Last Thanksgiving our family went to Fort Bragg. It was definitely different for us. We usually took long road trips; sleeping at the traditional Holiday-Inns and Best Westerns, never staying in the same hotel for more than one night. We certainly didn’t stay in little, virtually unheard of motels.
The second night we were in Fort Bragg, we took a trip to Glass Beach after eating at the local Denny's. My dad and brother had gone off in one direction to check out the fishing at this particular beach, so my mom and I started to make our way up a steep hill. The path was lined with tall pampas grass and short little weeds; there were hardly any flowers growing naturally that time of year. The sand was more of a gravelly dirt; not like the stuff in Hawaii. I was wearing three layers of sweatshirts and vests, yet the wind still managed to find its way through to my body. There was a salty, beach-smell to it as it hit my face. After a quarter-mile trudge uphill, my mom and I finally made it. There we stood on the cliff. We were overlooking one of the most beautiful views of the ocean I had ever seen. There was the beach below us, with its gravelly sand and seals playing just off the shore. There were giant rocks jutting out of the ocean on both sides of us, with water spouting every time a wave hit their bases. Directly in front of us was an unhindered view of the ocean. The colors of sunset were playing off the waves, making them turn into a monotonous, yet no less breath-taking, sight. As I listened to the soft music of the hippie guitar band behind us, I felt alone. Not in a bad way, but in a peaceful way; in the way that makes a person feel like they could conquer the whole world if they had a mind to.
At this moment a person came up behind me. It was an old man who looked to be in his late-eighties.
“Do you want to hear a joke?” he asked.
“Sure,” I replied.
“What did the ocean say to the beach?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “What did it say?”
“Nothing. It just waved,” he said with a smile.
My mom and I started laughing, which seemed to make the old man’s eyes light up. We continued chatting for a moment. Then he asked another question, one which seemed to hit home at that particular moment.
“Have you ever been out there? On the ocean?”
“Yeah!” I replied. “I went fishing once.”
“I was in the Coastguard for a few years at the end of World War Two. I never felt more at peace than when I was out there, standing on the side of the ship, looking out at the ocean. There was something so amazing about it. To this day I still haven’t found a place I’d rather be.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that. What could I say?
A few moments later he thanked us for listening to him and went and joined his wife, who was waiting for him about twenty feet away.
I had never been out on the ocean, like that man had, but I felt like I knew what he was talking about; the peace, the serenity.
The ocean spoke to him, to me. It speaks to everyone.
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