Growing up in Southern California, the ocean was a constant. A place you could go on a whim, day or night, and never give much thought to. There when you wanted it, hanging out in the background when you weren’t paying attention – it just was. Easy to ignore.
As a kid, especially in the summer, we went once a week or so. Running across the hot sand as fast as possible so you didn’t burn your feet, dodging clumps of seaweed, racing to see who could swim past the most waves before getting stuck in a riptide, complaining when sand inevitably made it into your sandwich. Using a freezing cold public shower because you were NOT allowed in the car all sandy. Falling asleep on the way home. And forgetting about it until next time.
In college we were a 10 minute drive away from one of the most popular beaches in the area. That first few months we were there CONSTANTLY: walking, sunbathing, surfing badly, flirting with each other. And then classes picked up and we didn’t go as often. The couple nights here and there we spent listening to the waves dwindled into nothing. 2 miles away and we went once a year. Might has well have been 200 miles.
Living in San Diego as a young adult meant the beach was the background to everything: first dates, runs with the dog, picnics, break ups. The best pizza in town. A good place to sit and watch fireworks on the 4th of July. A fantastic photo op – my engagement photos were taken on the most secluded beach we could find. Not because it was special. Just because it was pretty, and it was there.
When I moved across the country in 2009, I knew there were a lot of things I would miss: the people, the heat, easy access to all the things I loved, the sheer glut of fast food options. The ocean wasn’t on that list. Water is everywhere, right? No big deal.
And yet – 5 years later, the longing still catches me off guard. Instagram sunsets are killer. Pull out a sweatshirt stored from your last trip, and the smell of the sand will overwhelm you. Watching a tv show set on the coast can make you catch your breath (Graceland is especially guilty of this – the B roll footage is a love story to the Pacific ocean and areas it sustains.) You start plotting how you can get your best friend to have a bonfire for her birthday. The wind and temperature get just right, and all that’s missing is the salt sticking to your skin.
And you realize that it’s more than just a place. Because all the words you’ve used to describe it (easy to ignore, constant, background to everything) can all be used to describe something else as well, and you start to realize they’re one and the same: home.
Sarah lives with her husband in Washington DC, where she works in the alternative energy industry, and spends evenings trying the cocktail menus at various new restaurants. It’s really a bit of a problem. Her blog “Little Pieces Everywhere” has been sitting ignored for a long time, but if you bother her enough she just may start updating again.