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Hansen: The power of eternity

August 17, 2011|By David Hansen

You may not notice it right away. As you visit Dallas or Idaho or Corona, something slowly tightens in your stomach, or your throat thickens like a small spring allergy. Some describe it as claustrophobia; others say it's like a mild panic attack.

You have been away from Laguna Beach for too long. You are missing the water, the peaceful sea, the horizon that is eternity.

There is an undeniable "thing" that happens in people who live at the coast. Almost like an infection, we cannot be away from the water for extended periods. It is inconceivable to be landlocked.

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Many myths surround this attraction to the sea. There are theories about tidal forces and inherent "humors" that go back to the ancient Greeks.

Regardless of what you might believe, the fact remains that people feel something. How many times have you driven over the last knoll of Crown Valley Parkway and seen the great expanse and smiled, "Ah, I'm home."

For me, it's every time. It is a palpable relief.

It's the salt in the air, the heaviness, the centeredness of being at sea level. It's the immutable horizon, slightly curved yet razor-like, able to elicit the most amazing daydreams.

You sit and stare and walk and stare some more.

I'm not alone.

Veteran Laguna waterman, author, war correspondent, Surfing Magazine editor, long-time lifeguard and all-around philosopher Craig Lockwood, 73, told it to me this way: "We are drawn to the sound of the surf and the sand between our toes. There's a romance involved here. All of these elements contribute in ways that Shakespeare said are 'beyond our philosophies.'"

Lockwood acknowledges the almost biological reaction, calling it an "intimate connection to the ocean and its rhythms."

"It's the kind of Zen that you do," he said. "You resonate to it. If it's a placebo, then so what, it works. The truth of it is that there is a functional relationship and if we perceive it as therapeutic, it's therapeutic. Simple as that."

"There's a quality of …." Lockwood paused to try and use the right word. "Introspection is part of it. But it's also expansiveness. It isn't funneled through your ego or personality. You open up to the experience of this boundless, empty blue field in front of you. And finally a finite line where it meets the sky. It's contemplative, that's for sure, and it's evocative also. There's a lot to it."

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