Ok, so this isn’t really an “ode.” I’m not going to put it in verse form. Nonetheless it is a celebration of the setting in which I find myself today–Palm Coast, Florida–sitting on a balcony, looking out at the ocean.
Everyone needs to see the ocean at least once in their lives. There is no other experience equal to it, and it engenders feelings unlike anything else you can do.
First it is so BIG, stretching out in every direction as far as the eye can see. Unlike other visions of magnificence, such as canyons or mountains, there is nothing here on which to focus, nothing to give you any perspective on distance, For all you know, it goes off the end of the world in a giant waterfall, just like everyone thought (until some guys decided to brave the journey and discovered that there was a big land mass in the way). As I sit here, there are not even boats to break up the unimaginable stretch of flatness.
Second is its POWER. The waves come crashing in, white frothy foam chasing timid beach walkers and hungry birds up the beach because they both know that what comes in will go out again–and take them with it if they’re not careful. This vast body answers only to something more powerful than anything man can create–the pull of the Moon. The tides come in high or low depending on the position of Earth’s largest natural satellite. We cannot control it, we cannot tame it, and we cannot brave its depths without knowing that it can overwhelm us at any time.
Third, it is ALIVE. Every single drop teems with life from the most microscopic to the largest animals on Earth. The depth and breadth of its life has no equal anywhere on land. I happened across a tidal pool created by some rocks when I went walking today. What a miracle! There on the stones, in water that flashed on and off like the light of a lighthouse, were starfish–real, living starfish. They were close enough to touch, though I didn’t dare in fear of disturbing the natural little ecosystem they have going. There were little fish too, and I find myself wondering how they handle the great influx and recession of the water. The swells pitch over the rocks and mix in with the standing water in the pool, so that you would think the little fish would be swept away, but when the water recedes there they are, darting about and even jumping over the rocks.
These three qualities give the ocean its greatest effect on the little person standing at its edge, feet buried by the churning sand. Perspective. It is so big and we are so small. All the things that are important to us pale in comparison to the sheer size of the ocean. It is so powerful and we are so NOT by comparison. No matter what we do we can never really control the ocean, but it can most certainly control us when we are in its territory. Finally, we consider this OUR Earth? Forget that. The amount of life in the oceans makes it THEIR Earth and we are just lucky to share a little piece of it.
Can this be considered an ode? Perhaps if I end with poetry:
Vast and magnificent is the great Sea.
I bow to its power; its waves lap at me.
Both ancient and new, life churns in its depths.
Near to its shore, a person finds rest.