The Sea

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My mother dislikes the sea.
“Why,” I will ask. I think the sea is beautiful.
“It’s cold,” she will say. 
Edward Hopper Rooms by the Sea  1951 Oil on Canvas
At first I thought she meant figuratively: the sea is vast and unpredictable, not known to embrace anything except the animals that call it home. And even those animals, the sea will tell you, must plan accordingly. If a whale dies close to shore, the sea, with frothy fingers, will slowly, indifferently, nudge it to the sand.
“Take her,” the sea will say, “We are finished.”
I once drove at nightfall along the coast to Santa Barbara. The sun had set more quickly than I’d anticipated and I found myself on the darkest of roads, with only my weak headlights to guide me. The sea stretched out to my left, invisible yet pressing, and I could not help but stare, every now and then into that dark expanse. I turned the radio off and swore I heard tides crashing, waves and wind roaring, how close to my car I didn’t know, I couldn’t see. But my little car swayed with both the wind and my fear. Though it was summer and the interior of my car was quite warm, the ocean, sight unseen, was chilling.
In the morning, I woke and with my friend, whom I was visiting, walked to the beach.
It was another sea altogether, now glittering and calm. A gentle breeze swept across our faces and we squinted across the water. I recalled the unsettling fear I experienced the night before while driving along the very same water and marveled how different I felt now. Calm. Serene. Just like a pretty photograph on a postcard.
But I shivered. It was always several degrees cooler at the beach. So this is what my mother meant. In search of a warm breakfast, we walked back to the car, the sea glistening behind us.
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