The off-shore storm has kicked up the waves. I cannot keep my feet in combers that come in thick and remorseless at thigh level, but with the first plunge the water has a wake-up shock effect, and after that I can dive over or submerge to escape the force of these breakers, all white-foamed and unmoved by my weak flesh.
Fifty yards from the beach, facing directly east, I can almost make myself unmindful of the crowds behind me. No voices. No whistle from the lifeguards for now. Everything is shifting – the sand under my feet, the rising, settling water, the breeze on my face, a gull or osprey crying somewhere above me, the haze and whitecaps settling on the horizon line. All of this has an endless and vast feel to it.
This isn’t an exercise in risky living – a zone of safety is right at my back, but still, the sudden power of this water is never to be underestimated. We’ve all heard the shout-and-he-was-gone stories. If I’ve ever sensed that, above all other mere mortals, my body really was eternal, or that I was singular in my bull**** brilliance, stepping into rough surf immediately pulped that daydream. Being thrown ass over teakettles brings one into a startling present. Nothing else seems to work to encourage humility in the powerful– maybe we should gather all the grand and mighty for an oceanic humbling – let them feel coursing against their bodies the force of something they can never control.