I Dream an Ocean

5 Feb

I live on the prairie, but I was born near the sea.
On rocky shores and tidepools I cut my teeth.
And it is never far from my mind.

So I give you this today – a poem, I suppose – because I can’t stop remembering.

I Imagine an Ocean

I pretend, sometimes, that the field to the east of my house is the sea. I imagine that the brown slopes are actually undulating waves; that the trees far off on the edge of the hill are trees on an island, waving their branches in a salt-scented breeze.

Not palm trees – no thank you – these are pine trees, the trees of my childhood, the trees of Puget Sound with their balsamic scent (Does that word work here? I choose to say it does.) and their sticky sap just waiting its turn to enfold unsuspecting bees which, in their amber prisons, will fascinate scientists millennia from now.
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I imagine my prairie ocean with the most success when it’s foggy and I cannot see the dirt. Then it’s easy to see phantom many-masted ships, their sails set and their scuppers gleaming. Or, more likely in these days, scurrying speed-boats, as we used to call them, their purpose apparently nothing more than making waves and scaring seagulls.

I imagine I am on a tall cliff – not unlike that of my youth – and I – why not? – a lighthouse keeper, a fog-horn blaster, the sole protector of sailor’s lives. Their one and only defense against a watery grave.

Would that I had been there for the Edmund Fitzgerald.

In the autumn when combines, like ships in the night, roam the sloping shores of my imagined ocean, I sit out on the deck and savor the sight: I am in a valued port, a sheltered haven where HMS John Deere tacks back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, in her attempts to reach safe harbor. I wave and shout, “Ahoy!” but the good ship cannot hear me over the chugging of her engines and she carries on – back and forth, back and forth, until, finally, she sails away, taking her fleet with her.

And I am left on deck, with nothing but my dried-up ocean, my memory of water, the scent of salt-spray tickling at my throat.

Bonus: For those of you who don’t know my reference, The Edmund Fitzgerald was an ore ship which sank in a storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. All 29 men in the crew perished. This video link is of a great song, by Gordon Lightfoot, titled, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The video is entirely footage of Lake Superior, the wreck itself, and with the song as the background.

Yes, I realize that I referenced a fresh-water incident in my salt-water poem…but it’s the ship which comes to mind when living in Minnesota!  In addition, I must say that I did not mean to be flippant about the wreck…it was a heart-breaking incident and remains, to this day, the largest ship ever to be lost on Lake Superior.


20 Responses to “I Dream an Ocean”

  1. Clyde of Mankato February 5, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    Be like Frost, never explain or reference your poems, just confuse or refuse. As one who had Lake Superior at my front door for 25 tears, I say both salt and fresh would admire this poem, as do I.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 5, 2013 at 8:25 am #

      Thank you – it’s unpolished and I’m sure could/can be improved. And as for the explanation…I wasn’t going to…and then I did. Might not have on a different day but just went with it…

      • Clyde of Mankato February 5, 2013 at 9:07 am #

        That’s a new thought–things would be polished before they are posted. Hmm? I’ll have to think about that?

        • Gretchen O'Donnell February 5, 2013 at 9:12 am #

          When I began blogging I’d keep about 3 weeks ahead so that I could sit on them and polish them…now, I’m lucky if I get an hour!

  2. Gwen February 5, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Oh, the memories! I love your reference to the Edmund Fitzgerald…my dad had that Gordon Lightfoot album when I was a kid. I used to sit beside the speakers and soak in the lyrics as the song played, imagining the tragedy unfolding in my mind. “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya,” are the words from the song that have stuck with me through the decades. Chilling.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 5, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      It really is a great song, isn’t it? My parents were/are strickly classical music fans, so I never heard it until I got married – my husband has huge, ecclectic tastes in music, so he’s exposed me to many good tunes! I love that you loved it even as a child – shows that the song is powerful for all ages – and all time!

  3. treadlemusic February 5, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    That song is powerful and definitely capable of evoking vivid mind images as does your fabulous post!!!!! No apologies needed for sure! Can ‘hear’ the water sounds emanating from your beautiful Puget Sound (although I have never been in that area at all, I feel I could have easily found a comfortable ‘cottage’ to call home amongst the pines!). Thank you so much for transporting me (in my imagination, at least) to such a dreamy place. Hugs from the frozen Coulee Region/God’s Country, Doreen

  4. cravesadventure February 5, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Beautiful Post – dreaming of the ocean now:) Happy Tuesday!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 5, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      🙂 I was JUST thinking about you and told myself to go to your blog right after checking mine! 🙂 glad to have inspired good dreams!

  5. hotlyspiced February 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    I’ve always lived by the sea and I’m not sure how I’d adjust if I suddenly found myself living inland where there was no sea. And in Australia, in the Outback, there aren’t any lakes so you can’t see any mass of water. Lovely words, Gretchen xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      Thank you! I cannot imagine up and moving to somwhere like the Outback without any water – at least I have lakes here in Minnesota – like 10,000 of them! They, of course, smell different, but they’re better than nothing!

  6. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen February 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    I, too, long for the ocean.. your words took me there today, Gretchen. I just love when you write like this! xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 6, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      OH, thanks. I need to more often. Poetic prose. That’s what I like best!

      • Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen February 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

        I first learned about that form from you, then heard it another night this past week at a Poetry reading evening:) xx

        • Gretchen O'Donnell February 7, 2013 at 8:37 am #

          Sweet! I love poetry readings…but they don’t happen too often here in a small, rural Minnesota town. Like almost never! The answer on Jeopardy! the other day was the Calgary Stampede and I thought of you!

  7. Alice February 8, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Ahh–have you read SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL?–it will make you weep. A children’s book–and lovely. Sarah too missed the sea. Lovely writing–a prose poem indeed.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 8, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      You know, I’m not sure I have read it, though I’ve seen the movie. Good thought, I’ll have to check it out. I adore children’s books. Thank you for your kind words!

  8. CArol Owens February 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Lovely! Come on back to Orcas, come to Writer’s Roundtable….we have such fun…
    and Jill Johnson has just published a book of Poetry about the sea…

    • Gretchen O'Donnell February 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      I would LOVE to join you at the Writer’s Roundtable…and I’d love to see that book of poetry! I am tentatively planning to be out there in August…and possibly in July as well – maybe I could be a guest at the writers group then?! I’ll have to call you when I know more!

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