I hadn't seen the Atlantic in over two years.

April 10th, 2014, 9am

Nine months I’d been in Durham, in the middle of the state, landlocked. Before that, two years in Oregon with the Pacific on my left, a strange, cold ocean. Before that? Fifteen years in Florida, which I (claimed I) hated from the day my family’s green Chevy van with the Tennessee tags and the faux-oak side paneling set its front tires across the state line.

But I guess spending over half your life on a peninsula is bound to rub off on you. Some ocean is never more than a ninety-minute drive away, and if beachy-beachy isn’t your bag, there’s enough lakes, above- and below-ground rivers, canals, springs, bays, lagoons, and alligator-festooned swampland that surely something will float your punny little boat. You get oriented to the water, those specific waters, the way they pit and crack across the land and crumble its edges. And everything’s connected to everything else. You can stand in the dead middle of the state and if there’s a lake, you know you could trace it out to the sea. That’s how close it always is to you.

I visited the Pacific twice in the two years I spent in Oregon. Both times were disorienting. The first probably because, even though it was early September, the coast lay anesthetized beneath a thick, chilly fog; my husband and I wandered blindly seaward from the visitor’s parking lot for two hours through high, rugged dunes echoing with the throaty warnings of cougars before we found the shore, and then it was frigid and glassy and remote as a dreamer in sleep. The second time was on one of my birthdays, January. It was colder, but clear. We crouched in tide pools and poked at pink and green anemones. We hiked a bluff that overlooked some black rocks that rose just at the shoreline like shrugged shoulders, and beyond them the wide, unrelenting Pacific, and suddenly, as if some massive bong hit kicked in at just that moment, I was reeling on The Edge of All the World I’d Ever Known, and I was frankly terrified. It was embarrassingly uncool.

Nine months in Durham, spring finally slipping through winter’s fingers, and I get the itch to go to the beach. The weather was terrible: overcast, fifty-two degrees, and windy as Hades. (Is this a theme or what?) But there was the Atlantic, arms open wide across the gray horizon, skirts of foam swirling around her green ankles. It was like home. It was! Close enough.

Christine said thanks.

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Kristin Nehs

Writer, cellist, bluegrass aficionado, cat wrangler, sea lover.

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