Gift from a Rising Ocean

This is a season where a rising ocean — pushed by storms, El Niño, and global climate change — is taking big bites out of the coast. Those of us who live here have been watching with a mixture of amazement, horrified fascination, disbelief, resignation, alarm.

An old wooden walkway to the beach is washed away. The bluff top that holds a small apartment building is threatened. A bench on the cliff, here for decades, disappears overnight. The ocean side of Mirada Road, the only access road to several small, old houses, is being nibbled away.

The day after a big chunk of road collapsed down the cliff and into the ocean, I saw Michael, who lives across the road. He leads ocean kayaking expeditions. He was standing at the foot of his driveway and looking out at the ocean.

“This is pretty scarey,” I said eyeing the road. “Are you concerned about being able to get in and out?”

He pulled his gaze away from the ocean and turned to look at me. “No,” he said calmly, “I’m not.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’d be concerned if I lived here.”

“We’re close to each other around here,” he said, “and we know the people who maintain this road. We look out for each other.” Hundreds of people signed an online petition, and a couple of days later workers, equipment, and many tons of boulders showed up to shore up the roadway.

As ordinary humans we don’t have any direct control over the ocean, or the climate, or the larger forces shaping our lives for better or worse. But we do have a choice about how we relate to each other when the ocean comes.

The rising ocean, it seems, is offering us a gift: the chance for deeper connections with each other.

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