Flying over it makes no impression, an abstraction as if the atmosphere between is mountains, canyons, and savannas. Twice I confronted the Atlantic, awed by its chaotic power, its vast, terrifying breadth; the uncertainty of surface; creatures’ teeth and tentacles grabbing hold and pulling me into its depth.
I grew up landlocked between seas of corn and wheat; fished for bass and bluegill and speared frogs in inconsequential ponds, in rowboats rather than ships; and canoed in narrow, muddy rivers. On what we called a lake, the strand was a constant reassurance.
The first time, I was a nervous little boy on a trip to the Virginia coast and Jamestown. (I found it astonishing that, after surviving their voyage, these settlers chose to remain near the horror they endured). Despite a seawall of boulders taller than my flotsam and gripping my father’s hand, he between the abyss and me, I was certain I’d be swallowed up, my tiny body disappearing more than usual, a negligible morsel for sharks.
(Now living not five minutes from Erie, I rarely visit its shore save a lulling ferry ride to Put-In-Bay once a year for lunch and put-put golf. It is enough knowing this unpredictable plain looms, persistent against my horizon.)
This time, nearly sixty, vacationing in Maine, I encounter that familiar frigid wind, the flavor of brine on the air, the collision of continent and ocean. Since I was six, the waves wore away its fringe a bit more, yet the Atlantic remains an intimidation. I sustain my distance, wary of the tide and feign disinterest in its edge lapping at my feet.
David Sapp, writer, artist, professor, lives along the shore of Lake Erie. A Pushcart nominee, he was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence grant and an Akron Soul Train fellowship for poetry. His poems are published in North America and the United Kingdom. Publications include articles in Journal of Creative Behavior; chapbooks Close to Home and Two Buddha; and a novel, Flying Over Erie.