I remember going to the beach as a kid growing up in Southern California. I have very fair skin and usually sunburned before I was there very long. After a few summers I became proficient at building sand castles, skim surfing and surf Frisbee, and as a teen I would head to the piers as often as I could to fish for bonita. That wasn't very often.
The last time I visited Long Beach while I still lived in the L.A. area, it clouded up and a curtain of lightning bolts appeared on the sea's horizon. That storm closed in pretty quickly and I shot to my car and raced it home. The lightning and I arrived at the same time, with bolts striking towers and trees all around me. It was terrifying, but I did get to see ball lightning for the first and only time.
The oceans were created, according to current scientific thinking, millions of years ago by the escape of water vapor and other gases from volcanoes and the molten rocks of the Earth into the atmosphere, surrounding the cooling planet. Adding to this condensation was water and ice delivered by asteroids and comets over centuries or millennia. Without this phenomenon, it is unlikely life would have formed on earth, and we wouldn't be here.
According to NOAA, the ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. It transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns. From fishing to boating to kayaking and whale watching, the ocean provides us with many unique recreational activities. The world's oceans provide more than just seafood, with ingredients from the sea found in foods such as peanut butter and soymilk. Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, athritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease.
But the waves! Waves are most commonly caused by wind. We have all seen cresting waves during a wind storm over a large lake or ocean, and this happens continuously somewhere in whatever vicinity you are located. Waves can also be caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun (tides), by a weather or land disturbance off shore, such as during a hurricane or after an earthquake (tsunamis), or with large ships or land masses pushing the ocean ahead of them.
There is a long, detailed explanation as to why we have crashing waves at our shoreline, including orbital motion of the ocean's kinetic energy, but I find the mystery and wonder more appealing than the minutia. One need only stand on the beach or a cliff's edge for a few seconds watching nature's magic to get lost in it. The combination of the rhythmic pounding of the waves on the shore and the cadence of its crashing sounds, along with a continual rumble of all of the shoreline waves together can sooth one's soul and calm one's heart.
I received some excellent comments from friends, fans and followers on this subject. Here are a few of those (some have been edited or paraphrased):
Ayub B.- Oceans have unlimited majesty and mystery, every beach has lethal attraction, not less mysterious than Bermuda Triangle. Ah, oceans really connect us, not separate!!
Canadian Hellie- There's nothing like a soft, warm breeze from the ocean on a hot evening. The views of the ocean meeting the sky is like none other.
Bill J. and Diane M.- Right now we are happy because the temperatures are reasonable here by the ocean, while inland they have had hot weather. We are about half a mile from the Pacific on the Washington State coast.
Ed R. (OCREF)- I love the Northern Washington coastal area. While I was attending the University of Washington in Seattle getting my Masters Degree, I was fortunate enough to have a 25' Chris Craft Connie. I used to love cruising the San Juan Islands on weekends. The wonderful breezes from the ocean! I'm fortunate to now have a beachfront home in California -- some very beautiful summer days, foggy days, cold winter days when the wind blows and the surfs up!!! All are awesome!!!
BLSMSS- Oceans make me happy for the sweet smell it has. You know you're getting closer to it when every smell you take gets sweeter. The calming feel I get from the blue waters for miles is amazing. To realize families and friends we have, some of their families crossed them at one time to get to our great country, without that we may have never met. To see all the beautiful creatures that live there, another of nature’s beauty.
Habadabeer- Looking out at the ocean is like taking in the night sky -- it gives you a better sense of scale, and lets you see things from a whole new perspective. My Dad was in the Navy in World War II. He went straight to boot camp from our little hometown in upstate New York, then shipped out across the Pacific to Hawaii for his first duty station. He was looking out at the horizon in all directions one evening when one of his supervisors asked him what he was thinking. My Dad said, “That’s a lot of water!” His NCO said, “Yeah, and that’s just the surface!”
Curt603- I love the activity at a marina -- people watching!
Bill22- You can always tell when you're near the ocean even if you can't see it. Just take a deep breath and smell the salt air. There's nothing better.
"The Brews Cruise" Ken & Ara- The smell of the salt air and the view of the vast expanse of water -- something magical happens as stress fades away; breathing brings a relaxing feel. I love being at the ocean.
Bob & Maria- I like the smell of the salt air, going snorkeling and seeing all of the marine life. We have been to the Caribbean a number of times and love the different greens and blues of the ocean. Of course, there's nothing like a moonlit walk on the beach, hearing the gentle waves touch the beach then recede.
ff1946- We live on a boat from November to May in the Florida Keys. We can’t stay away from salt water very long...
