This is an oceanic coast, a continental coast. Nothing much between here and South Africa. Our more constrained and limited British seas can also cut up rough and nasty. So is it imagination, and/or knowledge, that makes the difference? Because this feels nothing like the seacoasts at home. Perhaps it’s an endlessly variable combination of light, colour, sound that I pick up in each case, or maybe it's just because I know the fact of difference. Either way, it feels very different from “home.”
Yet there is really only one ocean. On the whole planet, apart from inland seas (aka vast lakes) all oceans and seas are joined, are one. And the old mind-trick of turning a good-quality globe so that Australia is bottom left and you are looking at the Pacific reminds us that mostly, the planet is oceans and seas.
We often allocate human moods to the ocean, as we do to God/gods. They can be merciful, wrathful, gentle meek and mild. The ocean we can call angry, gentle, and so on. It’s not, of course. It is only and purely - the ocean.
Each wave is a fast-moving, continually changing, unique phenomenon, dying right in front of me and being drawn back and resumed.
The ocean is merely and entirely doing what it has done, with endless variations, for millions upon millions of years, before there were any people of any sort to watch it. Do I create each wave in front of me every time I look at it?
Are today’s waves two or three metres high? Hey, this next one must be 3.5 metres...That’s not what yields insight, though it might help me keep my trousers dry.
Maybe I can just be with it, leaving aside analysis and measurement.
And yet, if you just contemplate for a moment the impossibly complex set of dynamic systems - tide; winds here and hundreds of miles out to sea; currents; salinity and other chemistry; air and water temperature; gravity, phases of the moon - the self-sustaining systems that create this particular breaking wave, which resembles the one before it and the one after it but is unique.
If I add that to what I can see and here in front of me, I can feel a sense of awe (in the old and strong sense), presentmomentness, wholeness, identity with the planet and its workings that I’m happy to call sacred, provided you don't start lugging in meanings still adhering to a Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me, etc. (Well, you can if you wish, it's up to you, but that's not what I'm trying to get at here.)
For me, anthropomorphic deities don’t work, and the ocean is not wrathful. It is other than me, indifferent, total. Powerful beyond imagining, yes. Impossibly complex and beautiful, yes, with a beauty that goes much deeper than pretty or scenic. It’s in the curve of the wave as is crumples and blues into white that I find a sacred wholeness to sit with for a while.