I need the ocean

Every once in awhile, usually on an aimless drive to kill a few hours, my husband and I will have a discussion about moving somewhere, somewhere with warmer weather (his preference), or where house prices are more affordable, or maybe where there are big employment opportunities. These are nothing concrete, just daydream-type conversations.

“Maybe we’ll move to Alberta,” he suggests, knowing our kids may well end up there when they get older.

“Nope, landlocked,” I always reply.

“We could move to Toronto and get season tickets for the Jays.”

“Tempting, but too far from the ocean.”

“Colorado?”

“Can’t do it. There’s no water, just mountains.”

Here’s the deal: I just can’t imagine living more than a car ride away from the Atlantic Ocean. I might settle for the Pacific, but I wouldn’t even be content with the Gulf of Mexico or the Great Lakes.

Both of us have lived our whole lives near the ocean – he grew up next to the cliffs in Sydney Mines, and I grew up in River Bourgeois – so I guess that proximity has spoiled us. We are used to the salt in the air and the smell of seaweed. We are used to sunscreen in the bathroom cabinet next to the aloe. We have snorkels and decks with chairs and umbrellas, and the kids all have pails and shovels for the beach. I spent every summer of my childhood walking in water, and some of my happiest memories are in the water.

A couple of days ago I came across a story on a business magazine Web site (of all places) about the health benefits of the beach. While a large portion of the country has “going to a beach on the ocean” as part of their bucket list, we in Nova Scotia have access to the sea year-round. That is amazingly lucky, when you think about the number of people who don’t. Some people spend their lives wishing to see a real coastline.

Anyway, the on-line article cited studies that prove what people have long known: “The beach,” the author points out, “is one of the best places to alleviate stress and heal your brain.” It doesn’t pinpoint exactly what is so calming about it, but it does mention something to do with the sound of the waves, the blueness of the water, the sand underfoot, and especially the intoxicating smell of ocean mist.

I’m going to stick a pin in that for a second and confess that, despite my love of the ocean as an entity, I am not a beach lover. It pushes too many buttons for this self-professed “indoor girl.” I am not a fan of heat, bathing suits, sunbathing, stepping on dry kelp, dragging coolers from the car, lack of seating that provides adequate lower back support, weird sand bugs, sand on my feet, sand in my car – sand, period. I have never been and will never be a beach bum, so much so that I won’t even deny that my distaste for the beach played a large part in our decision to put in a pool. I love that the beach is there, that it exists, and I would never want to be far from it – but I also don’t want much to do with it beyond that recognition.

For many years I thought I would eventually move to a big, busy city. I didn’t ever give much thought to my need to be near the ocean until I got a bit older. When I lived in a sub-division in the Halifax area, there was a small “beach” where we’d take the kids every now and then, but I use the term “beach” loosely. It was a man-made beach on a small lake, so packed you could barely find a place to spread out your towel. When you compare that to the miles of sand and solitude in places like Port Hood and Point Michaud, you see pretty quickly what a luxury those beaches are.

I don’t currently live on the water – I do live on a river, but it’s not the same thing, as far as I’m concerned. The goal now, the end game for my retirement, is to own a home or a cottage that offers a front-row seat to an uninterrupted blue line stretching the length of horizon.

Who knows if it will ever happen, but that’s the dream.