Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Shape of the Waves

Above is a photo of a Roman Catholic nun whose religious order hosts an annual charity surfing competition in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

Surfers know something about Valentine’s Day or, as it is known around our house, The Feast of St. Valentine. Valentine was an irregular saint, to be sure, dropped from the Roman martyrology for reasons that still seem unclear, but then I’ve never really understood the politics of canonization.  For all of the candy hearts and increasingly expensive greeting cards, there is something that happens in his octave that is the portent for all good things to come. Namely, in mid-February, the shape of the waves begins to change.

There will be many who will dispute this, but those would be people who limit their understanding of nature to the sciences of meteorology or physics or astronomy. Some of us still use the ancient art, so liminal as to be pre-verbal, of rud a bheithsa dĂșchas agat to understand tides and gravity. We so often watch the waves, are so often immersed in them, observant of their nature and their potential for transport, that, in a crude translation from the Celtic above, “their nature is in our blood”. With the change in the waves, winter’s power is diminishing and, even if we should suffer still more snow and ice, it will be of shorter lease and far less strength. In short, we’re through the worst of it.

From The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow:

"The physicists call it a 'energy-transport phenomenon.'

The dictionary says it's 'a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another location.'

A disturbance. It's certainly that.

Something gets disturbed. That is, something strikes something else and sets off a vibrations. Clap your hands right now and you'll hear a sound. What you're actually hearing is a sound wave. Something struck something else and it set off a vibration that strikes your eardrum.

The vibration is energy. It's transported through the phenomenon of a wave from one location to the other.

The water itself doesn't actually move. What happens is one particle of water bumps into the next, which bumps into the next, and so on and so forth until it hits something. It's like that idiot wave at a sports event - the people don't move around the stadium, but the wave does. The energy flows from one person to another.

So when you're riding a wave, you're not riding water. The water is the medium, but what you're really riding is energy."