the south swell




my obsession with waves is only increasing.

you know it began ages ago, i just loved them to play in. i loved the way they washed over me, the way i could dive into them. the way sometimes they’d swallow me whole. they way they never stopped coming.

the sounds, the smells, the swirling, crackling foam.

then i discovered maya lin. and her wave field. and i read her wave analysis. and i fell further in love.

i wrote them into poems and stories. i invested so much in them, when i stood at the shore, at their death. in their end i only saw endlessness, because even though they met their final moments at my feet, at the shore, they would always fall back out to sea and become a part of another.

pablo neruda furthered my admiration, my delusions of waves. my fantasies of their endlessness.

when i play in them now, i somehow feel i’m a part of the sea. home, maybe. like i said, i was probably a mermaid elsewhere before i ended up in this life.

when i play in waves now, i laugh and smile like i do nowhere else. even when they hit me in the face if i’ve not been paying attention. even if they drag me into the sand, even if they give me a scare.

this past weekend in ayampe, the co-owner of the hostel my friends were staying at had attempted to explain to me wave and wind patterns, but i didn’t really enjoy his word choice or order. it made waves sound so boring, and i knew they deserved better. he’d said something about a south swell. so i looked it up, and this is what i found:

Some waves undergo a phenomenon called “breaking”. A breaking wave is one whose base can no longer support its top, causing it to collapse. A wave breaks when it runs into shallow water, or when two wave systems oppose and combine forces. When the slope, or steepness ratio, of a wave is too great, breaking is inevitable.

After the wind ceases to blow, wind waves are called swell. Or, more generally, a swell consists of wind generated waves that are not — or hardly — affected by the local wind at the same moment. They have been generated elsewhere, or some time ago.

A swell, in the context of an ocean, sea or lake, is a formation of long-wavelength surface waves. Swells are far more stable in their directions and frequency than normal wind waves, having often traveled long distances since their formation by tropical storms or other wind systems.

Swells are often created by storms thousands of nautical miles away from the beach where they break. This distance allows the waves comprising the swells to become more stable, clean, and free of chop as they travel toward the coast.

and so this is likely what i’ll think of every time i go to the ocean now; are these waves part of a swell? how long have they been traveling, how far have the come to break all around me? where did they come from? i can’t tell you why i’ve always felt so enamored by waves, so enchanted by their ephemeral abilities. there is just something beautiful in the idea, i guess, that something made of nothing more than wind and water can travel so far, can be so pretty, can do so much harm… that they come all this way just to fall apart, to become sea foam and sandy dispersion. anyway, enough of my excessively romantic ideas of saltwater. i’ve written many poems about waves. but this one is still my favorite.

and today, i move to paradise.

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