See Spot Run RV- I love the ocean's colors of blue and green. I love to hear the crashing of the waves and riding them into shore, the smell of the sea salt. There is a calming to be near the sea. It's always fun to play in the water.
Bruce & Linda (Omnibus)- I like that fact that, besides being filled with life, the ocean itself seems to be alive; constantly in motion with a wide range of moods.
Trailerite- I love a rocky coastline -- the sights and sounds are mesmerizing. But the smells of a beach and wetlands makes me very relaxed. The best, though, is going to sea on a not-too-large ship. It makes me feel so small and makes me realize how large God is. The ocean takes on so many colors and moods way out in the middle of it.
Nadyne H.- Even though I prefer lakes, as bodies of water go, I enjoy camping near the Pacific Ocean for the sound of the waves and the beauty of the waves crashing against the shore.
Donna B.- The sound of the waves, the smell of the air, I love the ocean. Unfortunately, I can’t go to the beach, my skin can’t take much sun exposure.
Peggy H.- Growing up in Southern California, my childhood, especially my teens, are filled with memories of the beach. I recall my first solo drive in my mom's car being to the beach with a few girlfriends. We slathered our bodies with baby oil (yeah - we know that's dumb now!) and frolicked in and out of the surf. I began to think of the ocean as rejuvenating in adulthood. I’d pine away at photos of the ocean. In the last 11 years I’ve had more opportunity to cruise and I’d get a balcony as often as I could manage it. I’d sit near the window and imagine the life below the water’s surface, the biodiversity of it all. From the tiniest plankton to the bus-sized whales, from jellies to human-like dolphins…. I would get hours of entertainment just using my imagination. Now that I’m painting and drawing, many of my subjects are marine life. I guess that should be no surprise.
If I get caught up in the busy-ness of life, months can go by without seeing the ocean. I swear she gets jealous and calls to me from afar. It becomes an obsession until I finally succumb to her demands and find my way driving there, and if lucky, sitting in a hotel room close enough to hear the surf. The ocean is my refuge and my retreat. She restores and invigorates me. My dream is to retire to a decommissioned lighthouse and turn it into a bed and breakfast. Special discounts available for family and friends!
Kathi B.- I should have been born a Pisces Instead of a Taurus. Always have been a water baby and then discovered snorkeling. To be in the warm salt water and seeing all the sea creatures up close -- my own personal aquarium! Swimming weightless among the sea turtles is the best. I try not to think about the sharks. The best way to see them is in the cage. Think that is why we love to cruise. To be on the water with multiple chances to get in it in every port.
The early need for air conditioning grew out of the need to preserve foods, as foods that are kept at room temperature spoil easily due to the growth of bacteria. At temperatures below 40°F, the growth of bacteria is reduced or eliminated. With the development of food refrigeration came air conditioning and humidity control shortly thereafter. The invention of absorption-type of refrigeration in the early 19th century showed that liquefied ammonia could chill air when it is allowed to evaporate. Ice was created using compressor technology in the year 1842 by a physician named John Gorrie.
The first commercially-available air conditioning systems were used to cool air for industrial processes, rather than for personal comfort. The first electrical air conditioning was invented by Willis Carrier, the Father of Modern Air Conditioning, in the year 1902. The rest, as they say, is history.
In America, hot temps begin, on average, in May for the southwest and in July for the rest of the country. Indeed, this week CNN reported, "A record-breaking heat wave is sweeping across the United States, and close to 90% of the population will experience 90-degree heat over the next seven days." So, you can see that air cooling is a must in much of the country.
I grew up in dry Southern California, so dry, in fact, that we had a giant evaporation cooler (AKA swamp cooler) that worked well. When I moved north to a more humid climate, I realized how good I had had it. Swamp coolers don't work in humidity. In every place I have lived since my Washington State home I have insisted upon air conditioning, which handles humidity as well as heat, including New York State, Nevada, Kansas and Colorado. Even in the desert of Las Vegas and the usually-dry elevation of Denver, summer monsoons can make the heat unbearable and swamp coolers ineffective.
We now have A/C in our cars, trucks, RV's, supermarkets, schools and at most workplaces, and most of us can't imagine life without it. There is nothing better than to come inside from a hard afternoon working in the yard and sit on a cool sofa, preferably with the cold air blowing right at us. From what I can tell, A/C is one of the most underrated unsung heroes of 20th- and 21st-century living, allowing us to enjoy summer life instead of sweltering in it.
