The Water Looks Peaceful Away From the Coastline

The ocean crashes at my feet, delicately, though I feel the force of the long-traveled waves. The water looks peaceful away from the coastline, but I know that it is most tumultuous there. Like so many things.

The deceiving nature of water fascinates me as I feel its warmth rise over my toes and back out again, leaving them chilly in the sea breeze. The comforting heat of the sun seems to echo my heart. Greece is where I feel to be a part of things the most. The beaches of the Mediterranean are the only ones I’ll visit. No Jersey Shore for me. I laugh internally as I compare the gray, threatening, frigid Atlantic to the brilliant, welcoming cerulean landscape in front of me.

Greece feels as ancient as it is, and this country makes sense to me in a way America doesn’t yet. Not that America isn’t my home, as well – a first generation immigrant never forgets her roots – but it doesn’t have the eloquent societal flow of an ancient civilization whose heyday was 2300 years ago. Greece is a confident older woman who has lived her longest, best life, and is content in retirement to enjoy the little things. To look back and smile. America’s heyday isn’t yet clear.

America is a young, rebellious teenager who just graduated high school and isn’t quite sure what to do with her life yet. Has it happened? Is it yet to come? It probably isn’t now, I muse, as I walk along the coastline with my feet at the edge. The political issues of America feel sillier the further away from them I am. Fascist revival, xenophobia, no gratitude or perspective for privilege and access to opportunity; in the face of a public health crisis, a mask is a statement of us or them. The America in the media – movies, tv shows, novels, music videos – is like a coastline: peaceful, inviting, even comforting. We wrap ourselves in stories, armored in characters we can root for. But the darkness beyond is deceiving. The undertow lurks. And it rolls, far and untraceable, a bleeding reach to horizons beyond itself. Unendingly seeking control.

But here… it does end. The Crone that is Greece laughs and sips her ouzo. Greece chooses joy; she lives in the present. I’m untouchable happy in the embrace of the Mediterranean. I almost feel guilty for having this refuge, wondering if I’m abandoning my country. But was I abandoning Greece when I lived in America? The sun’s warm smile says all is forgiven. I am adrift on an ocean, multi-cultured and cultureless at the same time. I feel singular and comforted in that acceptance.

I savor the sinking of my feet in the loamy sand where the water has just kissed it. For America, I feel this too shall pass. If Alexander the Great’s empire can fall and yet yield all of this, the expanse of sea wrapping around mountains unaging, America can survive a fall, too. The tumult of America is far as the horizon here, and farther. Worse will come and worse has passed. The earth goes on.

I look out across the Mediterranean as my feet sink. The water laps at my ankles. I consider the ancientness of this sand. Shells from thousands of years ago. Rock formations humans may have never seen, eroded and unrecognizable. Perhaps pottery or man-made glass, thrown or lost at sea any number of years ago. No trace left, and yet still here. Still a part of something bigger. I meditate on this thought for a moment. The similarity of sand’s situation and the fleeting existence of a human life is so similar. It’s tangible, it’s visible. Concrete evidence of time passing, and mutedly bold in proving that it will only ever persist. People, the root of nations, will persist, as well. We are more than the government that seeks control in our name.

As the waves fold in and recede, leaving salty streamers that bubble back into the sand, I smile at the sea in understanding solidarity. I too will go on, formless, to rejoin the earth. As quiet as the sea as it breaks, I’ll go on. To be another grain of sand in the unending, flowing erosion of time.

by Elyse Welles

A Greek-Egyptian American, Elyse Welles currently lives in Greece, rescuing cats and writing at ancient temples. She recently finished her first novel, a mystery, for which she is currently pursuing publication. She writes non-fiction content for pagan publications such as Darksome Moon; book reviews and the occasional poem for her Instagram blog, Read in the Willows; co-hosts the Magick Kitchen Podcast; and travels the world’s spiritual sites for her YouTube channel, Seeking Numina.

photo credit: Matt Hardy