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Boston Weather: 41.0°F | A Few Clouds

Ocean provides a new perspective

Column/Mathews M. Cherian

A few weekends ago, I decided to try treading the white sands of a Maine beach instead of the concrete of Boston. I've spent most of my life in cities and the Midwest. I wasn't prepared for the ocean.

The beach was empty, a short expanse of gritty, white sand ending in jagged rock on both sides. It was like a scene E. B. White might have described. There were no footprints on the beach, except mine. Broken shells and dead seaweed lay strewn across the sand. Occasional red sea urchins, spines still intact, colored the sand.

I walked with ease along the edge of the ocean as the water approached my feet. The waves were tame, imposing a blanket of silence on the beach. The screeching of the seagulls broke the monotony of the gentle lapping of the waves.

I scrambled up the small uprising of rock at the end of the beach. My hands shied away from the cold rock. The cracks and crevices spread everywhere, like the gnarled roots of an old tree. Little lines as fine as those on my palm coursed the rock in an aimless maze.

The rock offered me no comfort as I sat down, but I didn't notice. The soft beating of the waves on the rocks continued to forbid me from breaking its silence. The gentleness of the waves seemed deceiving. Their constant repetition, worse than the ticking of a metronome, held me in a trance.

The rocks stood at the mercy of the water. The softer the waves lapped against the rugged surfaces of the rock, the more deceiving they were. The waves concealed their secret well.

Only the rocks gave away the ocean's secret. The jagged scars biting deep into the rocks laid bare their testimony. The deep gouges, reaching farther into the heart of the rocks than a dagger could, groaned in submission to the ocean.

Nature was a force beyond control.

A sudden gust of the brisk fall wind brushed me. I shivered.

Often man thinks he is in control. He believes he has power over his own destiny: There are no forces he cannot overcome.

I had always had a sense of security in the city, where nature had little play, where all the forces, no matter how big, were controlled. Or so it seemed. Now the city seemed insignificant, powerless.

The wind died down. I squinted at the line of reflected sunlight on the ocean. I looked down into the war-scarred faces of the rock below me.

The rocks were carved. They were shaped, not by man, but by nature. Each thin crack crept through the rocks following its own path. Nature had formed each path.

History, art and music: man's markings. Just as the fine lines on the rocks, these markings can be erased, shifted, changed. Outside forces will change these markings, change their direction, wipe them away.

Often in the city, it is very hard to see past the office-buildings and the skyscrapers. Sitting on the rocks, looking out at the ocean, I could see a long way.