The past 2-Sundays I’ve woken up before the sun to get to the coast.
Since moving to California 2-years ago, I have come to the coast more than most people who have lived here for a long long time.
The art of driving to the ocean has very quickly become, my favorite art.
Often, I go alone, I like hearing the way my breath sounds against the backdrop of waves, and I like to hear very little else.
I grew up close to the lake Ontario back in NY, and I’d call shot-gun (though there was never any competition) and I’d sit next to my Dad in our old buick, the color of a plum, and be buried by my seatbelt just barely seeing over the dash. So so happy.
He’d smoke Kent cigarettes from the soft-pack, and I’d watch the slow easy way he’d take a drag, and rest his left elbow out of the rolled up window. I’d tune up the radio, and we’d listen to Neil Young, and the Eagles. We’d hear a commercial for the local farm team playing baseball on a Saturday night, and my dad and I made plans to go. I’d watch those games over the peak of a tuft of cotton candy, and get cheese inside my mitt from the nachos resting on my little legs, my backwards cap on, always a tomboy, trying to catch a foul ball. Watching baseball with my Dad, sitting shot-gun, Neil Young singing about a harvest moon…there was nothing better. I’d fall asleep in the car on the way home, most nights, I used to never have trouble sleeping.
I’d stick my tiny elbow out of the window, and mimic the cool look on my Dad’s face as he gazed forward. He’d often close his eyes longer than a blink, because his body new the turns, the same way mine does now, down the 80, down 37, and to Route 101. He’d toss his cigarette butt out the window, and ask me to hand him a piece of cloret gum. I’d chew it too, even though I preferred juicy fruit. I wanted to be cool.
We’d take the 3-mile drive down to the lake, and I’d turn to stare out the window, both hands resting on the glass, the window all the way down. I’d stare at the beautiful homes, and wonder who got to live there, and I picked out the one I’d live in one day, and how I’d buy my parents the one next door, and my sister the one next door to that. We’d stop for cheeseburgers on the way home. And we’d split an order of fries. Every time my Dad got mustard in his moustache it was always, the funniest thing that had ever happened. I’d point with one hand, and cover my mouth with the other, my eyes dancing with total joy at the best dinner date a 7-year old could ask for. Dad.
Most nights, if it was spring, summer, or fall, we’d throw the ball back and forth. That snap in the mitt one of my very favorite sounds. We’d throw and throw till the porch lights no longer let us see the ball that to me offered a ticket to total freedom. I spent a small lifetime on the ball-field. A few months ago, my Dad and my nephew Sam and I went out to the basketball court, and my Dad went to throw the ball to Sam. He immediately held his shoulder, and the ball went 1 foot, to the 10 feet I could remember. I looked at this guy…Dad…and felt nostalgia, fear, and total joy all in the time it took me to pick the ball up and shoot. I forgot how I’m not just getting older…we all are.
My Dad and I took these drives together even after I got my drivers license. And when I came home to visit from college I’d take the drive myself, adding about 20 minutes onto the trip, because I found that it grounded me, and helped me take deep breaths.
College was a time where I started to realize just how much I never wanted a life like the one I grew up in. A time I realized it wasn’t just what I wanted, I was angry that it was ever mine. I’d have to take a few minutes in the car now coming home, to be able to walk in, to know that I couldn’t talk about the humanites class I was in, the paper I stayed up late working on…I knew I’d have to talk about the weather, if I was eating enough. Even the car rides with Dad were no longer good enough. ‘No thanks Dad, I should really be heading back.’
And no. I still don’t want that life. But, where there was once anger for what it was, there’s a sense of calm. There’s a bigness to what I came up and out of, so much like the ocean that I cannot stop going to.
What I love about the ocean is how it is always always changing.
Yesterday, with my sweet friend Amanda, we climbed to a high high point, past where most people just stop, and I saw the way the light reflected at 1pm on a 60 degree day on the northern coast. I don’t know I ever saw it like that before. And I pointed it out to her, and we both smiled and said very little. With the ocean, there is very little to say. Every time I go, I understand something about myself I didn’t know. I’m calmed and nurtured by this beautiful relentless force.
I’ve been living the life of adventure, undpredictability, tremendous failure, and joy beyond my wildest dreams success for the past several years.
There are times and moments I am filled with total doubt, why. Why did I not just choose to say. Why is a desk job not good enough. Why didn’t I marry him when I could have. Why did I leave every one I know to come 3000 miles away. Sometimes, I get sad in an unexplainable way that I don’t have, what I don’t even want.
I think about her, the 7-year old girl who’s feet didn’t touch the ground, elbow out the window, dreaming of views of the water, and cheeseburgers with Dad. Who’d stay outside till her teeth chattered, and got down on her knees each night to pray to god. Her, the girl who has always had ocean-sized dreams, and who once had ocean sized anger, at the same two people who gave her her first views of how big this world could be.
I roll up the sleeves on my flannel, just like back then, and I drive past the houses and I wonder who lives in them. I no longer am afraid that I will live an ordinary life. But I am afraid, sometimes when I understand just how true that is.
I don’t pray on the side of my bed any longer. I pray on my mat. I pray walking down the street. I pray at dinner tables when I look around at the life I have created, at all the families I am a part of. I don’t pray that it not go away…I pray instead that I know always, how beautiful it is.
I pray that I’ll always have the courage to keep doing what’s not comfortable, and the passion to wake up early. I pray for her, a little girl who I’ll take to the ocean one day and teach about big breaths and believing in something bigger than us.
I pray now, not to repent, or ask.
But to remember.
And say thank you.
To the one million drives with Dad, and what I learned, and to the one million more drives of this lifetime.
photo from yesterday | the view from the top | as told by my sweet friend Amanda.
What are we truly, if not understanding, we are born again.