by B. N. Sullivan
When you see a scene like the one in the photo above, what do you think? Do you want to go for a swim? ...grab your mask and snorkel? ...put on your dive gear? Or maybe you'd think about getting into a boat and heading out to sea?
Would you muse about all the places and possibilities that lie over the horizon? Or would you feel like you had arrived at some kind of dead end?
That's right, I said dead end!
How people feel when they arrive at a shoreline is completely dependent on their point of view. Let me tell you a story that taught us that this is so.
A number of years ago, while traveling in Greece, we agreed to give a ride to a young man who was headed our way. We didn't know him very well, but we learned something important from him when we stopped for a bite to eat. We chose a seaside taverna in the little coastal town of Kamena Vourla. The taverna had a canopied outdoor section with tables and chairs placed right on the beach, and that's where we sat. It was a fine sunny day, with a light sea breeze wafting the salty air and causing little wavelets to lap against the shoreline. It was quite heavenly, actually.
We ordered our lunch, and then sat there chatting while we waited for our food. We swapped stories about our travels -- places we'd been, and places we'd still like to visit. Then, enchanted with the lovely Aegean coastal scene and the pleasantly moist sea air, I gushed, "Don't you just love being next to the sea like this? I always feel like the whole world is out there, just waiting for me!"
The young man gave me a puzzled look and replied, "Really? How odd. When I get to the seacoast I always feel a bit sad, because I know that's as far as I can go."
It was my turn to look puzzled. Never before had I heard anyone equate a seacoast with the end of the line -- an impediment, rather than an opportunity. I felt my expansive mood drain away, replaced by a sense of confusion. This really was a new one on me, so I felt compelled to probe, to try and figure it out.
Further conversation revealed that the young man had never been on a boat, much less a ship. He did not know how to swim, and in fact he was afraid of the water; he told us one of his worst fears was that he would drown some day. Once he revealed all that, his view regarding the seacoast made a bit more sense (although we felt quite sorry for him).
The lesson, of course, is that how we feel about places and situations depends entirely on our own point of view -- and that, in turn, often arises from our personal experiences (or lack thereof).
So, when you are on the coast and looking seaward, which is it for you? Is it the beginning of the rest of the world, or is it merely the end of the road?
About the photo: This is our favorite entry point for shore dives and snorkeling at Puako, Hawaii.