Oh, how well I remember the ocean. When I was growing up in San Francisco, we would make infrequent trips to the shoreline. “Don’t put your feet in the water!” my mother would always insist. “It’s far too dangerous. Undertows and rip tides. Sneaky waves. Sharks!”
My mom’s dire warning worked. Well, her warnings combined with the ominous view of Alcatraz Island that loomed through the fog, way too close for comfort. And the constant tales of would-be escapees who met horrible ends sucked down in undertows and rip tides, swept away by sneaky waves, and chomped between the razor-sharp teeth of sharks.
When I went to college in Southern California, I was horrified to see my seemingly sane friends dash laughing into the waves. (Admittedly, Santa Barbara waves didn’t crash like San Francisco waves did, but still~!) Bright, straight-A students actually went head-first into the ocean protected by nothing but a surfboard. Some, who I never guessed to be idiots, dove in and swam out into the ocean! Yes! They truly did!
Well, I stayed in Southern California, home of the world’s safest beaches, and as the years passed, I forgot my Mama’s warnings. I, too, swam in the ocean—doing my best to hide my creeped-outedness. My children, born to the ocean, never even flinched. And nothing happened to any of us.
Which is why, when I moved to Oregon, I eagerly strode to the edge of the rocks to see the beauty of the Northwest coastline. Complacent, that’s what I was. Lulled into a sense of “Hey, really. What could happen?”
But Saturday it did. Rip tides caused what is locally know as a “sneaker wave.” It crept around the coastal cliffs and without warning smashed a groups of smart, careful, wise teenagers. Two young men were swept off the rocks. Although their friends made ropes from their clothes and even risked edging into the churning water to grab them, they could do nothing but watch in helpless horror as the roiling water swept their friends away.
I’m sorry, Mama. I should listen to you.
“Nature does not, in the long run, favour life. If Nature is all that exists… [life] will have been an accidental flicker, and there will be no one even to remember it.”
C. S. Lewis “On Living in An Atomic Age”