What’s the connection between water and creativity? Does it have something to do with the tides, with the flow of water, the way it moves past your eyes? Is it a hypnosis thing- you can focus on it and yet look past it, the hum of water familiar enough to stimulate but now foreign or jarring enough to distract?
Whatever it is, I miss it. A week by the Atlantic Ocean will do that to you.
It’s a coastal thing, I’m told. If you grew up on one of the coasts, close enough to the water, you never really can cut loose of the need to be close to it, to live near it. When we moved to LA, we moved toward Santa Monica automatically. Vic agreed that being close to the water was key (she’s from Boston) but when we talked about it, the only explanation we could come up with was the ease of escape. “If something happens, we can take to the sea.” But she didn’t say it like it looks in print (Hemingway-esque). She said it wryly, like if disaster came, clearly the first thing we would do would be to fashion a raft out of our apartment door and run into the Pacific.
My friends from the Midwest don’t really understand it. In Chicago, after all, we’ve got the lake. But it’s not the same. It’s like comparing a live, breathing, kicking baby to a plastic doll that wets itself.
On my last night on the Jersey shore, it rained all day. I took Charlie out for a walk that night, around eleven, and we walked up the boardwalk to look at the beach. Charlie strained against the leash, pulling back. He could hear the waves from the street and was afraid. I couldn’t blame him. When I got to the uppermost part of the boardwalk, I could hear my heart in my ears. The water came up all the way to the houses that lined the beach, the waves enormous, like they were screaming. The water, the sheer force of it, was so powerful. So threatening. You read about it in books all the time, the heroine stands on a violent shore and all that, but it’s so flat on the page. I know because I had already decided, weeks ago, that my new book would feature a scene on the beach at night, part of the reason I was drawn to seeing it when the sun set. I’m glad I went. I can’t remember the last time I was so scared, so unexpectedly moved.