I live two blocks from the ocean. On the banks of the San Lorenzo River which is a very modest river as far as rivers go. It begins in the Santa Cruz Mountains, climbs out of the redwoods, and picks up speed as it drops through an elevation of 2500 feet into the San Lorenzo Valley. On its way its slices the city of Santa Cruz into East and West, and when it’s over drains into the Monterey Bay. I live next to the delta where it becomes the sea. On the East Side. Most of the time I forget about the ocean. But once every couple nights the waves swell up and the air is still in such a way that all of Lower Ocean is filled with the sound of great volumes of water colliding. Because by the time the sound reaches Pearl St, it’s taken on this great round quality, ricocheting from house to house until it’s coming from every direction all at once, walking around on the dark street late at night, it feels close, like you can grab it and hold it against your body, like you might drown in it.
The sound of waves is always accompanied by a muffled, intermittent fog-horn in the distance. The first few nights it drove me crazy. The sound is identical to a cell phone getting a call on vibrate. It put me on edge and once I started listening for it I really couldn’t sleep. My housemate told me it was the 1-mile buoy, off the shore, to warn ships that they’re getting close to land. The mechanism is activated by waves. On days when the sea is choppy, like it is tonight, it’ll happily play all night.
My room is wood and yellow with two round windows and one long window with a pane that slides open. The ceiling is sloped in such a way to give everything the appearance of being slightly tilted. If I slid the window all the way open I can sit on the window sill and dry my feet on the asphalt roof. Before the fog came I would climb up and out of the long window, spread myself out at night on the shingles and look at stars. Chris says my room is like a yellow submarine. On the nights when the waves are heavy then I imagine I’m out at sea, and I’m going up to the deck to look at the stars. Now it’s the winter sky I don’t have any clue of what I’m even looking at but it’s still fun to look. On any given evening I’m likely to spot at least two shooting stars and a satellite. Eventually I’ll get chilly and crawl back into the warm light of my room. I’ll wrap myself in blankets and when they get to be the temperature of my body I’ll contemplate sleep. Outside, the streets will grow as still and cold as the air. But in the distance the 1-mile buoy bellows on. My heart slows way down.