An Ocean Of Tears

Every year, thousands of landlocked residents of West Virginia head east and south to Ocean City, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Nags Head, Virginia Beach, Daytona Beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

They stuff the minivans and SUVs with a significant amount of West Virginia “things” because they couldn’t possibly have pepperoni rolls or cowboy hats at the beach. We have to take them with us.

By the time the vehicle is packed, we wonder where we are going to squeeze in the kids and the hermit crab we plan to set free at the beach because that’s where “Hermie” will be happier.

Because we aren’t used to beach heat that reaches 85 degrees at 8 a.m., we buy sunblock in gallon jugs and grease up like ribs slathered in sauce – ready for our human barbecue.

I remember once when first married, we drove our tiny, yellow Honda Civic – sans air-conditioning – to Ocean City, Md. On a shoestring budget, we made our way to the beach town, happy just to see an ocean.

The sea is nothing like the fickle Ohio River we fight with from time to time as it rises and falls in and out of our lives. The ocean is much greater than the lakes we row and fish upon in our lovely valleys.

This great body of water, blue in some places, green in others, is quite a feat of its Creator. The ocean has power not just in waves and depth, but in its magnetic pull on our lives. That first glimpse of the ocean after hours cramped inside a hot car is worth every mile and peanut butter sandwich between home and the beach.

Never once when we went to a beach did we first stop at a hotel. We headed straight for the sand. We must first kick off our shoes, feel sand between our toes and run to the water. It’s our way of baptizing the time we will spend at the ocean’s door.

All the trappings of beach life are wasted on me. I find nothing more enjoyable than sitting on the sand, squinting my eyes to see the ships far away from the shore, imagining where they are going and where they have been. And when I close my eyes, I hear the cries of the gulls as they swoop down at the fishermen on the pier.

A cold lemonade, a paperback mystery purchased for a quarter at the church garage sale and a comfortable chair are all the requirements needed to make it the perfect vacation.

Let the kids ride the go carts, chase the golf balls at the putt-putt course and jump the waves. Just let me have my oceanfront. But will it all still be there when I am able to return?

The very sad Gulf oil spill has taken away future vacations from not only Mountaineers, but everyone who has ever felt the exhiliration of seeing dolphins swim by or watching your child’s reaction to that first salty taste of ocean water. Jobs and businesses are collapsing along the coast as that oil invades the landscape.

Be assured, landlocked West Virginians are sharing buckets of tears with those living along the beaches now forever stained with oil.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at