I make my home 60 miles out into the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Surrounded thus by seawater, I’ve felt my molecules slowly rearranging over the years, the ocean seeping its way into me. It has a similar effect on the land on which I live: Cape Cod.
“Everything told of the sea,” observed Henry David Thoreau during his mid-19th century visits to Cape Cod. How true. On this slender peninsula, there is nothing that is not affected by the ocean. The Cape owes its existence to water. The landform was bulldozed into existence by a glacier, was sculpted into its familiar bent-arm shape by ocean waves. And it will be water that eventually brings an end to my home. The ocean has been pulling Cape Cod apart, sand grain by sand grain, for the past 18,000 years; at some point in the distant future it will have been eroded away completely.
In the meantime, I walk along the beach and smell the sea. I walk in the deep woods and smell the green earth…and the sea. I realized long ago that this was something I couldn’t be without – the smell of the sea. And living here, there’s no forgetting where you are. In the winter months, blankets of ocean-effect snow can cover the Cape while Boston sees nary a flake. In the summer months, my garden grows in a warmer plant hardiness zone than the rest of Massachusetts, thanks to the ocean’s moderating effect on air temperatures.
I ponder the ocean’s dominance here as I gaze at the giant black oak outside my window, some two miles from the Atlantic, which bears the salt-spray freckles of a recent northeast blow. The ocean requires of us toughness, resiliency – but constantly reminds us of our fragility, our impermanence. The ocean ensures that both my home, and me, are “of the sea.”