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.

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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.

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