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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

On the Ocean

The ocean feels different here.

There’s a part of me – the part that still hopes that I’m the long-lost demigod daughter of Poseidon – that tells me it’s because there are different gods in these waters. My father (Poseidon, not Edwin), has never held dominion here. (To be clear, Edwin has also not held dominion over the Indian Ocean – not that I know of, at least). I don’t know which deity rules over this sea, but she feels as unfamiliar as she does welcoming.

The scientific part of me tells me that the water feels different here because it’s just a whole lot warmer than it is off the coast of New England.

Yet whatever it is that makes these waters different, I feel in my heart that this ocean is not my ocean.

My ocean chills me to the bone whenever I dare venture in. My ocean batters with biting cold against rocky beaches and jagged sea cliffs and sends icy sea spray splashing defiantly in my face and waves crashing into my back. My ocean is angry, and dangerous, and utterly thrilling. But it’s not usually the type of ocean that you can relax in, which is exactly what I’m doing now as I float belly up, lulled by the tranquility and the quiet beneath the waves.

Peaceful is not a word that I often use to describe myself, but right now, as I stare up at a brilliantly blue sky, that’s exactly how I feel. Peaceful.  I’m usually quite the opposite, mind swirling with thoughts that refuse to be silenced and questions that reject answers. The ocean is one of the few places that I allow myself to let go, to let something else support me without worrying about overburdening it in return. I give my full weight to the ocean, and I trust that it can be borne. I relax.

The sun begins to set, and I shake off the trance-like state that has engulfed me.

In a sea painted half dusky pink, half fiery orange, I swim towards the horizon and wonder what would happen if I swam on forever, past the line where the water and the sky embrace and the islands float.

I want to stop time and drift forever in this moment, in this ocean that is breathtakingly, painfully, magically beautiful. But the sky continues to darken, and the colors fade out of the ocean, leaving it a steely blue gray.

Evening falls, and my friends call me back to them. I swim slowly back to shore, never taking my eyes off the sea.