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Under a Wave Off Kanagawa

Under A Wave Off Kanagawa

As the first shouts of warning reached his ears, the man in the boat gazed up at the sky in a silent prayer of supplication. Please, he thought, Let me not die today. The sky did not answer him, only staring back at him, melancholy and detachment saturated in its ashen face. Today, the sky did not shine blue, and the somber judgment it warned of made the man's heart beat faster as he clutched the boat's paddles and listened. From the panicked yells and the desperate cries that he heard, death was imminent. Looking up, he saw the wave that was to be his reaper.

Cold, salty white-water blended in with the tears that stained his cheeks. Jerking his sight away from the towering wave, he focused on the nearing white tops of the wave, the distinct curls of the foam looking like tendrils of a vine as it tried to grow. Time seemed to stop, and in its frozen moments, his eyes etched out every detail of the waves and found their definite outlines. Normally when he went out on the sea, the white caps would melt into the waves as if they were not strong enough to hold their shape. These were different–they had definition, they had personality. They wanted to play with him, to touch him, to investigate him, and instead of making him feel afraid, the waves drew out his curiosity. He had always regarded the water as simple and dumb, on the whim of the wind, but now it was thinking for itself, making its own shapes its tendrils reaching out to explore the world, the shadows of the foam inviting him to come closer to understand its depth.

Dancing around the tops of the waves and drifting towards him were flecks of the wave's white foam. Landing on the backs of his hands, the foam reminded him of the snow that clung to his sakura's branches in the wintertime, and the warm memory calmed his breathing. The foam specks brightened up the sky and made him notice the ghost of a cloud that was floating in it, whispering in his ear the old tales he had long forgotten. His father had told him those same tales every night before he went to bed, speaking of legends where nature came alive and took on human forms. Nature lived and breathed in those tales, and now nature was living and breathing in front of him.

Everywhere he looked, all he could see was the ocean, but even that was playing tricks on his mind. Of course he saw the rolling waves, but in an instant, they changed into the gentle undulations of the mountains. The whiteness of the waves held shadows of lighter blues, fading into the blue-grey of the ocean. The colors reminded him of the snow-blown surfaces of Mount Fuji not far off in the distance. In front of him, a wave rose up, emulating Mount Fuji's imperfect peak, the white foam of the wave falling down its slope much as the snow slid down the mountain in the spring. The people of his village always marveled at Mount Fuji's beauty, but in this moment, the ocean was much more beautiful. It could mimic the essence of Mount Fuji, but unlike the mountain, it was not trapped by land roots. Rising above everyone and everything, the ocean was free to create new forms of itself in the churning waves, free to destroy the wooden boats of men. In truth, the ocean could cover the whole earth if it wished and subject the world to its power. To the man in the boat, craning his neck to see the top of the great wave, nothing seemed more possible than that.

After that one instant of clarity, everything sped up again as if to make up for the lost time. The water roared again, droplets cascading from the top of the wave onto his head. Tossed about in the waves, the boats dipped and spun, making impossible dimensions and proportions. Pulling his boat into the water mountain, the water submerged half of it, but somehow it did not collide with the boat on the other side of the water form–as if the water could swallow the boats whole and never return them, defying time and space. It was robbing the men of the tools that allowed them to stand above the rest of the earth. All of the scientific laws and theories that they might have had were being mocked and twisted by the living water.

The wave started to collapse on top of itself, its mighty walls crumbling down. The tendrils that had seemed so inquisitive and innocent before were now spindly hands trying to claw and hook onto the boat to drag it down. The foam flecks that had reminded him of home now blended into the pelting droplets of water that spattered across his nose and stung his eyes. He was seeing the ocean at its full power, a hungry monster that rose up to the grey sky to look down at its prey, sizing it up before swallowing it whole, and yet he still did not find fear in his heart. For this was nature's true glory, a great and terrible strength. What else could he do except be in awe of it?

In the end, everything blended into one. The sea, the wave, the mountain all blurred into one magnificent being. And all the men could do was cling onto the paddle and lay prostrate to their true god–nature–before they, too, faded into the blue.



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