February’s Ocean

The wind is slashing through the bamboo this morning from the east across the ocean, in its usual trade wind pattern.  Last week it was coming down off the mountain from the west, what we call a Kona wind which is usually mild and gentle.  When it is not so, the Kona wind uproots tree and downs power poles, as it did last week.  

Earlier this week there was a thunderstorm over the ocean in the morning and that night two fishermen, a man and his son-in-law, were swept out to sea by the notorious obake (ghost) wave, that has claimed so many lives along our coast.  I knew him a little, the fisherman. He was a janitor at the small building that houses our state service agencies.  The bodies of the two men were not recovered despite days of searching with plane and helicopter by Coast Guard, state, and county rescue teams.  The currents are so treacherous here and there are so many underwater caves and cracks that the bodies of those swept away are seldom found.  The great face of the ocean holds many souls.  It rages and roars in the evenings, but today it is golden in the morning light.  

One looks at it differently for a while, the old ocean, when it has taken someone that you know, reminded again of how dangerous and merciless it is, as well as beautiful and life-giving. 

Fewer whales come to winter here it seems, every year.  It used to be one of the glories of the winter months – watching the humpbacks and pilot whales spout and leap from a high cliff-edge or a slope overlooking the sea.  Some change in the ocean currents or the depletion of their winter feeding grounds? Or are they deterred by naval sonar exercises, or some other disruption that no one has named yet?  Or simply the combined effects of human impact?  Pollution and degradation are everywhere, inescapable. Plastic from Asia washes up on our shores constantly.  By some trick of tide and current the remote, rocky beaches here are famous for their harvests of ocean plastic.  What looks like sand from the distance on these beaches is sometimes multicolored plastic fragments.

 Full fathom five thy father lies;/Of his bones are coral made;/Those are pearls that were his eyes:/Nothing of him that doth fade,/But doth suffer a sea change/Into something rich and strange./Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong./Hark! now I hear them,/—ding-dong, bell.  –Shakespeare, The Tempest