Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ocean

You would think that growing up in the Idaho panhandle, only about 400 miles from the Pacific Ocean, that my first recollections of the ocean would be the rocky coast of Washington State. Well, my parents never ventured west of Spokane. Idaho is said to have two capitals, Spokane, Washington, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Spokane was the center of commerce for us, and only about 75 miles away. Sprague Avenue, on the extreme Eastern side of Spokane was the favored business district for Northern Idaho folks who had a hankerin’ for big city shopping. Long before the evil empire of Wal-mart existed, there was a store called Value-mart that my mother particularly loved. My mother never saw the Pacific Ocean and my dad’s only visit to the left coast was navy training in San Diego during WWII.

As my parents came from coastal Georgia and Florida and all our kin were still there, we would make an annual summer trip to that region. Never mind that it took as about three or four days each way, pretty much eating up Dad’s vacation in transit. Our trip would always include a visit to Jacksonville, Fernandina, or Jekyll Island Beach. .This was before sunscreen, so I would burn and peel and burn and peel. About once a year I have a carcinoma removed that was a product of mom rubbing Wesson Oil on my back and sending me out in the July sun. That would be considered child abuse these days. In 1960 it was good parenting.

I remember the affect the Ocean had on me. As I child, the sea did not offer me the tranquility and catharsis that it does as an adult. Standing knee-deep in the surf had a similar affect as looking down from a very tall building (of which there are none in Idaho). I was both thrilled and terrified. The vastness still overwhelms me as an adult.

My first visit to the Pacific Ocean was on my honeymoon, in June of 1972. We went to Lincoln City, Oregon (big spender). My first impression was that the water was more the color water should be and less like milk than the Atlantic and the waves were much larger. Since I was now 19 and had lost nearly all of my childhood inhibitions, along with common sense, I immediately ran and dove into the churning water. I soon learned the major difference between the two oceans. While the Gulf Stream and intense summer heat raises the Florida seawater to roughly the temperature of bath water, the Oregon water in June is freaking cold. Had I not been in the prime condition of a virile 19 year old, I am certain my heart valves would have seized up like the pistons on my 1972 Gremlin (another story). To quote George Costanza, there was “significant shrinkage.” My testicles were trying to find a place to hide. Not the best scenario for a romantic honeymoon.

Now I live in Myrtle Beach and have daily access to the ocean. Though I take it for granted now and go through long periods without visiting, I know it is there when I need it. I particularly enjoy walking the beach in the winter. It is the off-season for tourists and the beach is nearly deserted and only Canadians are foolhardy enough to enter the water. In the cold grey of winter, just the seagulls and me, and an occasional geezer hunting for treasure with a metal detector. When I first moved here I threw some popcorn to a couple of stray gulls. Rookie mistake. They didn’t keep it to themselves and called their buddies. Soon I had hundreds of their friends strafing me. But no matter how stressed I am and how bad my day has been, a visit to the beach is all the therapy I need. Oh yeah, it is great here in the summer too. The scenery is much more interesting. A different kind of bird altogether. They still tell their friends everything though. .

17 comments:

InlandEmpireGirl said...

I am glad I found your blog via Sunday Scribblings. Raymond Pert said you will be joining us in Kellogg for the reunion.
Mom never used Wesson Oil... on our own we used Baby Oil... now I can only wear 50 sunscreen and sometimes still burn.
I love reading about our other ocean. Great post.

myrtle beach whale said...

Thanks for your comment. I use heavy sunscreen now, but it is like closing the barn door with the cow heading down the road. Yes, I will be at the reunion. I am looking forward to it. Most of the people I will not have seen for 35 years. We will need nametags. The Wesson Oil may have been a slight exaggeration, it may have been Crisco.

Sian said...

This made me laugh. Sunscreen was thought of as stupid in our house, basting the flesh before cooking it. Mind you, I only remember two good summers in Britain growing up! I think you summed up the ocean experience well - terrified and thrilled at the same time.

sognatrice said...

