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After a stultifying, absolutely stupidifying week of extreme heat here in Santiago, several of us headed to a friend’s parents’ beach house on the litoral central (central coastal area) that lies just to the west of Santiago. Going to the beach in Chile is an exercise in what you see is not what you get. What you see is an ocean, an inviting place to wander the coast and dip in a toe, or maybe up to your calves, a swim, perhaps? What you actually get is a punishingly cold cruel body of water that washes up razor clam shells and “aguas muertas” (lit: dead water, jellyfish) and generally bubbles and froths and teems with whitecaps that people describe as “curly waves” (olas crespas).

Needless to say, I did not swim. The water is frigid, unfriendly, mean. That is, if you want to float around in it (and if, like me, you expect your ocean to be Atlantic-friendly, not Humbolt-current painful). But to take a long walk along the ocean, nose into some tidal pools, drag toes in the sand, step over sandcastles, it’s perfect. Here we clamber up rocks and try to imagine what flavor batido (milkshake) the ocean is where it turns alternately milky white and scope green. Mint? Melon? Cucumber? Green tea with lemon?


And as I was thinking about how oceans are no longer for swimming, and how that’s okay (for here and now) I happened to check my email and got news on the zany dump of snow that the northeastern US is currently “enjoying,” two different perspectives, child and adult, of what the snow means. It’s up to my knees vs. I’m not going out to get the newspaper.


I like to think I’ll always be an “it’s up to my knees” kind of person, always be able to wonder about the flavor of the ocean, even when it’s too unhospitable for me to risk a splashy entrance, to dream of snowmen and forts and fluffy white flakes falling from above, as opposed to the slushy, drippy, salt-stained aftermath that hangs on for weeks.

Two forms of water, two ways of looking at them. A veritable snowglobe of ideas.