Monday September 16, 2013 | 08:20 AM
Posted by Harold Johnson

This weekend I went to the funeral for my aunt down in New Jersey. She was 87.

In many ways she was a pillar of our family. 4th of July BBQs in her backyard are legendary among us, and whenever anyone needed family news she was where we could turn.

In July, as her health failed, her immediate family gathered from across the country to spend time with her. Frail though she was, she was up for a trip out.

They didn’t take her to the bright lights of the big city. Or to the rolling fields of Amish country, or the hills and mountains.

They took her to the seashore, to Ocean City. My aunt’s last adventure (as I understand it) was to visit the ocean.

(My view of Ocean City, Spring 2012)

As far back as I can trace my ancestors along any branch -- many centuries in some cases -- none has ever lived more than an hour’s journey (by whatever means) from the ocean. It’s always been within reach. A place where we could stand at the edge of two worlds, feel the timeless rhythm of the waves breaking & crashing.

We mark many milestones in life with ritual & ceremony. They add a sense of permanence & weight. They place us in line with those who came before and those yet to come.

I love that when I stand at the beach and look out at the waves, I’m likely in line with an unbroken string of family behind me. I think of the ones I love having seen those sights, smelled that air. I hope my descendants will still be able to gain solace & comfort from their visits to the ocean too.

About this Blog

Subscribe to
Undercurrents RSS

About the Author

Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.

Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.

Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.

Previous entries

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013


September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)
Prefer to respond privately? Email us here.