Those birds really do have big mouths ;)

myrtle beach whale said...

Sian,

Thanks again for reading my drivel. I lived in England for 6 years and always wondered how everything stayed so nice and green without benefit of sunlight. It seems to violate all the tenets of photosynthesis. I didn't live far from Felixstowe, so we went there occasionally. The opportunity window for actually seeing the sun was very small. I will have to admit though, England is a sunbathers paradise compared to the Netherlands. I appreciate your comments.

Rena said...

Loved your Idaho comments. Yes, Salt Lake is still the capital here in southern ID. Also thought your comment last week about Wendell, Idaho being a good name for an alias was funny. Now I'm going to think of that every time I see the road signs.
My husband and I also went to Lincoln City for our honeymoon! Although, having grown up near the Oregon Coast, I knew better than to attempt any kind of swim.
You are lucky to live near the ocean now. How nice to have the ocean there "when you need it." Great post.

myrtle beach whale said...

Rena,
Thanks for reading and commenting. It is so nice to know someone is out there. People who are not from Idaho don't realize that it is really two distinctly different states. Every time I tell someone I grew up in Idaho, their first comment is always "potatoes". I don't bother to tell them that there are no potatoes growing where I come from.

sage said...

Loved your post--from the time I was nine, I grew up near the sound and half way between Wrightsville and Carolina Beach--an hour north of you--and I wrote about it in Sunday Scribbings. However, I didn't write about all the times I was burned crisp by the sun. BTW, I spent a couple summers in Idaho (between Ketchum and Stanley) running a camp and have very fond memories of that state too. Now I'm exiled in Michigan...

myrtle beach whale said...

Sage.
I believe that "exiled" is the exact word to describe living in the midwest. No mountains, no ocean, tornados, dust, and misarbly cold in the winter. Wrightsville Beach is beautiful, but they catch every hurricane that passes by. We are somewhat protected here but Wrightsville Beach kind of juts out. Every time we get a hurricane in this area the guys from the weather channel can be seen standing on Wrightsville Beach describing the conditions as crap blows by them.

Carly said...

Dad you really need to write a novel. Your imagery is incredible!!! I love the postings and think this your blogging is a great idea! Love you!

myrtle beached whale said...

Carly:
Writing a little blurb once a week I can do. Writing a novel would require discipline that you know I don't have. A short story, maybe. If it was the size of a haiku. Thanks for reading, baby.

Hootin' Anni said...

I live just minutes from the sea also. And even as a child the coastline was a thrill. I came from Colorado as a child, and the only water was maybe a reservoir and fishing streams....the ocean was stupendous. Now I live there.

My Heads or Tails is all about the sea that surrounds me at home, and the Art Museum by the sea. Also, in a separate blog entry below my HoT, I have a Firefox Tip --if you use the Firefox Browser-- for SEEing images and documents enlarged without leaving the homepage. Stop by for a visit, won't you? Happy Tuesday.

Tricia said...

You create pictures when you write, it's absolutely fantastic.

Tabbikat's Thoughts

Skittles said...

Wesson Oil? Are you serious? Oh wait.. my mom slathered baby oil on me. Burn and peel. Same as you.

Haha. I was thinking of the shrinkage thing before you said it.

I grew up in Florida and was and still am amazed by the vastness, power, beauty of the ocean. Lake Michigan is pretty much the same, but I know just across is Wisconsin. And there are no shells on the beach.

myrtle beached whale said...

Tricia:

Every time I think no one is reading what I write I get a comment like yours and it keeps me going. Thank you so much. I am humbled.

Tumblewords: said...

Your writing is always a pleasure to read - no matter the topic. We used to put iodine in our baby oil to achieve a more 'golden' hue. Sheesh.

Vixen said...

That oil comment certainly brought back some memories for me! Next time I am at the dermatologist, I am sending my mom graphic pictures and a thank you note, ha.

Great post.