To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Inﬁnity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Auguries of Innocence, William Blake
I approach the water. The ﬁrst, smooth, clinging stretch of a wave reaches me and feels like liquid air, since the water has no temperature. It’s just there. It’s always been there. Like the beach I’m at, like the green mountains rising around us. Honest and eternal. The ocean begs for a visit.
The sound of the waves drenches my thoughts, tightens my guard.
I respect the ocean, I’ve always has. I love it, but respect it. Love without respect is just carelessness. Respect without love is cowardness. You can kill a bird by loving it too much you’ll never set it free. You can live a life never speaking with the girl next door, just to witness the moment when it’s too late. It’s so easy feeling cocky when in the ocean. You’re free, you’re in control, you can feel the sandy bottom comfortly beneath your feet. But as with most natural things, you’re never ever in complete control.
A medium sized wave is coming in. The physics of it is excellent: I can see it building up from afar, collecting power. Power from all the oceans behind it. The ridge starts appearing, like a sand dune. I’m far away from where I really wanna be — in the ridge area — so I’ll need to tackle this one from the front. The ridge continues to roll and build and roll and build up to a graceful, merciless gap of water with white foam like teeth at the top.
The wall approaches. Depending on the size of the wave, you can do two things. If it’s a small to medium one, just stand where you are, refuse to curl up to a ball in front of the wave. Stand up resilient, like a Greek warrior, with your arm stretched forward like an arrow through the water. Turn sideways, not exposing the width of your torso for the wave. Steady, like an arrow, you will pierce the wall of water and appear unhurt on the other side. The other technique, when the wave is large, is to dive through it. Again, like an arrow, aim for the roots of the wave with your hands above your head and thrust through it. Some people aim for the body — the center area — of the mass of water, but that’ll be like jumping straight into a wall. The wave is incredibly powerful, with all its momentum, precisely in the center. You don’t wanna face that energy of a thousands oceans behind it. Remember to account of the aftermaths of the wave — the backwaters.
I come up behind the wave, feeling the currents that came with it. The main current beneath the water surface is strong today. One thing I learnt from the ocean is that it always takes back things belonging to it. And other things too. Objects from the ocean often return to the ocean whether they like it or not. I’m farther out now, not feeling the sea bottom anymore. No safety line, just depending on my body’s stamina. Another wave approaches and I lay on my back, letting the rolling motion of the ocean gently take me in for a bit, until it’s slowly fading and crashes in foam on the beach nearby. I swim out a bit farther out in order to catch the potential big waves I know will come.
It’s much about waiting, as every surfer would know. I don’t claim to be one, but I think I understand the art of waiting for the right moment. I don’t want to tire myself out for the wrong wave. While waiting, there are lots of things to do: think of that thing you’ll need to do tomorrow, about that you need to work out more, about how the sun is so nice and strong today, or just think of nothing but yourself and the ocean.
A huge wave comes in. Builds up. I can feel that tingling feeling of that I need to get myself in order fast fast fast. I swim out to get in position; right before it peaks I’m in the center of momentum and swim with it, towards the beach. It’s too fast, I should’ve been farther out, but nothing I can do about that now, is it. This is just about damage control now. The wave doesn’t care, it marches on, taking my legs with it from behind, and everything around me becomes a blurry green-blueish sheet. Now the wave is close to the sea bottom, and I will go from being in the laundry machine to be smacked like a shirt on the rocks. The sand bottom comes from nowhere, and I got the pleasent surprise of meeting it upfront. Scratches my back, and I know that’s gonna hurt for a day. The wave drags me all the way to knee deep water, just do die out. I love this: not to be in control, to be in a natural chaos, and realise that to win the ﬁght you shouldn’t ﬁght at all.
I was hammered. Crushed. Since I didn’t took the right decisions when I needed to. Since I decided to try to take on the wave where I wasn’t ready. But I’m happy, like a little bird that just made its way out in the world, and got a bit roughed up. “Next time”. I walk out in the water, and swim out.
Now what if you exchange the “waves” above with “people”?