Net of wonder

The wake of the Diamond Princess off the coast of Mexico, March 2004

The wake of the Diamond Princess off the coast of Mexico, March 2004

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau

After spending 21 of the past 24 years living near the ocean, I have no desire to live very far inland.  It’s interesting, because I don’t have any of the interests one might normally associate with coastal living.  I don’t fish, I’m not a very good swimmer, and I never go scuba diving or even snorkeling.  I don’t spend much time in boats, although I might enjoy that.  I don’t even like seafood.

But there’s something about being near the ocean that feels more free, more healthy and more alive to me.  There’s something about having land on one side and water on the other; something about always having an orientation; a compass of sorts, merely by knowing which side the ocean lies on.  It gives a frame of reference from which to start, no matter what direction you want to travel, with the promise of unseen continents to explore, lying on the other side of the water.

And then there’s the water itself; the sound of the surf, and salt-air breezes, and the gulls flying over.  I love the bridges and the marinas and the incomparable sunsets over the water.  There’s a feeling of expansive serenity at the ocean that I don’t find anywhere else.

Sometimes when I’m working in our wooded lot I will forget how close to the water we are, until I’m digging and come on a bed of oyster shells (which Jeff suspects are left there by critters who dig them out of the creek) or hear the sound of gulls overhead, as I used to hear long ago when working in our back yard surrounded by eucalyptus trees on the central coast of California.  It’s doubly appealing to be in a wooded area but still near enough to the ocean to hear the gulls.

Of course, every region has its appeal, whether the landscape is dessert, mountains or plains.  But even if you strongly favor inland living, I highly recommend escaping now and then to the sea, if only in imagination or via a virtual tour online.  The spell might not be as strong as if you were there in person, but the net of wonder cast by the ocean is far-reaching and rejuvenating.

One year ago today

An island in itself


  1. sarvjit

    You are living on the edge of both worlds. One side it’s too much explored and the other is barely known. It becomes a fine place to compare the beauty of Nature. It reminds us of the fact that we are still unknown and there’s lot to be learned.

    • Yes Sarvjit, the ocean truly is still a frontier largely unexplored. And I think you’re right about the stark contrast of the sea with the (often over-developed) coastal lands adjacent to it; it really does make a good visual comparison.

  2. I too love living near the sea. I loved Ascension for it remoteness and the sea. Have a great day. Love ya.

    • I wish I could have visited you there. Drew used to get island fever even in Hawaii, although we made at least a couple of trips back to the mainland each year we were there. I never felt that way at all. Oahu had everything and since I was connected to the mainland daily via the (ancient, all text, lynx and unix-based) internet that I was learning in graduate school, I never felt the least bit isolated. Ascension might have been a different matter, though. Did you ever get island fever?

      • Not once. I loved it there and I dreaded each flight home. They were so long. I did miss my family though. I remember once I was outside with the kids and I heard this whomp, whomp sound. I thought, “That sounds like a helicopter but that would be impossible way out here.” Turns out it was a helicopter, there was a British carrier going by and they did a fly over. It was funny. I didn’t really miss much of anything but family. I would go back.

        • It sounds wonderful. If you go back, I’ll be sure to visit this time, assuming they have airline flights there? If not, perhaps I can catch a ride with Princess Anne if she comes back to see you. I’d rather go with her than with Al Gore, that’s for sure! As I recall, you found HRH the Princess Royal to be a more pleasant visitor than Gore’s ex-wife! Or is my memory biased by my personal opinions? 🙂

  3. Ann

    Once again, your writing beautifully expresses my feelings!


    PS. my husband and I often cruise on Princess ships. I love the quote from last year…so true.

    • Thank you Ann, I’m glad you can identify. We really like Princess; it was hands down our favorite cruise lines until we cruised on Celebrity, which I was not expecting to like but totally fell for. Now I’d say the two are about tied in our minds. We thought Celebrity had the edge in dining, but I like the itineraries and activities better on Princess. Both have amazingly low fares, especially in the inside cabins which we actually prefer for the quiet, lack of motion and privacy. I think you can’t go wrong with most any cruise on a major cruise line, if you choose a newer ship.

