The sea goes up, the sea goes down.
It was a big bright day when we went to the beach, a day full of sunlight and wide blue sky with fluffy clouds like puffs of breath. When I stood in the sea waves rippled around my ankles but oh my goodness it was coldy coldy like the sea was trying to freeze the insides of my bones and I squealed and ran splashing back to the sand and Mommie dried my feet and ankles with a big towel and I lay on the hot sand and gave my toes to the sun so that it could warm them.
Then Mama and Dadgrand sat on each side me and started burying me in the sand, scooping it up with their hands and pouring it over my feet and legs and tummy and chest and arms. Mama kept telling me not to laugh and that made me laugh even more and sand falling off my chest and more sand being put on me.
When they finished there was only my head left uncovered.
It was nice lying on the beach with sand all over me. I was watching pelicans flying to and fro with their great big beaks, and it made me think that the beak says I Wanna go this way I wanna go that way I Wanna dive down into the sea splash and the rest of the pelican says okay whatever you’re the boss.
Dadgrand said he was keeping guard in case the sand monster came crawling along the beach to grab me. He was holding a piece of driftwood and trying to look like a Power Ranger.
The sand seemed to be getting warmer and warmer and I was feeling sleepy sleepy
Coldy coldy coldy on my feet!
I stood up, shook all the sand off and looked at the sea. The waves weren’t in the same place
they were still little ripples but they climbed up the beach and that was why they splashed over my toes.
“Tide’s coming up,” said Dadgrand.
“Will it keep coming up?
“Till it goes down again.”
“You mean the sea goes up and down Dadgrand?”
“Here, Popsidoodle… look at this.”
Dadgrand showed me a long line of stuff all along the top of the beach–crab shells and feathers, seaweed and seashells, pieces of wood, bits of plastic.
“This is where the sea reached last time it came up,” he said.
“Why does the sea go up and down Dadgrand?”
Dadgrand’s not very good at explaining things like why my heart keeps beating even though I don’t tell it to, or why people’s eyes aren’t all the same colour. So he was talking about the moon, and scratching things in the sand with his Power Ranger stick and I was rolling my eyes so he stopped.
“You wanna story?”
“Yes please Dadgrand.”
He took a deep breath and another deep breath and he looked across the sea and said, “A long way away, right out in the middle of the wide wide ocean, in a place where no ships go because if they do they never come back, way out there where the sea is deepest, there lives an enormous giant.
He is so big that his feet rest at the bottom of the sea and his head rises above the surface. When he sneezes storms go crashing around the world. When he farts the north and south poles change places. When the moon’s full he sings to the lady giant who lives on a planet over on the other side of the universe. We don’t hear it when he sings. If we did hear it we’d explode.
Because the giant is so big, when he breathes in his chest grows really huuuuuuge and it makes the sea go higher and higher all over the world. So when the tide comes up it’s because the ocean giant is breathing in. Like if you blew up a balloon under the water in the bath the water would rise.
And when the giant breathes out his chest gets smaller and smaller just like mine, just like yours, and the sea drops, and the tide goes down.”
“How long does it take the big big giant to breathe in and breathe out Dadgrand?”
“It takes him about six hours to breathe in,” said Dadgrand “and about the same to breathe out.”
I found out that the deepest part of the ocean is seven miles deep. That must be where the giant is. So the giant’s as high as seven miles. I can’t think how long or how high seven miles is. Higher than any mountain. What does he eat, that giant? Does he swallow whole whales for breakfast? Does he walk around at all, or does he just stand there like the Statue of Liberty only high as the sky? It’s sad that he sings to a lady giant who’s on another planet on the far side of the universe. If she’s as big as him she’s probably the only lady giant he could love in the whole of everywhere but she’s such a long long way away. Maybe she’s standing alone in a deep deep sea on a far-off planet waiting for the big big giant to sing to her. Maybe she sings back to him.
“Dadgrand,” I said next time we were on the beach…”I think those giants you told me about are sad. And it makes me sad. I want another story about the up and down sea. Pleeeaase!”
Dadgrand took a deep breath and another deep breath and he looked across the sea for a long long time.
“What’s wrong Dadgrand?”
He wasn’t looking sad but I could feel it inside him.
“I’m okay, Popsidoodle. “
“Was it the dead seabird we found on the beach, Dadgrand?”
He took a deep deep breath, stretched his arms to the sky, made a WAAAAAA! sound like he was yawning.
