I have met people before who have never seen an ocean. Never heard waves crashing on the beach, never heard seagulls fighting over sandy hot dogs, never experienced the oddity that is still finding sand in various crevasses and in the shell of your ear for a few days after a visit.
Who have never felt the pull of a current at the back of their calves as they inched forward in the tides, never watched the crests of a dolphin pod disappear and reappear in the waves, never felt the wind chill drop and drop with the setting sun shooting a hundred colors across the sky.
I know I’m spoiled to have always lived within a few minutes or at most an hour from the ocean. And I’m sure the people who have never seen an ocean are still living normal, full, productive and meaningful lives without the presence of the big blue.
But I feel like the ocean makes mine, sometimes. And to live so close to it again is a great privilege.
The water is different here in Rio. That’s the wild thing – that the ocean can look so different in every place that it touches, even though it is just the same blanket of water touching on shore. How is this a part of the same thing I’ve swam in off California, North Carolina, Hawaii, Mexico, and Spain?
Here I notice the colors – green and blue and turquoise. The waves crash differently; the sand is fine and cakes to your feet. There are always surfers, kite-surfers, and naked toddlers running around everywhere. Rio lines her beaches with showers and hose spouts, and it is one of the funniest things in the world to watch parents try to wrestle their slippery sandy naked children under the cold water to rinse after a long, sun-burnt day.
All the men wear speedos. I will never get over old men wearing white speedos under bellies so huge you can barely tell anything is on from the front. And on their feet? Tennis shoes and white socks. They sit in yellow plastic chairs, drinking one of the three terrible beers of Brazil, playing cards and watching girls walk by.
The Brazilian bikini bottoms are in fact amazing. Everyone wears them.Even pregnant women wear them. It’s amazing. Maybe not everyone looks Giselle in them, and I don’t know how long I will live here before I will not be at least a little shocked by it, but you have to admire the confidence it takes to put that amount of skin out there. And the pain threshold for getting all those waxes. I actually had a pretty modest version of a Brazilian bikini bottom in my online shopping cart for Victorias Secrets for a few days, but I was telling my friend that I went to look the other day, and the Brazilian bottom was no longer in stock. I said I felt like God was saying, “Not yet, Rachel.” She said God was more likely saying “Not ever.”
Anyway. I like the way I feel small when standing on the ocean. And finding little freckles that sprout up on my arms after a day in the sun. And how easy it is to think on a beach. Or to not think at all. Time feels different and I feel pretty on a beach.