As usual, many of my fans and friends have contributed comment on this cool topic. Here are some of those (I have edited or paraphrased a few of them):
Donna H.- I love coming back inside from working in the yard and feeling the cool air from my air conditioning hit me!
Sharon M.- We never had A/C in Montana ... very few really hot days and the nights always cooled off. I could not survive in Kentucky without it, however. The combination of heat and humidity are debilitating and I have to be in the house, in A/C, by mid-morning... and pretty much stay there until almost dark.
Kathy S.- We have evaporative cooling (aka swamp cooler). We are lucky to also have A/C. We only use it on high humidity days. It's quiet, it keeps things dry and reminds us that things weren't always this comfortable!
Nadyne H.- I couldn't live without air conditioning as I don't "do hot," as I like to say. When I was young, growing up in Tucson, Arizona, we initially had air conditioning, but eventually Dad took it out due to the amount of it going out the door as the 5 of us and our friends went in and out everyday, all day. He replaced it with a swamp cooler which was poor at best during monsoon season in the Tucson summer. As soon as it started to heat up each summer I remember each of us going through the ritual of re-arranging our bedrooms so that the bed would be directly in the path of the air coming out of the register vent! I can also remember a brother (which one?) would close my vent during the night in order to increase the amount of blast he would receive in his room! I would awake, sweltering, to find my vent closed or nearly closed... not nice. Once I was an adult, I made sure wherever I lived had A/C, not a swamp cooler... sometimes two A/C units!
BLSMSS- The thing about A/C that makes me happy is seeing my husband feeling better after being outside working, coming inside and be able to cool down and be comfortable.
L.D. Clark- I like the fact that it’s there when and if I want it. Plus, my chocolates don’t melt sitting on the table!
Hank & Shirleen- My wife, a native Texan, says that Air Conditioning is our friend! And I agree!
Connie Jo- I can breathe with the air on!! Calgon, take me away!!!
The Cleary Clan- We love how our 15,000 BTU A/C keeps the motorhome cool. We have a 32-foot long Class-C. Recently it was 94F outside and 69F inside.
WeMustRV- We have two 15K A/C units that keep us cool. They work hard sometimes being that the sides of our RV are dark and act as a thermal magnet. 105-degree heat index last week, 95 degrees and 80%-plus humidity, made them a must.
Like myself, Bill Bryson is an American author who precedes modern air conditioning. He wrote, "I grew up, really, in the days before air conditioning. So I can remember what it was like to be really hot, for instance, and I can remember what it was like when your barber shop and your local stores weren't air conditioned, so it was hot when you went in them and they propped the doors open."
Trees have been a wonderful gift to man and the planet. Fossil records indicate that the first trees lived approximately 385 million years ago and they continued to flourish until they covered the earth as recently as two million years ago. They grow larger than shrubs and have a single main stem, but there is no defining attribute between a tree and a shrub, made more confusing by the existence of dwarf or small trees, and sometimes trees' growth can be stunted by its environment.
By all estimations, there are over three trillion trees growing today, important for their value to the world: absorbing carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air, supplying wood for burning (for heat, cooking, creating power, etc.) and timber for construction, providing shade for cooling, slowing water evaporation, providing food for humans and wildlife, furnishing a canopy and habitat for wildlife and adding beauty with the seasonal changing of colors, brilliant flowers and leaves, and when decorated. Kinda hard to put up a kid's swing without a hefty tree branch from which to hang. Even forest fires can be beneficial -- killing disease and numerous insects that will prey on the growth of the forest, providing nutrients for new generations of growth and refreshing the various habitat zones the forest encompasses.
The largest, tallest and oldest trees in the world all happen to be located in California, with the General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park, the largest by volume (52,500 cu. ft.), Hyperion, a coastal redwood in Redwood National Park, the tallest (380 ft.), and a Great Basin bristlecone pine, growing in the White Mountains, the oldest (estimated to currently be 5,069 years old).
While all of this is interesting, as well as important to man's well-being, I compare a forest to the vivid draperies in an otherwise bleak apartment. Trees provide the backdrop to our views of the world and landscapes without them are often cold, somber or grim. Fall colors differ around the lower 48, with the yellows and light greens of the Rocky Mountains, the oranges and reds of New England and the full spectrum in the country's midsection. All are beautiful, sometimes spectacular, and we always look forward to drives through the colorful foliage in autumn, no matter where we happen to be.
