allows for better sight lines. Suddenly you feel a little uneasy. You could be dragged beneath and be gone. Snap. Nothing but moving water. This far out it would take a minute, two, three, before the lifeguards noticed and came splashing toward the spot where they thought they had last seen you. But still … but still … you linger in the warm bath of the sea because nothing else in life feels this good over every part of your lightened body, and out here, even if only for a few minutes, you do not have to be weighed down by any earthly concern.

© Mike Wall

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