Walking Along the Ocean's Edge


Walking along the ocean's edge in silence, I hear the sound of leashless dogs running toward—and away—from one another, barking alternately in joy and warning, based upon what each sniffed off the other.

The water washes over my bare feet, wetting me up past my ankle, then subsides. At each crest, small circles of bubbles appear on the surface, painting organic designs round like grapes. Shortly thereafter, they fade back away into the nothingness of constant tidal motion.

Try to come up with a lucid rationale for why certain of these dogs flock to others, oh so keen to knock each other over in friendship and playfully chew on the nearest floppy ear or furry neck scruff… and why, in sharp contrast, certain others violently woof each other away from the unofficial territories they guard, oh so ready to bite a hole in the face of any foe daring to snout-poke too close to the precious fetch stick or drool-drenched tennis ball.

There isn't one.

By the illogical and inconsistent rules of animal nature, their energies either synch up or they clash. For a fleeting moment, either alliance or warfare is struck. A moment later, it could—and will—go a different way.

And why would one wave wash up so surprisingly strong, carrying water much higher up my leg than I'd planned for, soaking my pants past their roll-up point, then pull back out again, faster than I could hold its wily liquidity accountable... while the next one never quite culminates in the big wild break it appeared to promise before hitting shore, in that misleading anti-climax which, prior to falling short, sent a pair of screaming six-year-olds running back toward the safety of their parental beach-towel?

In those background dog-barks, I hear my own staccato tone of impatience yapping away at whomever happened to show up that day as a target for my wrathful growls. I may claim to love this person or that, or declare I hold no emotion toward them… yet, that one day the wind was blowing a particular direction or the tide was unusually high, I filled with fury and, unable to contain the primal surge, took it out on them. I snarled and spit. I howled. I lunged. I went for the jugular without knowing exactly what I was doing, or why… only to recover my senses, thankfully, before I could clamp down with that one most-mortal pierce.

We clash, or we synch up. A moment later, it'll happen all over again… differently.

The water laps against my feet once more, washing craggy grains of sand out from beneath my toes… and, for a second, I am clean. I stare down at my feet in the water as I walk. The suddenly (surprisingly) setting sun sparkles off the water's surface, casting my face in a flattering late-afternoon pink. A little further down the beach, this same reflected sunlight casts a glare, temporarily blinding the eyes of other beach strollers situated at just the wrong angle. This glare is deadly. I know somebody who lost his life when misdirected sunshine stole the sight from a passing driver, as my friend crossed in front of the forsaken vehicle on foot. The driver didn't even slow down. He never even saw my friend.

A second pair of feet joins mine, to step in neat alignment with me. Though no words are exchanged, I know these feet. They match mine, not according to some lucid rationale but simply because I feel I know them. We walk together.

This is a large strange world, and I know the owner of these feet from a chance meeting thousands of miles across this very ocean we splash through now, in a place not so unlike this one. We wouldn't have known each other at all—and thus wouldn't be here walking together—had we not crossed paths all those years ago, curiously, three times in two days, and had we not crossed paths again a couple years later, and had I not known, deep down, that one day we'd reconnect on this side of the pond. By illogical rules, we silently share this stretch of shoreline. Soon, we will fade away. In the moments to follow, it could go any way.

Into the frame prance another set of feet—four more, this time. It's my dog. He trots past, skimming my legs with his soft, loving fur. In his mouth, he holds a tennis ball he stole from somewhere. It wasn't his before, though he now claims it. Angry barks follow. Another dog, the rightful owner of the ball, demands justice. A chase ensues.