I have always had some misgivings about the sea. These misgivings are more or less the same when someone speaks to me of the ocean. Or not less, but there are differences between the misgivings I have of the sea and the ocean. When someone speaks to me of the ocean I think of much wider expanses of sea seen from a plane or satellite photographs of the earth. Here the ocean gives contour to continents with flats expanses of cerulean blue between. Shadowy darker blue dots certain places; we are told that some of these places are so deep that they have never been visited by man. Man has achieved higher altitudes than deeper depths, as far as our position on earth is concerned.
From a high viewpoint or a satellite photograph these deep areas look like shadowy ink blots and the flat expanses which span continents can be measured between my fingers. From where I am the truth of the ocean is an utterly different thing. I have to imagine how far the flat expanses stretch and how deep the deepest canyons hollow. The responsibility for this imagining is as big and serious as the ocean, and this causes me some misgivings, because I am bound to leave something out. That something I leave out unnerves me, because there is a sense, isn’t there, that that something may be the most important thing. The sea, as it is a part of (but different from) my image of an ocean, gives me a similar ambiguous sense. I am missing something important. This thing causes me to have misgivings.
To visit the seaside and spend time on the beach is a common pastime of my childhood. To name but a few busy activities, clutches of seashells that smelled shelly, and a big blue sea the colour of my eyes in which to swim like a dolphin, and a mermaid, weightless, dipping and diving, bright water. The sand both grated and smoothed against my skin; it left tiny crystals glittering all over my arms and legs and in my hair. I still love the smell of salt and sun and plastic buckets and sunscreen. But I do not love the sea.
From the porch of my parents’ seaside cottage the view out to sea is high enough for the press of the ocean. If I place an image of myself standing in front of where I sit on the porch, the ground stretches just to the point below my kneecaps. Just behind my kneecaps, rocks and swirls of white foam spoil each other. But from the base of each kneecap stretches upward a large expanse of sea which folds over the top of my shoulders, cutting off my neck and head, which are lost in the clouds. The sea is the trunk. If I place an image of myself standing in front of where I sit, I am truncated by the sea such that the sea is my trunk. The trunk is, as we all know, the place where all the meaty stuff is set. It is set there in the trunk in such a way that it can remain largely inert and unaffected by the sweeping actions of the limbs. The meaty stuff – organs that have functions operating in symbiotic rhythms – have their own life independent of your best friend, of a movie on a Sunday evening, of a call from your mother, even with a steak and chips at a sports bar on a weekend hangover. To be sure, what you eat affects the machinations of the organs but these are affected by whatever you eat – it has value for the level of nutritional substance provided but otherwise your trunk has no time for meaning whatsoever. It is only truly affected by the desires violence in man and rollercoasters.