and the sky said to the ocean, I could be nothing without you

Sometimes the sky says to the ocean, “You think you can do cool things? Take a look at this.”

And the ocean says placidly, “Okay, okay, the stage is yours. Go for it, wow them with all your marvels.”

I learned a new word a few days ago, “porteño”. Basically, it means someone who lives in a port city.  Of course it can also have some other qualities depending on whether it is being used in either a complimentary or a derogatory manner. Regardless, I love this new word because it calls to the multiple bloodlines realized in me that thrived in port cities in various places touching Atlantic waters. We know that in evolutionary time scales, our bodies adapt to survive better in the landscapes (ecology/climate) where we live, and different physical qualities get passed down from one generation to the next. Just think of the recent news about the Bajau and their genetically advantaged spleens.  And our cultures and minds adapt too, passing certain traits down from generation to generation. Certain dances, certain labor practices, certain knowledges. And also certain ways of perceiving the world, I would argue. Because how can one’s mode of perceiving, of understanding and interpreting the world not be influenced by, for example, the landless infinite horizons of unfathomable blue, the salt filled humid air, the immediate proximity of the radical strangeness of life under the sea, the regular reminders that we are tiny and fragile creatures at the mercy of nature, and the ease with which others come and go to, from and through your home. Deep inside me somewhere these all feel right, like how the world is supposed to be, like how I am supposed to be.

The internet contextualizes porteño’s usage primarily in Buenos Aires, where citizens of the port city are know as “porteños” and people from the province are apparently known as “bonaerenses”. Port people and good air people.  From the political echo chamber of the U.S. I hear “coastal elites” and “big sky populists.”  And I begin to wonder why the ocean and the sky seem to feel this great sense of divide and desire to imagine themselves at odds with each other. Their contexts may have shaped their bodies and minds differently, but their interdependencies are obvious to anyone who watches them for even just a short time. Both are also necessary to sustain life on this planet. And, neither is immune to rising temperatures.

Maybe they could go spend a few weeks together on retreat in the neutral territories of the Swiss alps, and the glaciers, snow and cavernous woods of the mountains could help negotiate a common way forward for them all.

P.S.: the title of this post is a shy reference to a song by Great Lake Swimmers in which the waves say to the sand “I could be nothing without you.”