Land-Locked Blues: My Long Distance Relationship With The Ocean
When you think of the word “beach,” what comes to mind? A picturesque sunset tinting the pristine water as it washes over the shore; squishy sand filling the space between your toes; the sound of crashing waves as they sneak in and out, pulsing like a heartbeat? What if I told you that I grew up near a beach...in the middle of the country?
Throughout my childhood, the great Lake Michigan hosted me for hours upon hours as I swam, sailed, built sandcastles, and walked its sandy shore. Some argue that this can’t be a beach; it’s in the middle of the country! But I beg to differ. Here are some reasons why Lake Michigan is comparable to an ocean:
You can’t see the other side
It gets very deep, very quickly
You can do all the activities you would do at any other beach
Mysterious dark spots on the sandy bottom mark the location of shipwrecks
You can even surf (in designated areas)
You may be wondering, what does a girl from the Midwest know about the ocean, even if she can (kind of) sail?! Although I grew up just north of Chicago, I have spent significant time in and on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans visiting family in Hawaii, California, and Maine. In between visits, the ocean influenced me; in the shells that collected on my windowsill, the sea glass that filled jars on my dresser, and the memories of floating in the sea, happier than a seagull with a French fry.
Although it is a long distance relationship, I am lucky to experience the vast beauty of the ocean at all. While I can’t imagine not having it in my life, many Midwesterners have never traveled outside of their state, let alone seen the ocean. Not everyone has the same connection to the coasts as I do, which unfortunately means not everyone has the same perspective that all of our lives are linked to the ocean.
Window to the World – My view of Penobscot Bay compared to the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Emily George
The reality is that our lives, no matter how landlocked we are, have an impact on the ocean whether or not we are aware of it. The CO2 from your car exhaust, the plastic straw you used to drink your favourite milkshake, and the miniscule threads that leach out of your clothes in the washing machine will all make it to the ocean in some form or another. On the flip side, plankton in the ocean provides a significant amount of oxygen to the air we breathe, while the water itself keeps our planet at a stable temperature and houses millions of organisms.
Everyone on the planet has a very personal connection with the ocean regardless of where they live. I believe if people can witness this connection in some way, even if it’s through a favourite exhibit at an aquarium or a compelling documentary, they will be more likely to take action towards protecting our oceans. If you have never experienced the ocean in person, I challenge you to find a personal connection in some way. Embrace a long distance relationship with the ocean, by being aware of your impacts and making conscious decisions to protect it, and I promise you that every effort, no matter how small, will make a difference.
Despite growing up in Chicago, Emily George has a life-long love for the ocean. From Hawaii to California to Maine, Emily has been “Connecting Coasts” as she follows her passion for the protection and appreciation of our world’s oceans.