Valentine’s Day Love for Our One World Ocean
By Emily Zell
There are over a quintillion gallons of water in our world ocean and over seven billion people on our planet. That gives us an unimaginable amount of love stories between humans and the ocean. Each one is unique, whether life-long or minutes-long, and each one deserves celebration, now more than ever. If you find yourself in love with the ocean, this Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to revisit, cherish, and honor your ocean Valentine.
As with most love stories, your efforts do not have to be grand, one of a kind, and dazzling. They can be simple, thoughtful steps you take every day to honor and protect the ocean you love.
My Ocean Valentine
Did you ever have a choice in your love for the ocean? I know I didn’t.
I grew up steps from the beach, in a small Northern California town, nestled between a redwood-covered mountain and the pounding Pacific. It was, for a child, heaven.
Back in those days, our little town was safe and uncrowded. We could lug all of our beach toys, towels, and umbrellas down to the edge of the water and leave them there all day. When needed, we would run back to the house for snacks or breaks from the sun. Our only concern was high tide!
Even when young, I realized that falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and the smell of saltwater was a delicious comfort, even a luxury. That feeling remains unmatched to this day. I used to relish climbing into bed early when the sky was still softly lit, a little sunburned, freshly bathed, and exhausted from the day at the beach. I have never slept so deeply. And never woken up so ready to do it all again.
For me, the ocean and its beaches are home. They are my first love and one that has endured for four decades.
This fact makes my story familiar to some, but no more powerful than those with more fleeting ocean experiences.
Perhaps you’ve only seen it once. Perhaps a book is the closest you’ve come.
Or maybe you grew up religiously fishing on weekends or going on family vacations to the beach every summer.
No matter your ocean story, if you share my love for our world’s ocean, I urge you to rekindle what might be lost or relish what is still burning.
A Lifetime Love of the Ocean
As a teenager, in my wild, small-town days, I used to sneak out at night and meet friends for beach bonfires. First loves, first kisses, and first heartbreaks. All played out with a soundtrack of waves crashing on the shore. The water would gently rush toward us, and then swoosh back along the smooth, wet sand. I would sneak back into my bedroom with damp hair and skin from the salty night air.
My dad taught me to surf around the same time, and let me tell you, those are memories I will cherish forever. If you’ve ever been in the ocean with loved ones, you know that feeling… The old surfing expression of “no bad days” pretty much sums it up. Have you ever had those belly laughs, frustrations, exhaustion, and pride of learning something new from someone you love? In the ocean all those feelings seem to become magnified as the water itself becomes a player in your sport.
Later, as a young adult going through a particularly rough breakup with a serious boyfriend, I religiously walked the 4 mile stretch of sand I grew up on. Every day I walked, studying the different shades and waves of the Pacific. Often her moods matched mine or allowed me to quiet my thoughts and simply walk with her. A perfect partner indeed.
Five years ago, and 3 days overdue with my first child, I walked that same stretch of beach. I had timed it badly and it was a very high tide. I was forced through dry sand with a very, very large belly. But the sand was soft, powdery, and cool as the sunlight faded. The waves were picking up, beginning to roar and spray into the air.
I watched a mother and baby seal navigate the strong backwash to come up and rest on the beach. Mother seal pushing baby with her nose, urging and exhausted. Her baby swimming with all its might, being pushed to shore by the tide while battling the undercurrent.
My own baby was born the next morning.
Honoring a Love of the Ocean
As I look back on my love of the ocean, I have begun to come to terms with the fact that, for too many years, it was a selfish love. The ocean gave, and gave, and gave. I took, and took, and took. I took comfort, play, beauty, and excitement. But I was well into my life before I realized I was not truly appreciating the ocean with actions to protect it.
So many of us are guilty of this offense against nature, but the good news is that we can change. And the better news is, it’s actually pretty easy.
For me, it began on my long walks. I finally started noticing litter along the shore – straws, plastic wrappers, bottle caps, and cigarette butts. What disturbed me even more than what the ocean washed up were the piles of trash left on the beach after people had left. I was gobsmacked.
How do you come to the beach, spend a day with family and friends, enjoying nature, and then literally walk away from your trash? How do you claim to love something and then treat it that way?
On some level, I understood the ignorance, but overall I started to feel downright shocked. So I harnessed this shock.
No, I did not become an environmental lawyer. If you did, you have my ultimate respect. No, I did not start banging on the doors of government officials. If you do, props to you.
Instead, I took small steps. Simple steps. But I always took them with love, and I am still guided every day by this love for our ocean.
As we approach Valentine’s Day, I urge you to also do what you can to show our ocean some love, even if it is with simple actions.
Every small step counts in the fight for our one world ocean.
Simple Steps to Protect our Ocean
There are so many ways to help, and this month is a perfect time to revisit, refresh, or rekindle your love for the ocean. Remember how the water has made you feel, whether swimming in it, boating on it, or simply gazing at it. The ocean plays a role, small or huge, in all our lives. We owe it to ourselves and our planet to take action that preserves and protects this amazing gift.
So what are some small steps you can take to protect the ocean?
Do a little armchair research.
Google the issues facing our world ocean and what you can do to help. Simply educating yourself often sparks action before you even know it.
Find your hot button issue, get mad, and do something about it.
Subscribe to blogs like the one from Ocean Blue Project. You can also join Facebook groups, and follow organizations on Instagram. Make it easy to gather quick bits of knowledge as you go about your day and keep your connection to the ocean alive.
Next time you’re at the beach, bring a trash bag with you and clean up a bit.
I used to walk with a small bag and filled it as I strolled. Some days it was overwhelming, but remember that small actions create big impacts. I guarantee: once you start this habit it is (happily) hard to break!
Join a litter cleanup at your nearest beach.
Or host one yourself!
Ocean Blue Project has great resources for planning and executing a cleanup, and they are usually more fun, easy, and rewarding than you think! Bonus? They inspire others and can usually start a pretty big groundswell for future beach cleanups.
Ditch the plastic and packaging.
I know, I know. You’ve heard it a million times. But now more than ever it is truly possible and truly easy.
So many companies have seen the light and are offering sustainable packaging or no packaging at all. Solid shampoo bars, tablets of detergent, compostable toothbrushes… The list is endless. And as the science improves, these products are becoming more effective, and more environmentally friendly.
The next time you need a product, do a quick search for its sustainable counterparts and give them a try instead!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… In that order.
Recycling is wonderful and absolutely necessary for the preservation of our planet. But how about doing one better?
Buy less stuff to begin with, and make use of what you already have.
The average global citizen throws away 1.6 pounds of garbage a day, while the average American throws away an astonishing 4.5 pounds.
Shop secondhand stores for clothes and home goods. Learn to sew and mend your clothes, rather than throwing them away. Invest in reusable food storage containers. And be sure to bring your own cloth bags to the market for produce, bulk foods, and bringing groceries home.
A Love Story for the Ages
Aside from sharing my own love for the ocean, I love hearing the stories of others. I urge you, this month and all months, to allow yourself to dwell on thoughts of the ocean and your love for your experiences in and around it.
Was the ocean your first love? Did you find it later in life? Are you still waiting to experience it? Here’s a tip: Don’t!
Revisit your love story with the ocean often, and share it with others. Joy is infectious and inspiring. Remember the best loves are give and take, with both sides protecting and respecting the other. When you think of the ocean, ask yourself what actions you are taking to safeguard her. Remember, they do not have to be giant steps, they can be small and steady.
Take them with love.
Emily Zell is a copywriter for the sustainable living and design sector. She has lived in California, Uganda, and Cairo, Egypt, and makes it a priority to swim in the ocean in every single country she visits.