I did have some nice comments offered by friends, fans and followers on this subject. Here are a few of those (some have been edited or paraphrased):
BLSMSS- Pine trees make me happy with the sweet pine smell, reminding me of growing up in Upstate New York. There are other types of trees, like the Magnolia, that makes me happy seeing the beauty of the pedals and enjoying the sweet smell.
Packratphyls- A lovely maple tree gives me awesome shade in 90-degree temps and in March it gives me sap to make into maple syrup!
Canadian Hellie- Trees are so useful for making furniture, homes and a host of other items. The grain in some wood is amazing. I like trees while driving, as each one seems to be a different shade of green. In the fall we take special drives to see the fall colors. I love to see a lonely tree in the middle of a farmer's field and sometimes trees are markers for how much further there is to go to get to your destination. I also think the animals and birds appreciate them more than I do! Trees do a lot for us, they provide shade and oxygen. Sometimes trees burn out of control and some trees die due to specific bugs that invade them. Probably the best tree of all is the Christmas tree, all decorated in the living room.
Nadyne H.- I'm pretty emotional about trees. In fact, when Denver cut down a large tree in our yard some years back, I wanted to hurt the tree cutters and move! There are few things in nature I love more than trees. I always prefer to park our RV in the trees and if we can't, I don't really want to stay. Staying near the giant redwood forest in California was tree Disneyland for me! Every where I looked filled me with pure joy!! Everyone in this country should see the redwood forest before they die. Absolutely should be a bucket list trip!
See Spot Run RV- Many things make me happy about trees. They are natural air conditioners for one. The flowering trees are beautiful and other trees make wonderful scents. I also love the colors you get from trees in the fall. Many times it is just the different shades of green. Trees are wonderful creatures.
Benji- Ted Nugent, that maniac 70’s rocker, has planted over a million trees on his properties for conservation.
RicU- (Adding to Benji's comment) Nugent planted the trees to defend his property against developers, to counter environmental blunders of the time (yes, my ‘68 wasn’t as friendly as a bicycle but still would take it back.), for personal privacy and to lower his taxes. Smart man.
Topsarge- Trees. What is not to love about them? Having traveled to more than a few places on this planet, I have seen a lot of trees on this place called Earth -- so many varieties, yet I could not tell you the specific name of any one of them. I have allergies to pine trees, whether walking or traveling down the white line highway. I enjoy looking at the trees, any trees (the scenery in the desert is so boring). In Thailand there are trees that grow something called Thai chilies and they are HOT, so hot, I think they register around 100,000 Scoville Heat Units (compare that with the Jalapeno pepper, which measures as high as 8,000 SHU's). Some trees actually grow things that likely do not register on the SHU scale, such as fruit, citrus, and nuts of all sorts. Never get in a hurry to start harvest some type of nuts, with some oak trees that do not start to produce until the tree is around 35 years. The Belgium White Oak, when skilled hands work with it, can turn out some fantastic household furniture. Now, some trees are worth looking at without ever getting tired of the look. The Redwoods and Sequoias are magnificent trees and they have the audacity to grow extremely old and very tall. I am very glad to have the opportunity to see these awesome trees up close and personal and ponder one thousand plus years of living history. This is why I love to simply look and wonder about trees and their awesomeness and what they provide to us meager humans.
Shelley A.- I like the smell of the forest when I am hiking, especially after rain. It's fun to see the different colors but it is also very relaxing.
Ayub B.- Every tree evokes in me a feeling of sacredness associated with it. For me, it is not just a commercial or an ecological entity, it is certainly much more than meets the eye. Shakespeare was so correct when he wrote, "Tongues in trees, books in brooks, sermons in stones, good in everything."
Sandra E.- I'm a huge tree hugger... My home is covered with huge oak trees. They shade me and are so beautiful. It hurts me to trim a limb, even one that hits me in the face. A few years ago my two sisters-in-law took me on a road trip up the California coast, through the Redwoods, to Portland for our niece's wedding. The views were OUTSTANDING!
Like smells, sounds can retrieve memories from long past or emotion times. A song played long ago at your wedding reception or at a parent's funeral service, or a top-ten hit played on the radio during your high school years can each trigger thoughts of those scenes the moment you hear them. I'll be writing more about music in a future topic.
Sounds can also be therapeutic. Sound and music therapy can help with meditation, relaxation and overall wellness. You might remember the Sounds of Nature displays at many department or grocery stores. I used to love to listen to all the samples they offered. Similar therapies are also being used to combat a variety of ailments, including stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, pain, high cholesterol, heart disease and risk of stroke. Even the hearing impaired can benefit from certain sound therapies through visual cues and "vibrotactile" feedback (listening to sound and music through vibrations in the body).
