Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

(7.30.17 Neither Out Far)

I am wholly a creature of piney woods and folded terrain, of birdsong and running creeks and a thousand shades of green, of forgiving soil that yields just a little with each footfall. There is something forbidding to me about the vastness of the ocean and the flat hand of the shore, something that feels unwelcome, and not just because I’m a poor swimmer. The ocean is not my home. It doesn’t want me.

Nashville, where I live, is a long way from any ocean, so this alienation causes me no real trouble. Middle Tennessee lies in the temperate deciduous forest, not the piney woods of Alabama, but it has been my home for almost thirty years—far longer than I have lived anywhere else, longer even than I lived in my own home state—and this landscape does not reject me. But my husband, who grew up an hour from the Georgia shore, longs for the ocean the way I long for pine needles beneath my feet. And so from time to time we find our way to some place where sand and sky come together.

I don’t have a vocabulary fit for the magnitude or the beauty of the ocean, but a writer friend recently reminded me of a few lines from Robert Frost, who did:

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be—
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Grayton Beach from Margaret Renkl on Vimeo.