The tide comes in, the tide goes out, the world turns and the stars chime down on our upturned faces; we may falter but the ocean never does.
We must always come back to the sea— such is certain.
We have divided our oceans into many, but in reality they are all one. In reality they are all the Pacific.
The Mediterranean is the bathtub of the world; soft waves lapping up on beaches walked by the romans and greeks and eygptians. It was the place where they fought their wars at the dawn of human history, as a child fights a war in the tub before bedtime. Ten thousand ships and flaming arrows and a pantheon of gods frowning down from above.
The Indian ocean is a storm caged in a tea cup— typhoons tearing across the surface, the spice crates fallen to the bottom centuries ago, tinting the water. The sharks turn and snarl, as they have snarled for centuries below the junks and the freighters and the Portuguese casting their anchors into the blue for the first time as they discovered the new ports.
The Atlantic is a graveyard, the storms grey and the waves as high as mountains, towering over the ships. The icebergs cut the ships to shreds and send them down, fathoms and fathoms, where the light will never reach. Only darkness, only fish, only tombs, and Hades prowls among the dulling glitter to retrieve the souls.
The Arctic is mostly ice— they sought a northwest passage but they never found it; it was all a lie, and the ice creaked and cracked and underneath the seals and whales and polar bears moved and groaned. Hudson adrift in a lifeboat as his crew leaves him and turns around; death will come for them too, even if they are not in this particular ocean.
But it is all the Pacific.
The glorious Pacific, massive in its scope. Turn the globe and all you can see is ocean, blue, shining in the light. The whales are dwarfed in its blue as we are dwarfed by the stars; they delve and plow and graze in that great expanse.
I have been to the Pacific once; I was nine. We sat on the cold sand and the waves were freezing, washing in kelp and seaweed and the skyline never faltered, stretching out for an eternity until the sky curved and the magnificence was lost from sight.
The waves crashed and foamed, crashed and foamed, crashed and foamed, and when I slept that night I still dreamed of them, lapping up on that shore for all time, until the sun became too big and engulfed our blue world.
I have never gotten to sail out on to the sea, but I would love too; I would love to rock in the deep deep blue of the Sea of Mexico with the sun hot and golden and the fish turning in the wet and the world sublime in some impossible way.
The entire world might as well be the Pacific; without the oceans we would not be here, spinning out stories like an opera for the stars to see.
We are all drawn to the sea and yet we do not understand it. It is soft and docile but it is also angry and volatile.
It is like us.
Perhaps we do not understand it because we do not understand ourselves; perhaps we do not understand anything and we come closest to understanding ourselves in the sea foam, because we share something innate with the ocean and with the soft rising and falling of the crests; something innate with the hurricanes that rage and die as the stars above us rage and die.
Perhaps it is not surprising that so many of the great stories about humanity take place out in that deep blue, out in the Pacific.
Moby Dick and The Old Man And The Sea— one man against the blue sheet, the divinity in ourselves rubbing up against the divinity that is the ocean and the sparks flying up like wildfire. The Pacific is wild and ruthless, but we are graced with the touch of God.
And so we struggle, the tiny boat spun to and fro on the waves and the sun and the stars watching with unwavering eyes.
Why are we so mesmerized by the ocean? Why are we so mesmerized by water in general? There seems to be something mystical about it, something we cannot quite define but keeps drawing us back in, day after day after day.
Perhaps it is because it is a paradox.
It is both familiar and foreign— we know the feel of surf on our fingers and yet the depths are unproven and we know more about the moon than we do about the bottom of the Pacific.
It is both small and big— it laps into tide pools for us to study as children, the starfish sheltering there until the tide returns, but it is also impossibly large, spilling across miles and miles of the world, too big to be counted, too big to be found in.
It is both safe and dangerous— it brings us gifts on the beaches, shells and kelp and shark teeth, but it brings ships to ruin and makes cliffs into sand and whips up hurricanes that kill hundreds of thousands. They never find the bodies; they rest in the depths along with the sunken Spanish treasure ships and the Titanic and the destroyers from Midway.
The ocean brings death and rebirth; ruin and sanctuary. In its depths the whales and the sharks and the great monstrosity of squids we can only begin to imagine lurk and bellow; in its shallows the young lovers kiss and tumble; in its darkness the ships lie, tombs untouched except by the currents, who do not know what it is to be reverent; in its surf the children find shells and hold them up for mothers who rediscover the joy; in its waves the albatrosses tuck their plurality of wings and dive, grasping for food; in its currents the lifeboats drift, the stars shining down from overhead, watching this newest development of human life with no sympathy.
And in all of this the Pacific is unmoved.
It is the ocean; it, like us, like its creator, has some spark of divinity, and it too can refuse.
It too can refuse to care about us, about the world, about anything except itself.
We fight our wars on its surface; we splash in its shallows; we kill its whales; we die in its hurricanes. The sea simply continues to be a sea, rising and falling, rising and falling.
They have argued that there are many oceans, but they are all connected. I think they are all the Pacific. Pacific means peaceful; the ocean is not peaceful at heart but it is massive and so it can cast that illusion with careful skill.
Perhaps, out in the stars that watch us, there are other oceans. They probably share some of the same divinity that is found in our ocean; they are probably characterized by a refusal to care, a refusal to relent, a refusal to be subjected.
If that is true then, while not touching our Pacific, they too are part of it.
They are Pacific, we are Pacific, everything is Pacific.
But we cannot be like the ocean. We have to be better.
We cannot be indifferent to the ships that sink and the men that never come home; we cannot create hurricanes with impunity (though our hurricanes are more of the Molotov cocktail variety); we cannot kill the whales and forget to mourn them.
The Pacific never falters.
But we falter. We often make it a character flaw but no— it is what sets us apart from the deep blue monstrosity that laps at our feet. We are human, and we sob, we regret our choices, we grieve the whales.
The ocean has one kind of divinity, we have another, and we go out into the Pacific and trail our hands into the blue and the sparks fly up as the divinity brushes against itself and it is glorious, as all things are.
Holly Levett is a high school senior from North Carolina who writes when she’s not doing homework, sleeping, or running cross country and track.