“…and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind…” (thank you, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!)
I have this theory about waves…
Maybe best to start with the Continental Divide. Are you familiar with this concept? Not to seem too exclusionary and egocentrically focused on North America, but as I was born and raised in the US, this is what flashes immediately to mind when I hear that phrase (“Continental Divide,” I mean):
You most likely have a continental divide wherever you are as well, even if you don’t claim residence in the Americas. But so a continental divide is a line that separates the drainage patterns of a large land mass. For example, if you look at the red line in the image above, imagine that any precipitation falling on the western side of that line will eventually make its way to the Pacific Ocean, and any water coming down to the east of it is destined to end up at some point in the Atlantic. The Continental Divide in this context functions oddly like a razor blade pointing up at the sky, and cutting moisture into two separate swatches.
So what does this have to do with waves?
Well, for a long time now, I’ve nursed this idea that maybe waves function in essentially the opposite manner as drainage: while the Continental Divide splits outgoing precipitation disgorged by the sky, and sends it off in either of two directions, it could be that as waves hit land, they continue on even after their time in the initial medium of ocean water is spent, and they perhaps actually meet at the Continental Divide.
Bear with me on this for a minute. I need to be clear that when I say “waves” here, I don’t mean the seawater itself that serves to transmit those waves. Waves in this context are a sort of invisible, quasi-intangible force, influenced by the moon, that travel inward from the vast reaches of the oceans, until the water that they’re traveling through crashes down upon our shores. We’ve all seen that: it’s beautiful, really, the way the ocean laps at the sand, bestowing foam and that slick, iridescent sheen…
But did you ever stop to wonder what happens to the waves themselves at that point? Do they just wink out of existence because the water that they’d been using for travel has gone as far as it can go? Certainly we don’t see the waves visibly making their way through the sand, and then causing havoc as they uproot trees and turn our roadways into liquid-looking landscapes out of a Dali painting. But couldn’t they travel onward in subtle ways? Instead of obvious forces with a physical component that we can track with our eyes the way we can when they move through water, couldn’t waves go on journeying inland as more intangible and even metaphysical presences…?
Here’s part of why this makes sense to me (in addition to the fact that I can’t imagine that waves just stop traveling altogether once the water they’re moving through calls it a day upon reaching the beach)… Consider society as it exists along our coastlines versus what it’s like deep inland. This may or may not hold as true in other parts of the world, but here in the States, I think you only need to look as far as a map displaying the voting in our last Presidential election to see that our coastal states are almost undeniably more what we call “liberal” than our landlocked, inner states are. This is probably grossly oversimplifying, and feel free to call me on this if your opinion differs, but I feel it’s accurate in large part to say that our ocean-adjacent states are more progressive and forward-looking (or, they’re more “future-focused”), culturally speaking, than the more past- and present-focused inner states are. And I’m not trying to start political discussions here, or to apply value judgments — for the sake of full disclosure, I personally identify as a liberal, but that’s beside the point here.
The point itself is that I have to wonder if the coastal regions remain more liberal to this day maybe in part because waves are agents of metaphysical change, and the coastlines are where they strike first and hardest…and then after their initial high-impact landfall is made, they then spend their dwindling supplies of remaining transformative energy steadily as they travel inward from the Atlantic or the Pacific, to finally meet at the Continental Divide, having less and less such transformative effect along the way…?
I mean, sure, in times past, the coastlines would be exposed to new concepts and exotic tangible goods and interesting people from foreign lands first, simply because that’s where these things had to first touch down on native soil: before air travel changed things, ships were the only means of crossing oceans, and they simply couldn’t decide to just land in, say, Utah. But then factor in the advent of not only game-changing air travel, but also automobiles speeding up inland progress, and communications technology making gigantic leaps forward, including two decades now of the internet knitting our world’s disparate, far-flung lands into that Global Village we’ve all heard about. So shouldn’t that ratio of “coastline liberal stance : inland conservative values” have evened out more than it has? Maybe I just expect too much, too fast, and things will equalize more over time…but I do feel there may be some merit to the idea that waves are invisible agents of change, and that they color everything they touch as they journey along on their way.
And if this is all true — say for the sake of argument for a moment that it is — and if waves meet in the Americas at the Continental Divide, and at the primary continental divides of any/every large land mass…where do they begin? Where do waves come from? What’s their point of origin? There must be points or lines somewhere out in the oceans, or maybe deep underground where waves are born, right? And to this question…I have no solid answers. I don’t know — maybe the fabled lost and/or sunken city of Atlantis is the nexus-point from which all waves derive? Maybe ancient Lemuria? Something else?
The logical part of my brain insists that if there’s an endpoint, there must also be an origin, but maybe logic is the wrong faculty to bring to bear when examining such things. If waves have the kind of metaphysical component to them that I’m positing here, then maybe they just…kind of appear as needed. Or maybe there is some scheme behind it all that informs the process, but we’re just not equipped to fully perceive and grasp it (or at least maybe I’m not…)?
I’m not sure… But I will say this: the next time I have occasion to visit the Rocky Mountains, I will be making heavy use of my camera, and casting about vigorously for any signs at all of waves coming together, bearing greetings to each other from either side of this great continent. And meanwhile, as I live in oceanside Los Angeles, I believe I’ll be making more trips out to the Pacific here, to observe wave-fall up close and personal-like…