She was raised along the salty sea
nursed on hope and fairy tales
– Andrew Osenga ‘Ever and Always’ Leonard the Lonely Astronaut
I was born in the mountainous country of Germany. My first memory is from when I was around one year old, looking out over the mountains, playing in a kiddy pool on a porch with my brother with mom and dad behind us. That’s all there is to the memory, and I feel wistful when I picture it.
We moved to the landlocked state of Arkansas soon after, and I grew up there.
But some of my very best memories are of trips to Florida, where my Grandpa Bob and Grandma Pat lived.
Belly down in the water, facing the beach, letting the waves wash over me and roll my body up and down. Running headfirst into the waves and then falling backwards and tumbling back to shore. Tasting saltwater on my lips and shaking water out of my hair.
Feeding seagulls on the pier. Standing on a boat, smelling the salty air mixed with gasoline from the motors while the wind blew salt water onto my face.
To this day, the smell of gasoline makes me crave the taste of salt on my lips, and the feel of the waves beneath me.
My husband is the sturdy but aspiring sort, who can keep his feet on the ground while reaching high, and who loves to visit the mountains.
But I flow healing or storm like the waves, and inside is all life and destruction in one, and my heart is with the running rivers and the changing tides. Nothing can be more of the earth and magical at the same time as flowing water. I’m at home with the water. I’m landlocked and I miss the magic of the ocean and its creatures.
I saw a dolphin once. I spied a shark’s fin. I caught hermit crabs and one very lucky day on a boat, we saw five stingrays. The sight will never leave my mind’s eye, and a decade later I can see them gliding over a shallow in V formation, flying gracefully through the water.
My parents gave me the ocean, and my dad gave me a love of stories — stories at bedtime told about his childhood in funny voices.
My love of stories sparked my love of books, and books gave me the magic of the world. A sense of wonder and awe and mystery, a romanticism and high morals and the feeling that ‘all the world is a stage’ and the world is full of stories, heroes, and beauty.
I learned simple bravery from Samwise Gamgee and friendship from Merry and Pippin. I learned faithfulness and valor from Lucy Pevensie. I learned nobility from Joan of Arc and Elinor Dashwood. From Ramona Quimby, I learned to delight in simple pleasures. I claim Beverly Cleary as a mother, as her books helped to raise me. I learned about life and kindness and true love from books. I read mystery stories and history books and stories about people, and books of information.
I read fairy tales, perhaps more than my parents would have liked, and I was set on a course of studying and learning and exploring the world. I asked questions my parents couldn’t answer, and thought things they wouldn’t approve of.
My quest for understanding has led me to thoughts my parents don’t approve. My mind has run everywhere it could, through channels my parents never could have predicted when they poured stories into me. Like how water flows: life-giving, but never predictable.
I walk the earth with a sense of wonder given to me by stories and the wide open ocean. And slowly, like a trickle going into a river, I carve out my own path.