A Distance Away

August 17th, 2023

We are in paradise but our umbrella sucks.

The beach right in front of our house is famous for its 40 ft waves.  In the summer these waves are far smaller, gentle in comparison. They say that in Hawaii if you do not see anyone in the water don’t go in and if you see a perfect beach with no one on it there is a reason.

And it is true. The beach in front of me is nonstop gorgeous.  It tempts us to come down to it in a thousand different ways. Mostly it is vacant.  Day after day we try to set up camp in its gorgeous deceiving arms. We drag the chairs, coolers, and personal beach bags down.  I toss out a clean crispy white sheet and pile sand awkwardly deep in the corners so the wind doesn’t turn it into a sail and we can get our backs tanned.

But this wind is just too strong. It blows sand up on us like a cotton candy machine and takes perfectly good umbrellas and turns them into peppermint diner toothpicks that have been gnarled just short of splinters.

Often, we end up at a different beach, one that has a cove, a bay. We pack up the car with everything, drive, unload and then try and find a parking spot because the coves are called coves for a reason and bays keep bay.  They protect. Anyone who lives here knows this.

Pipeline where our house is in comparison is a wild beast that no one wishes to tame.

Which brings me to this photo. This is the act of love that Scott offers me today. It has become one of our courting rituals. Wherever we go, he finds a way to provide shade for me. It makes me feel like a gorgeous queen and this always ends up working out for him.  The umbrella he rigged this time is wedged on a lounge chair on our lanai.   It rests against a 30 ft. palm tree that tips it’s head out to claim it’s place over the beach.  This allows the shade I require so I can write on my phone. I catch what words I can in the breeze and type in with clumsy fingers far too big for the screen. In my beach bag there are two pens stashed where I can find them quickly just in case the words fall out while I am devouring a book, forcing me to write on the inside jacket.  Good things fall from the sky, why else do we look up to pray? Good writers know this and that is why they always ask their publisher to include an extra blank page or two in the front or back of their book. They have watched how words mate and birth more words.  The midwives like me need a place in the shade to write them.This umbrella however has gone limp and has again turned inside out.  I tell Scott it is fine; I just need a little sliver and it gives me that.

Earlier today I dragged my backpack chair (thank you who ever first came up with that idea) and sat on the beach to watch Jack surf his first waves at pipeline. As witness I defiantly perched my chair right up on a ledge of sand. I left my beach bag way back on the beach knowing full well that, like pirates, the waves would reach me and attempt to take anything valuable back into the sea. In the distance on top of a famous surfers house a camera feed tirelessly keeps its eyes on these gnarly waves. I imagine I am in the stream, someone’s mother, not a girl in a bikini.  For a small fee anyone can tune in and monitor the waves at all hours of the day. That is why in minutes the beach can fill with surfers who appear to come out like the millions of sand crabs that pop up after the tide pulls out.  Surfers’ continents away feel the rise and fall of this water and keep their longing breath in synch with this tide. Their virtual bodies paddle, turn, feel the pull then hop and ride in a world where they don’t fall, a dream they wish to swim out to one day.

Today the waves crash hard and short near the shore. Jack must be mindful, not greedy and jump off before his board hits the sandy ledge. I am not as nervous as I once was when he started.  I also have a plan for if he hits his head and needs me.  But in just a few weeks he will pack up his boards and move from Colorado to San Diego and will be out of reach again.  There is no protecting your kids when they are in their twenties, they belong to a bigger sea not a little cove.  My Maryland beach chair will perch itself deep in the shed for a fall which Jack will miss for the first time in his life. “Mom, to be in the water like this… this is where God is for me. I need to live near the ocean.”  He told me this not long after he caught his first wave in ocean city. True to his word he has created a life that will allow for just that.

So I sit here in my loving shade and watch all these devotees out with their water God. The setting sun lights their beautiful, tan, strong shoulders.  They bob in the water along with one eye on the horizon, the other on each other.  There are so many rules of etiquette in the cue for taking a wave.  My son is back out there again and floats respectfully just outside of the pack, waiting .  Their feet dangle and feel for things that swim deep beneath them.  They are not afraid, Jack is very patient and I am learning to sit a far distance away.



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