Janis Jaquith
624 words


I sit here, a spoiled child in paradise, rocking on my shady porch overlooking the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia. An iridescent hummingbird hovers at the feeder, then wraps his little toes around the perch for a few seconds, resting his busy wings.

This is heaven. So, how could I wish to be someplace else? And yet, on this hot summer afternoon, I close my eyes and try to summon the sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean.

And not just any ocean. Not just any beach. I'm very particular about my daydreams.

I have gone to the seashore in Hawaii, Jamaica, Florida, and South Carolina and come away disappointed. Why? Because in none of those places could I smell the ocean.

Imagine going to a wonderful Italian restaurant when you have a bad cold, a stuffed-up nose. The food looks good, but without a snootful of air laced with garlicky tomato sauce and fresh, yeasty bread, who cares?

Like the ocean that has no salt smell, better you should stay home and look at pictures of food - or of the ocean - in a magazine. Less fat and less disappointment.

In the ocean setting that I conjure up in my mountain-bound home, the air is heavy with a bracing saltiness and carries that decaying smell of low tide that reminds you how temporary it all is. This is the intoxicating atmosphere of Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

I grew up in a town about an hour west of there and, with my family, made frequent pilgrimages to Cape Ann every summer.

To a kid with a poor sense of time and direction, there was nothing - nothing - that could beat the thrill of riding past an ordinary flat landscape of stores, churches, and houses, and without warning, discovering that relentlessly flat blue horizon - a surreal backdrop - behind ordinary houses. Stunning, every time.

And soon, a gust of cooler, salty air blows in through the car and there I am, filling my lungs to bursting with this salt-sweet air - as if I could save some for later - and I'm limp against the back seat, thinking: Yes! Oh, yes! I made it. I'm back.

Climbing up the hot, sandy path, past flat pink wild roses, I hear it: The rhythmic crash and sizzle, then ominous silence, or incoming waves.

We spread out our blanket (actually a white chenille bedspread) and I race toward the water.

At more southerly beaches, a person can go sashaying right on into the water. It's that warm. But where is the challenge in that?

I sprint in up to my ankles, stay for a second or two - until my ankles ache - then sprint out again.

I repeat this cycle a dozen times, going a little deeper each time, until my whole body aches, then goes happily numb.

The ocean there is typically Yankee: assertive, in-your-face, challenging.

And I miss it.

I have this fantasy: That the publishing world will briefly turn away from producing books by basketball players, murderers, and disgraced politicians and pay a small fortune for MY novels. Then, I will keep my Blue Ridge country cottage with its mountain view and hummingbirds, and I'll buy me a summer house on Cape Ann.

Nothing fancy, just an ordinary house: But with that surreal backdrop of relentlessly flat blue ocean. And when the wind is right, a snootful of salty air.

...It could happen.

Copyright ©2023, Janis Jaquith. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.