As we slip past the fall equinox the Earth’s axis tilts the Northern Hemisphere away from the Sun, shortening days and cooling everything down, including the ocean. That’s the cosmic view of seasonal change. From my wife’s point of view, it’s the end of summer swimming and floating in the Atlantic, which for her is a spiritual experience.

Linda grew up in southern Florida and spent her summers in coastal Maine, so she has always been near the ocean. I grew up in the West, closer to the mountains than the sea, so their pull is stronger for me. For my wife, it’s all about the water. It is her church. It draws her like a magnet, like gravity, like a call to prayer.

Immersing herself in the ocean renews her soul, which took a major hit three years ago when our adult son, John, died in a tragic accident. John was a man of the sea. He had his captain’s license and for several years captained the local scenic lobster cruise boat. Linda claims the ocean helps heal her grief. She goes in anxious and sad and comes out calm and happy. It’s the best kind of natural drug, like the endorphins that swim through your body giving you the strength to carry on.

I sometimes join her in these aquatic adventures. One of her favorite things is to float on the outgoing tide in the tidal river at the northernmost end of Goose Rocks Beach. Friends sometimes accompany us, and we float down the river on our backs like happy otters. At least when the water is not insanely cold. Cold water doesn’t bother Linda one bit. She’s always the first in, claiming that the temperature is perfect. We normal human beings are naturally skeptical. She could belong to any Polar Bear Club in the world.

Water has always had a special, spiritual hold on us humans, and many religions have adopted water rituals to sanctify their doctrines, the most obvious ones being Christian baptism and the holy water of Catholic rites. In India, the Ganges is a sacred river, and people travel hundreds of miles to bathe in its curative waters. Ponce DeLeon’s hoped-for Fountain of Youth is not far from where Linda grew up in Florida.

Life on Earth originated in the primeval waters covering the greater part of the nascent Earth. In 1962, in a speech at the America’s Cup Dinner at the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, President John F. Kennedy famously said, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came.” Had he also said, “to heal in it,” he would have been talking about my wife.

What’s true in the world is often what we believe to be true. For Linda, water’s sacred healing power is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me God.

— Special to the Telegram


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