The Neighboring Sea

For a few years of my life I lived a few blocks from the beach near Santa Barbara, California, but my world was so full of other kinds of excitement in those days that I gave very little thought to my neighboring kingdom. It pains me at this stage of life to think what I missed by not spending more time at the ocean’s edge or at least gazing from the cliffs.

I’m reminded of that experience when reading Anne Porter’s description in this poem. In the wee hours she is “remembering” what must have been as near in the daytime, just at the end of the street. It’s from her collection Living Things, which was given to me at Christmas. My husband read this poem first and shared it with me only this morning. Devils-apron is a type of kelp.

THE NEIGHBORING SEA

At three in the morning the village is all in silence
But the silence is afloat on the roar of the sea
And all the streets are bathed in the roar of the sea
The waves are at their labors
Cresting and flooding all along the shore
Tumbling and spinning the kelp and the devils-apron
Threshing to meal the morsels and crumbs of stone
And the light seashells with their storm-blue linings.

This is the time of day when I remember
That down at the end of the street there is an ocean
A Nation of fishes and whales
A sky-colored country stretching from here to Spain
A liquid kingdom dragged about by the moon.

-Anne Porter

Ke’anae Peninsula, Maui

8 thoughts on “The Neighboring Sea

  1. What wonderful lines!

    Being born by the sea, raised mostly in a seaside town and living near the coast all my life, somehow we were never quite close enough to hear it in the wee hours like this. But I can imagine it well due to her beautiful words.

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  2. I grew up by the beach and never fully appreciated it when I was young. Now I go to the coast every chance I get and wonder what I was thinking in my younger years.

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  3. Lovely. I think sometimes all I missed in those years of mothering. Fall that went by without me even seeing a single color or a winter storm that I was so busy changing diapers I never saw the clouds. How many sun rises and sunsets I missed because my mind was on other things.
    I think this poem is a sweet reminder of all we have is today. We can still visit there when we remember.

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