the lonesomeness of the ocean

“Then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee-deep, and watched the daylight come. Not a sound anywheres — perfectly still — just like the whole world was asleep…we would watch the lonesomeness of the river.” – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

There are so many pans clanging in protest in my head as I re-read this book from high school, particularly having just finished reading Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want To Talk About Race. I was definitely not equipped at 14 to read this text and navigate the complexities of how it simultaneously and subtly critiques and reproduces a systemic violence against all manner of people, particularly black people. I’m not sure I am now, but Oluo’s book is helping.

And yet, this tiny, quite moment for Jim and Huck reminds me of the serenity of the water’s edge. The intimacy it can catalyze between two people, even those who seem to be divided by vast canyons of social divisiveness and bigoted hatred. These abundant natural resources — water and time. Contexts for negotiating alternative shared futures.

It reminded me of sitting on the edge between land and ocean. When the ocean isn’t raging. Just quietly comforting herself in her solitude. Those moments for me are somehow simultaneously filled with sadness and transformative potential.

Photo: Morgan von Prelle Pecelli