I think it was my great grandfather who told my mother that the cure for every malady was salt water. Sure enough, my grandmother gargled with it, washed in it, brushed her teeth in it, and even drank it when her tummy was sore. My grandfather the pediatrician would bathe tiny babies' bottoms in it, when they were too young to go into the sea, by warming up some to elbow temperature on the stove. He said it was good for raw bottoms. And so my family has a strange and beautiful relationship with the sea, which led to our forced morning swims in fifty degree fjords and scrub downs with Bliw the saltwater soap, before the days that we had a shower. My mother only likes the sea, not swimming pools, which she regards with a degree of suspicion and even as she can hardly walk without a stick anymore, she throws herself into the Oslofjord, or the Caribbean, whenever she can.
I find myself here near Tulum a few days before the Mayans prophecized the end of the world. The beaches are white. A result, apparently of fish eating the coral and shitting out the fine, white coral powder. The sea is the turquoise of story books. I watch people unable to view the sea without taking pictures of it, such is the exquisite beauty, fairweather clouds puffy and white hanging just above the horizon. A small jetty stretches out from the beach about fifty yards into the sea and a palapa sits at the end of it. Ropes surround a small wooden deck and signs ask that you refrain from diving. There is a wide "trappen" (steps) coming up from the ocean and here the water is clear and deep and blue. Apart from the jet skis (and I am quite certain that men that ride and operate jet skis are quite firmly arrested in their teen years, such an interesting machismo culture the jet ski men display -- there is jostling and strutting and jumping of waves and great shows of landing the machine on the beach and leaping off at the same time, riding while balanced on one foot, also spitting, quite a lot of it)...apart from the noise of these machines there is the ocean, the quiet lapping of the waves against the white sand, the birds and the monkeys in the trees behind us, and that is all. That is all. This is the edge of the world.
The Mayans haven't been mentioned once, which surprises me. You would think that everyone would be all a jitter, with the end of the world coming and all. In fact, there was much interest in it at my yoga class in LA. There is a belief that the Mayans didn't just die out but they elevated to another consciousness, and perhaps this December 21 is the day when we can fully embrace the Aquarian Age. Too hippy for you? I do say this with love but with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Yogi Bhajan has interesting things to say about the Aquarian Age, but I shall keep that for another time.
Somewhere, half way between the end of the world and men on jetskis there is the ocean, patiently moving in and out and reminding me of a Mary Oliver poem I glimpsed in the New Yorker, an ad for her new collection "A Thousand Mornings." The sea is patient. And it is constant.
The group of women I'm with would create a perfect Working Title movie" "Three Divorcees and A Widow (And a Divorce Attorney)." Of course, I'd be played by Nicole Kidman (in flats) and my friend Angela would be the one to do the little Laura Linney dance behind the wall when she brings the cute French art director home in that scene from "Love Actually." My stepmother-in-law who is the widow, has chosen Meryl Streep to portray her, but I'm not sure it's the singing dancing Mamma Mia Meryl. We're going to make sure there is a Bannoffee Pie scene and a scene with Liam Neason and we're going to incorporate the two cute African American girls who are staying at our hotel and seem to be having more fun than all the rest of us combined with their glasses of champagne and their piles of fat magazines and their inspired rants about the hotels of Miami.
Also, if I may say so, water shoes are for p***ies. I mean, it's the end of the world so surely you can handle a few rocks underfoot?