What do you think when you see the ocean?


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.


  1. I always felt honest when I get to the ocean. Its so big and full of power and respect that once I start thinking about my things I must think truthfully! It would just be silly to do otherwise.

  2. I have never actually seen the ocean! Amazing, I know. Hopefully that will change if I take a freighter to Peru. Perhaps then I will be able to better answer your question.

  3. First thought when seeing ocean like your photograph is to get in it, swimming, snorkeling, scuba... get wet. But I have seen and been on the ocean under far worse conditions, and have a lot of respect for the dangers that can be present. Always a hint of caution in the back of my mind.

    Diving Saturday!!

  4. To me, the shoreline is a gateway to a whole new world. You know that place you can get to only in your dreams? When I look at the ocean, I feel like I'm looking into that place. I'm not trying to be poetic, the ocean is a very transcendental thing for me. I can sit on the shore and spend hours looking at the horizon.

    1. Yes! Thank you for writing that... i have always felt that way about the ocean as well as space. I'm glad I'm not just a 'wierdo'.

  5. I lived along the ocean front for several years in Santa Cruz - I do think if it as an edge of sorts (as I didn't go in the water very much), but an edge that I enjoyed being near. It is one thing I miss from there (though the ocean really is still just a few miles away).

  6. When I see the ocean - I feel like I am home again.

    I would never have thought of it as a dead end - sounds pretty depressing.

    I wonder what he thinks of a mountain top!

  7. @ Anonymous - Good point! Thanks for that comment.

    @ ScienceGuy - Never seen the ocean? You poor thing! I hope you get to take that freighter trip to Peru -- and that you enjoy it. :)

    @ Andrew - Another good point. In fact, at the very spot shown in that photo, the surf is so rough at times that none of us would think of entering the water. Still great to sit and watch, though.

    @ MzHartz - Sounds like you and I are quite like-minded when it comes to being near the ocean.

    @ catsynth - At least you're still in a location from which you can easily reach the coast. ;)

    @ Kathy - Me, too -- still can't get my head around the coast being the end of the line. Good question about the mountain top!


  8. The ocean always feels like a destination of home to me. I have spent many years living either right on or near the sea. The past 14 years have been about 2 hours inland though and I MISS IT.

  9. I find that that the ocean is a great place to reset my priorities and realize what's significant and what's not.

    Also, seeing the ocean makes me realize how small I am in comparison. Maybe that's why it's a great priority reseter. :)

  10. I love the water, and for me it is an opportunity to explore at great length, with only your imagination to guide you. Endless possibilities. As a youngster my parents had a cottage on a major river in Pennsylvania. I had my own canoe, and spent everyday during the summer months out on that water looking and learning.
    I have such fond memories.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. It is indeed enlightening and yet the truth has always been there .. waiting to be awakened. And you provided that key to awakening. If only we would not be so quick to judge and to see things from the other person's point of view, we will be surprised. A lot of conflicts can be averted.

  12. What an interesting story with a new perspective.
    Whenever I see the sea, I feel that I have finally arrived home. I love the ocean, the seas.


We welcome your comments and invite your questions. Dialogue is a good thing!

Bobbie & Jerry