Growing up in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, the ocean was always nearby. It was a place to clear my head, to refocus, to dream again.
As a young boy I’d wade out into the waves, usually clutching a cheap Styrofoam boogie board of some sort. With my parents watching from the sands with a half-eaten bucket of KFC, I’d float a short ways from shore, sometimes riding the waves back in, sometimes just bouncing through and over them. As I spent hours on end interacting with the sea, my mind would carve out stories, my persona would shift to that of some make-believe superhero, my lungs would put forth melodies of music I didn’t dare share without the cover of the roaring waves.
As a teenager I’d occasionally walk along the shoreline, the latest cool sunglasses wrapped around my face, feeling alone within a crowd. I’d look at the endless horizon of the ocean, with its eternal promises, its wide-opened future, its beckoning toward lands and places and people beyond what I could see or even perceive. As my body moved in the warm sunlight and the beads of sweat made their downward appearance along my forehead, I felt alive and pro-active. Life was not happening to me-I was interacting with it, shaping it, lifting its bar.
As a 20-something I walked hand in hand with my future wife in the shallow water, laughing about something with regularity, stopping to kiss when the moment felt right. I ran ahead of her and dared her to chase; we reversed roles, laughing at the thrill of the hunt as the waves rollicked in approval. The adjacent ocean held within its liquid fabric the hope of a future, of a family, of a journey, of an ability to endure ups and downs and grow because of hard times rather than just in spite of them.
As a 30-something Dad I watched my little girl discover the ocean for herself. The fear and the wonder, the uncertainty and the unfettered delight-all poured out at once from the perspective of a young girl with bright brown eyes of wonder. The sea was a raging monster and a gentle giant. The shoreline was a bridge between infancy and toddler-hood. As she danced and jumped in the shallow waters, her parents’ hands firmly grasping her own tiny fingers, she was free and growing and alive amid a vibrant interplay with nature.
The ocean remains available to me today, to me and those I love and cherish. It’s easy to take it for granted. The sands and shorelines of Brevard County are part of the wonder of what drew us here, what keeps us, what inspires us to continue to build a future in the Space Coast. We must never lose our vigilance for enjoying and preserving the beauty and transforming power that our beaches possess.