I have always been in love with the ocean. Somewhere in the deep blue I find serenity, a balance between fear and wonder. What is happening in that other world full of so much color and life, a world we can't begin to imagine. We can intrude on a small part of it, seeing the lives of a few for a brief moment, witnessing maybe a second of a fish's day, a spark in a whale's life. I think this great unknowing is part of why I love the water so much. Every time you return, the scene has changed.
When I was eight years old, my family and I took a trip down to Seward. Every morning when I woke up I would tumble down the stairs from our rented room in the local bed and breakfast and wander outside with my family. The salty air would rush into my lungs, filling me up with the sea, making my hair into a halo around my face. I would grab my old box kite and rush down to the pebbled beach before breakfast, running to catch the briny wind. For hours, I could comb the sand, searching for sailor's lost treasures, thrown out of the waters by apathetic waves, or wandering around rocky outcroppings, exploring every small crevice. But my real passion was for the small, glassy pools brimming with marine life. These shimmering basins, orphaned by the ocean, were the subject of my undivided attention. Each rippling creature was a new world to me, the bright anemones, spiny sea stars, shy sculpins. Everything darting from crack to crack, here for a flash, then gone. I could spend all day staring into a murky tide pool, waiting for sand and grit to settle, watching. Eventually, if I was still enough, an apprehensive hermit crab would emerge, followed by the uncoiling anemones, blooming like exquisite, alien flowers. I was comfortable, happy here among the crashing surf and crying gulls. This, I knew, was where I belonged.
From a young age, I was raised to love the ocean. My father is an environmental educator with a bachelor's degree of science, my mother a writer with a master's degree of marine management. One of their earliest dates together was a trip to the Sea of Cortez where they kayaked and camped for two months. When they got married, they honeymooned in Belize, snorkeling and exploring the coast of Central America. In total, they have traveled to the Sea of Cortez four times. I was on the latest excursion when I was only about two years old. These expeditions lead to my mother's book, "Searching for Steinbeck's Sea of Cortez", an account of our travels and searches for what John Steinbeck described in his ships log when he sailed the Mexican coast in 1940. We sailed on a miniscule sailing boat, the Zuiva, and cataloged every detail of that magical sea. Well, my parents cataloged. I was too busy crying, exploring, wandering off, and doing everything else a two year old does in a foreign wonderland. This trip was not always the paradise you might imagine. Although it was the most freeing and amazing experience anyone could ask for, it came with its fair share of trial and fear. Between kayaking in sudden storms, trying to stay on the good side of our temperamental captain, and managing a family, my parents had a lot to worry about danger-wise. I still have a large scar across my palm where a razor sharp hacha shell sliced my hand down the middle. And I'm not the only one with lasting marks. My brother was stung by a deadly scorpion, saved from the venom by local medicine and the kindness of strangers.
I think back on this trip, such an incredible experience, such a breath taking adventure. I pick up my mother's slender book, filled with so much of my life, so many priceless events and memories, and I realize, suddenly, that I can't remember. I read her vivid descriptions of sailing into troubled tides, dealing with eccentric locals, discovering worlds of ocean fauna, and I can't stand to think about how I can't recall so much of it. I can only catch flashes of memory, the piercing pain of the hacha shell, running through sand with a bounding dog, paddling through mangroves, the first sight of a tropical island from the bow of a sailboat. But how many tides have been lost? How many friends can't I remember?
But what I can remember, I treasure. I use these shards of life to form a picture of where I will go, what I will do. I know that for every memory I lose, I must make a new one, filled with just as much happiness and adventure. As I look at my current life, I know I don't belong in it. This is not what I was raised to become. Average. Going to school every morning, coming home with meaningless dramas, living for the next interesting slice of excitement in this gray, colorless landscape. I belong on the Zuiva, rigging sails to catch the winds, never knowing where I might be going next. I belong on the rocky beaches of Seward, freely wandering and exploring, discovering what lurks beneath that twisted chunk of debris. I belong in a kayak, paddling the rivers and canals of Mexico, wondering what is just beyond the next corner. And that is exactly where I will go.
My parents are the ones that gave me that sense of adventure. They never meant to settle down. The plan was to live in each place they moved to for two years, then get up and go somewhere else. I guess Anchorage just captivated them. We settled. We stayed. For years after we moved here we always still traveled, to England, Costa Rica, Syria, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Germany, Italy, Spain, everywhere. But now we had a base camp, a place to return to always. Not the freestyle living of Mexico. I miss that and I hate to think that the place I loved most is slipping out of my mind. I forget my origins sometimes, think that this world of cosmetics and clothing is my world. But all I have to do is close my eyes and remember what I can; the wind in my hair, the smell of the ocean, the freedom. I know that this is the place I will return to.