We each have our own Restoration Point, a place that speaks to our inner being, calms it, and recharges our spirit.
My wife is lucky; hers is at home. She loves being at home where it’s peaceful (when I’m not there, one assumes), pretty (when the gardens are in trim), and she can do what she wills (most of the time, anyway).
I’m not as lucky. Sure, home is great, and we make it as peaceful a place as can be, but for my soul, it’s the ocean or nothing.
I grew up on the San Pablo Bay. Across the street was a salt marsh, and at low tide the air was filled with the scent of mud flats, drying seaweed, and warming crustaceans. I still love that scent–in Seattle, when the tide is out, the breeze carries that scent all the way up to Capitol Hill–but that’s nostalgic, not rejuvenating. I smell it, I remember digging for clams or playing with fiddler crabs or popping kelp balls as a kid, but I’m not refreshed by it.
Nor does the Puget Sound work for me. She’s pretty, and she can be nasty. White-capped in storms, and crossed by the sounds and sights of foghorns and lighthouse beacons, she’s a definite salt-water-body. Gulls scree and mew overhead, and you can catch some of the best fish (in season), but she’s just a diminutive pond, to me. Pretty. Glad she’s so close. Adds a TON of character to the city I love, but she doesn’t build me up.
Even the Mediterranean left me cold (despite its warm waters). On the shores of Tel Aviv, people play on the sand and swim in the “surf” that smells vaguely of tar and shipping oil. Breakwaters protect the swimmers from the “pull of the tide,” and I had Israelis shout to me when I was swimming in the waves, fearful that I might be carried away by its powerful surge.
They meant well, but it took all I had to keep from laughing at their concern. I was a boy of the Pacific, the ocean you never trust. Ever. I swam in her freezing waves, body-surfed her ten-foot rollers off Stinson Beach. I snorkeled along her rocks, hunting for abalone, back when it was both legal and possible to do. She has knocked me ass over teakettle more times than I care to count, held me under for longer than I thought I’d last, and given me some of the best meals of my life. I love the Pacific–I haven’t spent time on the Atlantic, but I’m guessing she wouldn’t do for me, either–and have built, over the decades, a respectful, passionate, totally dysfunctional love affair with her. I love her, and she’d kill me in a blink the moment I turned my back. She’s a wild thing, untameable, totally at odds with her name.
And yet, that name is apropos for me, as just being near her, I achieve it: peace. I walk along her shores, hear the heartbeat of her pounding waves. I feel her cold, cold wind and smell her salt in the air. She imbues me. She infuses my soul with her raw simplicity. Within her reach, I am scrubbed clean, emptied out, and filled up again.
The Pacific is my Restoration Point.