I have lived close to the ocean my whole life; mostly here in Rockland. The other places were Boothbay Harbor, Southport Island and Machias. I was always near the shore.

From the time I was a young boy I saw license plates from all over the country. A giant map of the United States at each Lobster Festival had pins stuck in every state.

There was something bringing people here. It was something pretty simple: the ocean.

Just as the moon controls the tides, the ocean has immense control over our lives, especially here in Rockland. Just recently, high tide teamed up with 7 inches of rain to flood Rockland streets.

That week I was going to write a very sweet story about childhood memories of playing in Lindsey Brook behind Rockland High School. Luckily I chose to tell another story.

The ocean has played a hand in almost every turn of my life. As a young girl my wife Joanne came to Rockland with her family to visit the LaCross family on Rankin Street. She kept coming back to visit.

In 1988 she came back for good. (That was the best part of my luck.)

Joanne has an attraction, an affinity, a connection to the ocean. In some ways I would say the ocean has a stronger hold on her than it does on me.

I have three grandsons who come to visit. Anthony and Max are 16 and 13 years old. They love the water because they grew up on a lake. You cannot keep Max out of the ocean.

My youngest grandson Easton will be 2 this December. He is a water baby who can go under water and pull himself up out of it. He will take after Max.

The ocean is not for everyone. I had neighbors from Ohio in the 80s who were made uneasy by the nearby ocean. They said they had the sensation of being uncovered; like sleeping without a blanket. They lasted about three years.

Being a Rocklander can mean having a profound nonchalance about the ocean’s proximity. Remember that our first dumps were on the waterfront. (The wheelbarrow that came with our 1890 home was used to carry rubbish to the shore for a buck a load in the 40s.)

Fisher Engineering built their first factory near the public landing because land was inexpensive. This surely explains why we have two auto parts stores and a car wash with ocean views.

I am drawn to sea smoke. If I know it is going to be a clear day with near zero temperatures, I will get up before dawn and stake out one of my places near the shore to get the best shots. If the wind is blowing a gale and I am on a piece of glare ice, it makes no difference. It adds to the thrill.

I love when there is a storm and all the spaces along the sea wall are taken, and vehicles are taking waves over their windshields. Even better when seagulls get blown sideways.

Sometimes I think to myself, do I appreciate the ocean enough?

Whether I do or not, the ocean has a steady hand on my shoulder; I won’t get far.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Sea smoke over the ocean. Photo by Glenn Billington