In June, the gentle rains of summer became sudden thunderbolts, sharp lightning and downpours.
At our Sherwood Forest home, where we received 9 inches of water, I began to feel like I was living Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” “Water, water every where …” reminded me of my fascination with water and poems written about it.
During my teens, I heard relatives brag about their visits to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They talked about the Buena Vista and Broadwater Beach hotels, when the lodgings were having their glory days. They danced to the music of big-name bands, dined with celebrities at the famous Friendship House Restaurant and played on the beach.
The years passed but the fantasy did not.
By the time I graduated from college, I had seen Lake Michigan from the Chicago waterfront as the bitter, cold wind whipped against my face. I had seen chunks of ice the size of Greyhound buses in Lake Erie. I had watched the Niagara River bubbling like boiling water just before it plunged over the magnificent falls. I had lived beside Lake Ontario and watched the waves lap at the shore.
I had seen Lake Cayuga, one of New York’s finger lakes, from the snow-covered hills on the Cornell University campus. I had crossed the Mississippi River at different places from St. Louis to New Orleans.
Still, I had never been to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, less than 150 miles from my home in Mississippi.
When I was offered a dental hygiene position at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Gulfport, the beach was directly across the street. How great would it be to see the ocean everyday?
The interview went well, but the job wasn’t for me.
So I walked down to the beach. I wiggled my toes through the warm layer of sand into the cool dampness below. The constant waves washed around my ankles then retreated. Time stood still, it seemed.
As I was leaving, I drove slowly down the beach road and watched the soft, white, billowy clouds floating above and the lazy white caps on the water.
A few blocks inland, and the magic, not the memory, of the water was gone.
As I have gone to other beaches, I still hear the raucous call of the ever-fluttering birds, and I still wonder about the mystery and the blackness of the ocean at night. What secrets does it hold?
The ocean still kindles my imagination.
I am not alone in my love for it. John Masefield felt it, too, when he wrote “Sea Fever.”
“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky …”
— Wolffkiel lives
in Baton Rouge
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