I have always had a fascination with the sea and the stars. As a child, I remember studying the stars from our backyard on the east side of Enid, Oklahoma, watching them twinkle, trying to decide which were stars and which were planets, looking for the constellations … the things kids do. I didn’t know at the time I was only seeing a tiny fraction of what was there.
I wanted to see the ocean for years, but there are no oceans in Oklahoma. In 1990, my then-wife and I drove to the Oregon coast and there it was, gray and restless and huge, the mighty Pacific Ocean. It was everything I wanted it to be, and so much more. I’ve been back to the Pacific twice since then, once to Oregon and once to California. I will never get enough of watching those waves or the sun sinking like a drop of burning blood into the water, leaving bands of orange and purple and yellow between the horizon and the night sky.
All of last school year, I planned to take my dog Bear and go back to the Pacific this summer, taking our time and stopping wherever we wanted. We would find places, maybe in Wyoming, where we could see the Milky Way and the millions of stars that are hidden from us in the city. We would sit on the cool sand near Florence, Oregon, and contemplate life as foam-topped waves rolled up the beach. Don’t laugh. Bear is the kind of dog that would do that with me. But alas, I lost my job and there was a month of panic as I searched for another one, and then the realization that I would not get a paycheck from June 15 until September 20. Vacation was cancelled.
Depression set in. That’s a dragon I fight often. I don’t have many friends, but the few I have get to hear me whining and complaining, so they knew about my financial jam and cancelled plans. Today I got to sit and talk to Annie while she worked, and, because she is who she is and she knows how to ask questions that find the pearl in a pile of bull excrement, she asked me why I’m drawn to the water and the stars. I gave her some vague answer, but her question stuck with me as I drove home and, once here, I was able to give her a better answer.
I’m drawn to these things because I let my personal problems overwhelm me too often. Not having money, not getting to go on my trip, being lonely, feeling old, overworked, sad my books aren’t selling, etc., all weigh me down and became like a black hole sucking away my happiness. The ocean or a sky filled with glittering stars is so big, so eternal, so powerful that it reminds me how small I am and how miniscule my life, and therefore my problems, really are. As Annie put it in defining her own feelings, “[T]he sky and the ocean both plug me back into the Divine.”
I’m not a religious person, but I absolutely believe in a Divine presence, and I think it manifests in many forms and is understood in many different ways and by different names. And I fully believe that there are times in a person’s life when it is necessary to get plugged into that Divine nature. For me, the best place for my soul to connect to the Divine is where the land meets the sea under a canopy of stars. Hopefully I’ll get back to that church soon. In the meantime, you can often find me on the banks of local lakes.