When I asked people what their favorite sound was, the most popular answers were what you might expect -- wind rustling through the trees, bird calls in the forest, babbling brooks and streams, crashing ocean waves and other of nature's sounds. For myself, I would add a few different favorites. Many of the most awe-inspiring sounds I have experienced have indeed been from nature, such as thunder from an approaching storm, a woodpecker pounding a tree in a forest, the freight-train roar of an approaching earthquake and the buzz of an almost invisible hummingbird zooming by. One of the more unusual came from deep inside a glacier in Alaska as a crack in the ice boomed thunderously in the bay to us, a hundred yards away. It reminded me of a frozen lake I was fishing on once as the sunshine began forcing the ice to crack from one shore to the other, only many times deeper in tone and more boisterous in force.
Even annoying noises can become part of your personal memory bank and hearing them again can result in pleasant reminiscing, such as the constant reverberation of a construction site you lived near during your first years as a couple, or the din of a cattle ranch you visited as a child, or even traffic noise outside of your corner office window. Go to a zoo and the cacophony of calls may send you back to a grade school field trip. A baby's cry may remind you of your first born, before you had your parental act together.
The long and the short of it is that sounds can make you smile. That happiness may come from the pleasantness of the tones, the comfort of the harmonies or the memories they conjure. I had some excellent comments about this subject and I'll share a few here. Some have been edited or paraphrased:
EXSSTR- The old babbling brook or a mountain stream is very a relaxing and soothing sound.
Tim and Susie Z.- One of my favorite sounds is chirping birds. They sound so happy, especially in the Spring and in the morning. Usually hubby can identify the bird by their song, so listening is more fun, and it's relaxing to watch the birds fly around, too.
Roving Renwick’s- My favorite is a steady rain on a tin roof with a faint train whistle in the background
P & J Bowen- Two years ago we traveled in the northwest and for four weeks had rain. I had no idea that rain could sound so different every place! It was wonderful to experience, especially coming from the desert!
Warren and Terry of NE PA- I like the sound of a distant train when its raining.
Jojo H.- Love it when tree frogs are chirping in the woods. That sound is very peaceful and relaxes me.
Bob P.- Love the birds singing in the morning and any sound that involves water. Being a Water sign, water seems to bring calm to my life.
Gig's Rig (David and Georgia)- Husband says the rumble of a diesel engine makes him happy. For me, I think, waves lapping on the shore. Oh, forgot wind chimes!!
Ed R. (OCREF)- I love the sound of waves lapping away against the hull of the boat!
BLSMSS- So many but for us, first thing would stop us in our tracks is the roar of military jets. Every time we hear them, we stop and see where they are and just listen. Of course, my husband is retired Air Force, and he says it’s “the sound of freedom”! We also love wind chimes, birds, water rolling in rivers or falls and especially laughter. It's soothing to the ears, knowing life is still going on with all this mess and the love in the hearts.
Dick and Rose K.- I love the sound of a patriotic melody. I love my country, despite it's many problems. I love the band music and lyrics of many of the "red, white, and blue" songs. I love the 4th of July, especially the music. I played in concert, in marching bands and in orchestras for over 50 years of my life. I played percussion and tympani. I love hearing a good band, especially outdoors. It fills my heart with bubbling enthusiasm.
Campingcoops (Andy & Karen)- A baby’s laughter makes me smile every time!
Bill22- The sound of rolling surf crashing on the beach brings me back to my youth living at the Jersey Shore.
Jim G.- An uncrowded beach and a forest so peaceful you only hear the chirping of birds.
Mery Popinz- Waterfalls are soothing to hear, mesmerizing to watch.
Shelley A.- I love the sound of nature. My number one sound that I adore is coqui. All of it is very peaceful to me. [Note: Per the National Wildile Foundation, a “coqui” is a small arboreal frog that’s brown, yellow, or green in color... the term refers to the sound of the call produced by males to attract females and repel other males during mating season. Breeding occurs throughout the year, but especially during the wet season (April to October).]
Cindy V.- I love listening to the sound of a running creek -- each sounds like a note to a different song.
Ayub B.- The sound produced by the wind passing through the trees gives me the feeling as if something had left my heart and is now returning back.
Nadyne H.- I have always loved the sound of wind in the tall pines. It so soothing and sounds like a big exhale.... one day at a time...
Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner astutely observed: "All of nature begins to whisper its secrets to us through its sounds. Sounds that were previously incomprehensible to our soul now become the meaningful language of nature."
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.