God named the dry ground “Land,” and he named the water “Ocean.” God looked at what he had done and saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10)
There are two oceans in my life.
The first one is the rough ocean, dangerous and unstoppable, with white waves crashing against the shores or beating the rocks of the cliffs. I can spend hours looking at it.
It is the ocean of the cliffs on the Atlantic Ocean in Mar del Plata, and the ocean that was ours for 10 days on the Pacific Coast in Westport, California. It smells of salt and algae. It draws you in and spits you back. It is a never ending source of energy, fueled by furious forces hidden under its waves.
This ocean reminds me of my grandmother Ita. We used to watch the majestic waters of the Acantilados in Mar del Plata, on the high cliffs where we were tempted and scared of getting a little bit closer to see better. It is in that land of wind, sun and salt that her ashes were scattered.
Ita did not have an easy life. Her husband died when she was 23 years old, leaving her alone to raise my mom, who was 2 years old, and my uncle, who was 6 months old. She was very close to her family, who stood by her side and supported her emotionally and financially.
She was a teacher and took several jobs to make ends meet. She had the energy of the brave ocean, always coming back for more. She did not remarry. She used to tell us that she was like the doves, that mate for life.
She never had much because she spent every extra dollar she had on gifts. She definitely spent more than she should have on my sister and I, but our memories of her are not related to the gifts, but to the times we spent together. Although she didn’t save a penny, she never lacked anything. Somehow the gifts that she made would come back in different and unexpected forms.
She was one of the happiest people I’ve met. Being with her was always a party. When I slept over at her place, we would snuggle in bed and watch comedies and eat ice cream from the pot, because there is no doubt that it tastes better like that, until the TV transmission ended and vertical bars appeared on the screen.
When I turned 15 she invited me to Iguazu Falls. The falls are breathtaking, but the highlights of the trip were around our adventures together. One night we had dinner at the fancy restaurant of the hotel. It must have been off-season because we were the only ones there, together with an army of waiters without much to do. Ita quickly realized that by the time her glass of water was half empty, a waiter would ceremoniously walk all the way from the other end of the restaurant to refill it.
“Drink some water, let’s see if he comes again,” she told me.
I did, and the man immediately started walking towards us at a slow, steady pace and refilled my glass with a very serious expression.
“Let’s see what happens if I drink only 1/4 of the glass,” she said, once the waiter had reached his original waiting spot.
She took a sip and looked in his direction. Sure enough, the waiter came promptly from the other end of the room to refill the glass. By the end of dinner we were laughing so hard one would have thought we were drinking vodka.
Ita died of cancer 2 years later, at the age of 62. I’ve been told a couple of times that I look like her, and it makes me smile. I dream of her sometimes, and in my dreams I tell her about my life and I’m thrilled that she gets to attend my wedding and meet my daughters.
The second ocean in my life is the placid ocean, the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea, of lakes and lagoons, where you can trace the small, gentle waves with the tip of your finger, and follow the ripples when you throw a pebble.
It is the warm waters that your toes don’t want to leave, where you can soak in for hours and let yourself go, carried by a soft current, knowing that you are safe.
This ocean is my Sophie, who did not yet have the energy to crash huge waves on a cliff. It is the sea of beginnings, of discoveries, of unconditional love, where time is lost because there is only here and now.
It is the calm waters of Matheson Hammock beach, where we scattered her ashes barely four months after she was born.
It is the peaceful waters of Jenny Lake, in Grand Teton National Park, where I canoed with Julia while Zoe, who was too young to go on the canoe, played on the shore with Jean-Marc. It is the breathtaking Yellowstone Lake where we had a picnic and threw pebbles in the water until our arms were numb.
It is the quiet waters of the lakes in Peru and the Gulf of Mexico, that turn into a mirror at night only to reflect the moonlight, our Luna bella shining through the darkness. Also gone too early but also here, forever.
It is the gentle ocean so blue that you can’t tell where it ends and where the sky begins, and you realize it doesn’t really matter because it is all One.
Over the past years we visited some of the most beautiful natural sceneries of the United States. We took a motorcycle tour to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park. We traveled Shenandoah Valley. We spent 2 weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We drove through Utah and Colorado. I fell for the mountains, the redness of the land, the green valleys, the wonder of the desert flowers.
Every time we visit a new region, I think about what it would be like if I lived there. As much as I enjoyed all of those places I know I could never call them home.
I couldn’t live without the ocean.