  4. Carlyle

    ” I must go down to the sea again.
    To the lonely sea and the sky,And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by”

    • I really love that poem, Daddy. Did you realize it appears in one of the volumes of our old Childcraft set? That’s where I learned that verse, and many other wonderful poems I have remembered all my life (such as “The Highwayman” and “Father William” and “Hiawatha’s Childhood”). Thanks for filling our home with such treasures!

  5. Carolyn

    Good morning to all. We have a very cold morning but the sun is out and suppose to get into the low 40’s,but look out here comes the cold again. I’m ready for it to settle on one or the other. Well I have some good news, I had my 3 month check up yesterday and all blood work was very good, doc said see you in 3 months. What a great feeling!! Last Sat. we had lunch and a short visit with Jane and Steve. He is always asking about Jeff. They send their love and I told them I would keep them updated. Me eye surgery is this Monday and it will be about another before I can have the second one. You all take care . Love and hugs to all.

    • Carolyn, thanks so much for this wonderful news! YAHOO! That celebration party is getting closer and closer. I hope your eye surgery goes well; let us know, and thanks for keeping everyone updated on us. I haven’t ever gotten around to sending out any updates since last summer! So I’m glad you stay in touch with us here. Love and prayers for continued good news!

  6. Karen Hamilton

    Julia, I never got tired of seeing the different oceans while I was deployed on several Coast Guard ships. I think the prettiest site was when the sun sets on the horizon of the water.

    • Karen, I imagine there is a lot to miss about being at sea. I’m sure you came to know the oceans in a way very few of us do. You’re right, those sunsets are magnificent! Thanks for being here.

  7. Sheila

    Julia, even after living on the ocean’s edge for 29 years it still holds us captive. I promised God when we moved here, to South Carolina, years ago that I would never, ever take his wonderful creation for granted! Another great post….. 🙂

    • Thank you Sheila! I love thinking of you sitting there reading and writing to us as the waves crash and the gulls fly over. It sort of takes me away for a few minutes each day. The ocean, like God’s mercy, is “new every morning.” Thanks for sharing it with us.

      • Sheila

        Julia, the most spectacular event ever is “Easter Sunrise Service” on the beach. It is far too incredible for words!

        • Sheila, I have never made it to the sunrise service that our church has every year on the Yorktown waterfront, but hopefully one of these days I can overcome my tendency to NOT be a morning person and get myself out in the chilly dark. Hey, if I can do it for Black Friday, you would think I could do it for something much more significant! It seems as if I always have some reason I can’t get up (usually it’s a cold or some commitment that keeps me up late the night before) but those who attend it seem as happy about it as you do. I imagine it’s even better on the ocean!

      • Rene

        I have lived most of my life within an hour of the Mt. Rubidoux Easter Sunrise service, but have never been. We almost went last year, but couldn’t bring ourselves to get up early enough; later we remembered we had just given blood & probably shouldn’t be hiking. Maybe this year!

        • Rene, for some of us those very very early mornings just don’t come naturally! But like you, I hope to someday find a way to get to one of these services. Anyone I know who has been to one says that it’s unforgettable.

  8. You sound so much like me. I would add “and I burn easily” to the mix. The ocean is soothing, grounding, every-changing and full of life. We hope to retire closer to the water one day. I’m just not sure where. Lovely reflections Julia and what a peaceful photo.

    • Thank you Alys! So many people think of all the recreational activities and sports when they think of the ocean, but for me it’s such a great place simply to BE. I used to love to lie out in the sun for hours on end (without sunscreen! in two tours in California, one in Hawaii and one in Texas!) and then I got wise after my brother, who is much darker than I am, got melanoma on his face. Now I never, ever go out without sunscreen and if I’m out very long, a big floppy hat. I really, really miss those lazy hours lying out in the sun! Now I have to settle for sitting in a porch swing under a canopy, but that’s not a bad alternative. I’m happy you liked the post!

      • Sitting on the porch sounds great to me. I have fair skin and freckles and could never take the sun. I still ended up with skin cancer on my neck (surgically removed) so I’ve doubled my sunscreen efforts.

