This last weekend we were really alerted to the awesome power of nature. And by awesome I mean the traditional sense of ‘awe inspiring’ and what could be more awesome than the pounding ocean surf arising from a powerful hurricane? Now I’ve been at the shore during many strong storms, and it’s always pretty intense—winds whipping across the water, wild waves, overflowing and swamping waters—the works (aah, alliteration, the safe refuge of the wanna-be poet). For instance, I was living one summer in a cheap military tent beside a small Greek bay when the winds knocked down the poles of my tent, a sudden deluge soaked me and all my belongings while turning the dusty field we stood in instantly to sticky mud. I also remember once arriving at Jones Beach just hours after a passing thunderstorm to find the sand flooded under several feet of water all the way up to and through the parking lot—which was across the street. And of course I’ve been caught several times in pretty wild surf—in the crashing waves of northern California, the currents of the eastern Mediterranean and the strong undertow while snorkeling off an island in the Caribbean (and I was 5-mos pregnant that time, too).
But I’ve never seen surf as humbling as that which we (attempted to) swim in this past weekend. It wasn’t just the height of the waves (est. 6-8 feet perhaps?) but their terrific, terrible, terrifying force (I know, I know, but I just can’t resist…). I now understand when people refer to the ‘wall of water’ bearing down on them; it felt like a pile of bricks collapsing on us every few minutes. There were times that two or three smaller waves would somehow roll into one and crash into the sand with a tremendous crash, the spray splashing up several feet in the air and ending in a fine mist that formed a few seconds of shimmering rainbow. Beauty from the beast. Even standing in water just up to my knees I was knocked over a few times and it was a horror trying to keep the boys from being swept away. But of course, Josh, who usually can’t be bothered to enter the water, loved it.
Needless to say I was a lot happier swimming when we got back to the bay. And even there, where the water is most often as smooth as glass, there were little waves, a lot of wind and a surprising current. Well I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t plan on going to the shore this Labor Day weekend. Or on a boat. In the Outer Banks. Hello Hurricane Earl!