What is it about looking at the turquoise Caribbean sea-tossed like a blanket over a mattress and framed by a mountainous headstand—that lures me into sleep? My eyes are wide open to see this view yet my mind feels in a coma. I cannot look away from its exquisite beauty.
I traveled to the Dominican Republic for the third time in a decade wanting only this peace … a hideaway to watch the sea for a week. Las Terrenas was magical.
Sea’s Changing Face
I have seen the ocean in all the ways it disguises itself as different—whether the surf of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, the crags of Dubrovnik, Croatia, the isolation of Isla Holbox, Mexico, or the wild horse terrain of Chincoteague, Virginia—yet it always feels the same.
Water. Blue. Infinity.
“I need the sea because it teaches me.”Pablo Neruda
He went on to describe the sea as an instructor. “The fact is that until I fall asleep, in some magnetic way I move in the university of the waves.”
Staring at the sea resembles the act of sleeping. Both involve seeming inactivity yet our brains are active. I meditate while I gaze, dream while I sleep.
There is a bond between humans and this elemental force of nature, much like we feel when we stare down into the cavern of the Grand Canyon or contemplate the craggy mountaintops of Great Smoky National Park. Nature astounds.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”John Muir
Unlike traveling deep into the woods, I cannot penetrate the sea. My passivity only permits me to stare unrelentingly at its surface, marvel at its constantly shifting color graduations, and ponder its tranquility.
Sea is a homophone for the word to “see.” In Greek etymology, ‘homophone” derives from two Greek words—same (homo) and sound (phone). They sound the same so you cannot know the meaning without the context. Sea is a noun while see is a verb. Yet I see a link in how the sea helps me to see.
Taking this analogy one step further, I experience the sea through synesthesia. My eyes see water but I taste briny water in my mouth. I hear the waves pound down on the sandy beach but feel the tug of the current. WebMD describes synesthesia as “a fancy name for when you experience of your senses through another.”
The artist Georgia O’Keeffe saw colors when she heard a symphony. In the picture “Music: Pink & Blue, No. 1”, she paints what she hears. The hues’ music blares from the canvas–a symphony written in chroma, a scale mounting in a palette of rainbow tints, cobalt violet to blend with ultramarine, harmonize with chrome red.
The Chilean poet clearly was a synesthete when it came to how he experienced the sea.
“I don’t know if I learn music or awareness …”Pablo Neruda
Does he hear when he sees? What triggers the sensation of being driven down into the depths by the sea? Neruda questions “if it’s a single wave or its vast existence … or only its harsh voice or its shining suggestion of fishes and ships?”
For me, the vastness of the sea never ceases to delight me. This may be why I can sit for hours on an uncomfortable recliner on a beach staring at its surface.
The roiling colors that swim from turquoise to seafoam then back to indigo turn my vision into a kaleidoscope. But I don’t have to turn a knob or shake a toy. Nature is in charge of my tubal vision—the sea’s reflections produce changing patterns.
Returning to the seashore will always be a journey home for me. Sea. Salt. Sand. I hold these memories close since my first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean as a child at Cape Hatteras.
“What it taught me before, I keep. It’s air ceaseless wind, water and sand.”Pablo Neruda