Summer Film, Summer Sea

I was never an enthusiast for ocean wading, but after viewing  Steven Spielberg’s Jaws I was definitely phobic –  chiefly, but not solely, about sharks. One summer I was vacationing in Gearhart, Oregon, which was having an “El Nino” wave of unseasonably warm water. The normally chilly Pacific was abnormally tepid – like a lagoon under a tropical summer sky – very unusual for the northern Oregon coast, even in summer. Strangely frequent shark sightings, even of Great Whites, were being reported.

In his short story The Lake, Ray Bradbury writes how water is like a magician who cuts you in half – the solid upper half above the waterline, and the wavey, less solid lower half. I, however, was not to experience that illusion, because the surf that day was such that,  coming to just above my knees, it did not allow my submerged portions visibility. I waded out far enough that the land receded from peripheral vision, so that all I could see was ocean. Visually, I may as well have been all adrift upon this summer sea, and the thought came to me that there was nothing – literally no land – between me and Hawaii.

Then my thoughts turned to the volume and opaqueness of the water I was standing in. Almost anything could be beneath that water, and I would be unable to see it. Old debris… a submerged log, perhaps, that would bump or trip me on the next surge of waves… don’t sharks bump their prey before attacking? What other living creature, naturally equipped with aquatic vision and kinetic skills that I did not have, might be in the water with me – its presence totally undetectable, until it touched me… or a fin broke the surface…?

The water was warm, the day perfect, but I was done. Slowly I turned my back to the indifferent sea, onto which I had projected fears – fears that were mostly the inheritance of one finely-crafted film…

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2 thoughts on “Summer Film, Summer Sea

  1. Martha Cloggs

    A delightful piece 🙂 You have a lovely way with words. Have you ever published? And, sorry to be even more curious but what drew you to the movie the Exorcist? I see you have a lot of posts about that movie. It is the only movie I can never watch again because it was so traumatic seeing it the first time. So, I am wondering if maybe the movie frightened you too as it did me..but perhaps you did the opposite to me i.e. instead of banishing it or pretending you never saw the movie/read the book…you confronted it & dissected it?

  2. Steve Bastasch

    Thanks for the kind words, Martha. Having read The Exorcist and having fallen in love with the characters, I was happy to see it on screen, and I was somewhat prepared for the shocks the film would provide. Yes, the first couple viewings frightened me, but after that, I could appreciate the great acting and production values. It became one of my favorite films. It is also one of the most misinterpreted movies in history, so my love for it prompts me to correct the several stubborn misconceptions that surround the film (e.g., Dennings was molesting Regan, the demon won because it killed two priests, KInderman discovers a fragment of the Pazuzu amulet at the base of the steps, etc., etc.). Also I enjoy Blatty’s theological speculations 🙂

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