The waves crash at my feet, delicately, though I feel the force of the long-traveled waves. The water looks peaceful farther away from the coastline, but I know it is most tumultuous there. The deceiving nature of water fascinates me as I feel the warm water rise over my toes and back out again, leaving them chilly in the sea breeze. The warmth 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 grey, 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 - 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, walking along the coastline with my feet at the edge. The political issues of America feel sillier the further away from them I am. I’m untouchable by it all here. I savor the sinking of my feet in the loamy sand where the water has just kissed it.
I look out across the Mediterranean as my feet sink. As 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 manmade 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, and it's provable that the sand has existed for a long time, and that it could go on for even longer - but it will not if the ocean isn’t here.
As alarming as this notion may sound, I felt more calm in that moment than ever before about the political issues of America. It felt like remembering a bad dream. Relief that it wasn’t real, but a memory of its terror. But like any bad dream inspired by real life problems, the full flood of terror hit me as I realized the magnitude of climate change. I look at the ocean and feel the sand between my toes, the dried salt on my arms and hair, the warm sun on my face. It is the only issue that matters.
America's culture is as tumultuous as the ocean, but fragmented into parts. It doesn’t feel united in its culture, but at odds to define it. From every corner of America, there are different cultures that blend to create the multicolored, mixed-pattern quilt of this country. While diversity is certainly a strength there, it can also create strange pockets of loyalty and pride... that leads to otherization. I grit my teeth as this thought becomes cohesive. We judge and we proffer solutions but we do not listen to the problem. For each problem in America there is someone who might not benefit from its solution, and so it goes unsolved. Especially if that someone is rich and/or powerful. Like businesses are, I think bitterly. But this is the natural volley of the legislature. It is the process of debate, discussion, argument, conversation… and decision-making. The real problem only comes when it cannot be solved. Any problem socially can be solved later, no matter how pressing it is in the moment.
But if there is no society, there is no solving it. There might not be time left.
As I feel that warm water, I wonder if it is warmer this year than last; or the years before. I look down the beach at some litter, and think, What was this like before littering laws? I shudder and picture the beach strewn with cigarette butts, plastic bags, water bottles, beer cans… If all this can be protected by a law, why can’t the rest of the world?
The answer comes from within me as if from another's voice, the voice that explained otherization a moment ago. Because someone won't benefit, and that someone is richer than you.
As the waves fold in and recede, leaving salty streamers that bubble back into the sand, I smile at the sea in understanding solidarity.