For several years now, Allyson and I have made an annual pilgrimage to the beach. Even though we live in Florida, we usually only make it to the beach about once per year. Gainesville is pretty much directly in the middle of the peninsula, making it at least a 90-minute drive to see the ocean.

Inevitably, when I get in the ocean, I just start beaming. I get giddy, and I start playing in the surf like a little girl. I plunge my toes into the wet sand and just sink down. I laugh at the sand pipers as they rummage for food. I pick up shells. The beach just brings me joy on a very fundamental level.

It's hard to articulate the significance the Atlantic Ocean has for me. It's the ocean we went to in my childhood; that's certainly part of it. The waves are also one of the important parts for me. The Gulf doesn't really measure up. I love throwing my body into the massive waves and feeling just how small I am, and you can't really do that in the Gulf of Mexico.

While I'm playing in the waves, the realization that this ocean has been more or less just like this for millenia hits me at some point, and it makes feel small on a historical plane as well. I love the idea that my distant ancestors once crawled out of those massive seas. When I jump in and frolic, it's a sort of homecoming, and it's a ritual that humans have been participating in for as long as there have been humans.

We all have parts of nature that leave us feeling both connected and humbled, and the Atlantic Ocean is definitely one of my most sacred temples.

The Atlantic Beach at Sunrise