(Must write before the troops arise. No time for coffee or editing.)
The phone rang. “Go out to the dunes and take photos!” Bobby said. He’d just left to chauffeur Chelsea to a babysitting gig and the sky was beautiful. In the midst, as always, of a half-dozen things, my first reaction was reluctance. But the recent days of minimal wind had brought a clarity to the ocean: Summer’s peaceful moment between the mean north winds of Spring and electrifying south winds of Fall. Everything has been so still and into that stillness, the world expands richer, deeper and in greater detail.
So I took the camera and slogged out through the sand. Bobby was right; sunbeams poured down through holes in the clouds. Too many photos later, I couldn’t resist the ocean’s invitation any longer. “Nick!” I hollered, barging back into the house. “Everybody! To the beach!” Bobby had already returned, so he and Kaylee lit out first. Nick and I pulled on our wetsuits – “Hurry!” I helpfully implored – and followed, boards tucked under arms, lupin and coyote brush lashing against us as we jogged back toward the ocean.
Nick and I have been surfing out in front of our house most of the week, sometimes with his friends, sometimes just us. The trek isn’t exactly easy: the soft sand makes getting over the high dune nearly unbearably slow and the trail’s overgrown enough that using it feels a bit like bushwhacking – we joke as if we’ve gone feral and are surfing in some undeveloped region across the world. But in 10-to-12 minutes, we can get from our front door to the ocean. That’s a lovely thing. Especially when the surf stays clean, small and peaky all week long, and Nick gets to invite his friends over, for once having something to show off.
He’s a good sport in general, whether dealing with the diabetes or playing a baseball game, but I can see how sometimes our lack of financial resources bothers him. His friends get new surfboards and trips to places Nick only sees in magazines. Although we’ve accumulated our share of boards and wetsuits, much of it has been through randomly scoring deals or the generosity of friends. I’ve rarely been able to walk into the surf shop and drop several hundred dollars. (A few times, usually after the tax refund comes in, I’ve bought new wetsuits for the kids. I’ve bought a new board exactly once, a new wetsuit for myself maybe twice – everything else has been used or a gift. Which is fine and a testament to how much good luck I have along with all the more challenging moments. But the folks at Greenhouse are always so nice. I wish I could support them in more concrete ways.) Point is, for Nick’s friends to come over, suit up and charge out front was, in the words of one, “sick!” The waves a certain amount of stoke; being able to provide that stoke to his buddies enabled Nick to feel rich for a moment.
We raced the sun as we hurried out. It won, slipping behind the clouds stretched high across the horizon, a last burst of fire defining sky’s edge, leaving us only a half-hour or so before dusk would make way for night. We paddled through the few lines of whitewater, breaking the outside glass with our presence. Birds dove, seals popped their heads up like curious Labradors. Sometimes I think they’ll swim over for a belly rub. No sea lions this time, but we’ve seen them close up for days. Huge and intimidating, they’ll cruise by, sometimes barking, at which point I usually defer to the true locals and exit the water), sometimes just serving up a cold dish of stinkeye.
Caught some tiny waves, developed permagrin from the joy of being in the Pacific with my kid, near my house, the world’s beauty unfurled just for us.