        Yes, just being. We’ll add that to letting go. 🙂

        • Yikes, I’m glad you got the cancer taken care of. I have every single risk factor in the book for melanoma but doctors never seem to even think about checking for that; I’m the one who has to bring it up and ask about it. Yet it’s becoming so common, and can really be dangerous. The good part is that there are so many more ways to enjoy the sun, and ever-increasing ways to block it or minimize it. “Just being” and “letting go” are compatible goals. My friend Gloria (who is a psychotherapist) says to remember that we are “human beings, not human doings.” 🙂

          • Me too: red hair, fair skin, blue eyes and severe sunburns as a child (before we had reliable sunscreen). I was seeing a dermatologist once a year for a full body skin cancer check (where they did the biopsy and then surgery). Now I go every six months. You might want to ask for a referral. My cancer was on the back of my neck…a place I can’t see.

            I like that” human beings, not human doings. Lovely.

            • I did get a referral to the dermatologist the first time. Now I just refer myself, which my insurance luckily allows me to do. It does seem strange they would be so unaware of even asking me about it, though they ask about various other cancers for which I have few to no risk factors. I try to get screened about once a year or so, because I too am afraid of missing something I can’t see.

              • I agree, it is very strange. I worry all the time about what gets missed. It’s good you are so proactive.

                • As long as I can learn to keep it in limits and not waste too much time! 🙂

  9. Right now I am listening to some relaxing music – sound of soft waves, twittering birds etc. Reading your post I could almost feel the ocean. You are lucky. Ocean has always been charming for me.

    • Yes, there is nothing like it! Perhaps Kerala is called “God’s Own Country” because it has so much coastal land. Jeff and I hope to make a quick visit to Virginia Beach sometime soon. I love the seashore even in the cold winter – maybe especially then. The atmosphere is even more serene when the crowds are gone and the wind keeps the surf pounding.

  10. Michael

    i.e. Island Fever. They told me -locals- Kamiana-sp?- if you have any Irish blood in you you won’t get Island fever. I have some so never did get the “fever ” in Oahu. Though I heard stories of those whom after moving there- thinking retirement- had to flee within a couple of months due to an attack of the fever.

    • Michael, I have never heard that about Irish blood, but it does make sense. I guess anyone whose ancestry is from Great Britain would have the same island mentality. I’m about 3/4 Scots Irish so that would explain my not having it, but Drew is more like 90% Scots Irish so he must be an outlier. I think what bothered him was how far, far away everything else is from Hawaii. He often complained about being “stuck out here in the middle of the ocean.” That’s not the same situation as in the UK, where you now can take the train to Paris anytime. In any case, the Kama’aina (literal translation: people of the land, but in Hawaii, used for anyone who lives there as opposed to a tourist) who feel stranded might have an easier time on the big island, where there’s a lot more square miles and geographic variation (including even snow!).

  11. I agree entirely Julia. Even though we lived at a lake all those years, we rarely took a holiday that didn’t offer a view of the water. Is it possible it’s in our DNA? As I sit on my balcony and type to you, I can hear the tide rolling to shore. It’s really rolling today and the kids are all having a great time on their boggy boards. I got to see whales today through binoculars as they swam by. It’s a real treat. I’m born and raised in a prairie region but I feel more at home and alive near the water. Not sure how that happened, but there it is. We plan to retire near the ocean if we can afford it. Most likely on Vancouver Island. It’s wonderful that you’ve enjoyed close proximity to the ocean through many moves. I’m a great swimmer but I find it just as easy to sit and look out at the water too.

    • I do think it could be in our DNA somewhere way back along the line, because not everyone cares for the sea. You may have had relatives from coastal areas long before you were born. I know my father’s father went to sea as a very young man, and of course all the men in my immediate family took to the sky, which is not too much different when you get down to it. In contrast, no one in Jeff’s family seems to have much interest in spending any time in the water or sky, and some of them have almost a dread of the water (Drew doesn’t much care for it), and at least one is terrified of flying. So there must be something a little bit genetic about it, as increasingly there seem to be signs that genetics are somehow related to almost everything else. In any case, I can’t imagine not loving being near the water, even if one never goes into it!

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