My grandparents lived on Holden Beach for many years when I was young, and my grandpa owned a small shrimp boat. We, my brother and I, often went out for shrimping or fishing excursions in the ocean with him. So during those days of my youth, I remember seeing the shrimp boat pictured below (photo taken from the Provision Company deck), cruising up and down the waterway, and scraping salt out of my arm hairs after having been out on the water all day long.
I miss the ocean. It taught me a lot about life – how to think quickly and adapt, how to use the current to my benefit, how to find my own food, how to hold a steady course, and how to keep my head when the storm rages. There are two extremely strong, vivid memories of my grandparents and the ocean that I consider to be my favorites. Oddly enough, they are the two most dramatically opposed.
The first – I am twelve years old and out with my grandpa and dad in the shrimp boat. The nets and doors are down when the storm blows up. “Girl,” Pa Paw calls over the wind and pelting rain that drenches us instantly. “I need you to drive the boat!” And so he explains how I must keep the bow pointed toward the waves so we don’t roll or get swamped. He puts the helm in my hands and moves to the stern with my dad to pull in the nets. And despite the lightening and thunder and high seas, I find myself more thrilled than terrified with each wave that passes. Sure, I’m nervous, especially in the beginning, but it’s the fear that doesn’t cripple – the fear that makes you feel alive.
The second – I am ten, eleven, twelve, and swimming with my grandmother in the surf as the lazy summer afternoon waves roll past us. We are out beyond the first break, and waves crash with rhythm on the shore. I hear them muffled, as my ears are just below the water line while I float on my back. The ocean is lulling, wrapping me, tossing me gently. And I feel calm, serene, and alive.
I miss the ocean, and perhaps, I also miss the simplicity of my life at that time – the time when I was learning to live life well. Some days, I feel like I have forgotten the lessons. Are the waves of people to serve and teach, the waves of tasks to complete at work any more daunting or terrifying that the waves of the storm-beset ocean? In truth, they create much less peril. So why is it that I am more disconcerted by them than by the waves that could kill me? Honestly even in storms or the rip currents at Hatteras, my days in the oceans arm’s didn’t suck, even when it was playing rough. Perhaps, it is that I knew where I stood. I knew my friend, my adversary, my ocean. And I could be assured that, after the beating and slamming of the storm, lull and calm was on its way.
Some days really suck…and some days, the sea is calm.