Waves kept moving forward and back and moving forward again as though they were trying to reach us.
“Here’s a story.”
Another deep breath.
“Everything, all of life, came from the sea. It all started in the sea. Little creatures and tiny creatures and bigger creatures… Where they began, where we all began was in the sea. The sea is like a great big hug wrapped around the world. I think the sea loves us. The sea is like our mother, the mother of all life, and she will never forget us even though we don’t live in her any more.
When we come to the beach we come close to her. I think she’s glad we come here to swim or go fishing or build sandcastles or bury one another or just sit and watch her waves rolling in and out. When we go home we leave footprints on the sand all along the edge of her. She’s the big Momma and she wants to know our stories, how we are doing. So every day she rolls back up the beach and touches our footprints, strokes their sandy edges, and swallows them. She gets a taste of each one of us. Our stories, the flavors of who we are, live inside her. Like the stories of the birds that leave their footprints in the sand because she loves them too.
So that’s today’s story about why the sea goes up and down.”
Dadgrand looked across the waves. There were seagulls way up there in the sky. Just along the beach a big black dog splashed into the sea after a ball. I snuggled up to Dadgrand. He put his arms around me. He was singing very quietly.
“What’s wrong Dadgrand?”
“Did you like the story?”
“Yes it’s beautiful, Dadgrand.”
A white bird, kind of like a seagull but skinny, dived into the sea really fast and came up again and I saw a tiny silvery fish in its beak.
I was thinking of the sea as a great big mother wrapping all the world in her big splashy arms, and loving us, like Dadgrand said. And I was thinking that the Big Momma loves all the creatures that live inside her, the crabs, the fish, the great big whales, the sharks, the seals and the dolphins. I thought how lucky I was to be sitting here on the edge of her, hearing waves tumbling and sliding across the sand, and the tiny birds squeaking to one another as they ran across the sand poking it with their pointed beaks.
I leaned back and looked at Dadgrand’s wrinkly old face.
“What’s wrong Dadgrand?”
He shook his head.
“Tell me! TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME!”
He shook his head.
Before Momma came with the picnic I helped Dadgrand clean the beach. We walked along with a big bucket picking up plastic bags, plastic forks and spoons, plastic candy wrappers, all sorts of stuff. We found a dead bird lying on the edge of the sea. It was black with a white chest. Waves were rippling over it as though they were saying goodbye. When Dadgrand picked it up it made a little squeaking sound like it was still alive. Dadgrand said it was the air coming out of it. The feathers were smooth and soft. It was beautiful. We dug a big hole in the sand and buried it. Dadgrand made a cross with driftwood.
I think Dadgrand’s sad because there are so many bits of plastic in the sea, and they make the big momma sick and her children, like the black and white bird. And he can’t tell me because I’m only a little girl. He doesn’t want to make me sad as well.
So when Dadgrand and I were back at the beach I said,
“This is a true story Dadgrand. “
I took a deep breath and I took another deep breath and I looked out across the sea and said,
“There was a little girl called Popsidoodle who had a grandfather called Dadgrand.
Dadgrand was feeling sad and Popsidoodle knew it was because he found lots of dead birds on the beach. Her Momma told her that Dadgrand said they were hungry because the sea couldn’t feed them like it used to. And also, lots of them had bits of plastic in their stomachs.
Popsidoodle didn’t want Dadgrand to feel sad so one day she went to the beach with her Momma. She drew a great big heart on the sand with a stick, and she drew a picture of Dadgrand’s sad face in it, and her Momma wrote “Dadgrand’s sadness” under it.
She made the heart look pretty with seashells and crab shells and pieces of driftwood. Then her Momma took her home.
In the evening the sea came climbing up the beach. It collected a sandcastle, and footprints and birdprints. The waves rolled higher and higher up the beach.. They rolled across the heart that Popsidoodle made. They carried Dadgrand’s sad feeling into the big big sea where there was lots of room for it.
Next day the heart was gone. So Dadgrand’s sad feeling was taken away by the great mother who loves him and Popsidoodle and the big whales and the tiny little crabs that live in seashells. So Dadgrand didn’t need to feel sad any more.
Dadgrand took a deep breath and another deep breath and looked out across the rolling waves. Then he smiled at me, right into my eyes.
He picked up his old bucket and said, ”Let’s go clean the beach Popsidoodle.”
And we did.