Time, Resistance and Sea Mammals

Okay - so I'm definitely struggling with time as I set out with this blog project.  Between two trips this month and the upcoming star performance in A Midsummer Night's Dream of a certain 13 year old who failed to memorize her lines until the last minute (and still managed to pull off two major parts--King Oberon and Demetrius--in two separate casts), I've been swamped.  It's the same old problem of juggling house and home while trying to get work done in that same home. And then, when I do have a few hours to spare, there's so much more to do than could possibly fit in such a small time slot! And now the holidays arrive...sigh... I'll talk more about my issues with time in another post. About this ongoing conflict between doing what I want to do vs. what I end up doing. Which I think raises the question: what do I really want to be doing? It's definitely a familiar obstacle for me as I know it is for many people. I'm determined to figure it out, though. I will track breakthroughs. But for now, I'll just note for the sleuth notes: not enough time!

And while I'm noting obstacles, I must include resistance — fear. I'm still circling around the idea of filling blank pages with images. A whole new language for me, this visual journal thing. I haven't quite dropped down to set my marks...It's tough to begin something — to be a beginner, knowing it's going to suck at first.

Now I ask you: if a baby knew she was going to fall every time she stood up to walk, would she go ahead and do it anyway? Well, okay, maybe the answer is yes.  Maybe — even without higher order reasoning skills —the baby knows she will fall, but she risks it anyway because she must walk.  But she also knows — expects — that when she pulls herself up to table height, the table will hold her grab. And when she takes her first step away from the table, she makes that first leap of faith towards mom or dad waiting with open arms.

Risk taking involves some kind of faith, that's all I'm saying.

So here is where I am at the beginning of this journey: on the floor. I admit it.

My goal is to set out to find my neglected artist. To commit time to capturing some of what she sees and imagines and perhaps understands (more than me). To date, so much of life washes up, but then because I do nothing with what breaks onto the surface of what I perceive, ideas go back out and away.

The trick, I think, is to take what breaks the surface and not let it go.

So here's one

I was driving south with E last week past Santa Barbara to Ventura on that piece of Hwy 101 that lingers by the ocean. I mean, the ocean sidles right up to the road, the sand just a few feet away from the far right lane where I drove as slowly as one can on a freeway. The late November afternoon sun cast gold flecks across the Pacific spread out before us all the way to the horizon. The ocean literally glittered on this beautiful fall day.

Closer in, seagulls coasted on the blue-green swells and I caught sight of a surfer in black neoprene reluctantly extracting himself and his board from the water onto the sand.

I don't think I imagined his sag as I whizzed by in my car. Here was a guy who threw himself into the ocean on a weekday afternoon. Someone local, of course. Someone who arranged his life so that he could dunk himself in the waves on weekdays as often and for as long as possible. While some of us might balk at dipping our toes in the frigid water, here's a guy who head to toe doesn't want out.

I often watch surfers from the shore as they paddle the ocean surface, drift in the seaweed and then suddenly one shoots forward, upright and fast through a curling wave. Surfers ride the waves, harness themselves to the power and propulsion of seawater. It's something to watch.

Surfer in Manhattan Beach

But it must be something else, entirely, to be.

And as I drove by I thought about what keeps a guy like this coming back day after day. Rising at dawn, plunging into the frigid wetness, rocking and paddling and riding for hours until cold and exhaustion force him to return to land. And I think I understand.

It's to be in it.

In it. Fully.

A sea mammal in the breathing, rocking, hissing, lapping sea.

And I wondered, miles later: at what point did that surfer recognize that those moments spent in ocean were worth more than just about anything else? A steady paycheck, maybe, a snug home. Maybe a secure old age. I don't know. This I'm imagining. What he may or my not have given up. Probably he just never left the ocean — he couldn't imagine leaving he loved it so — and then all other choices fell like dominoes.

And then I realized as the highway veered away from the water and towards the Santa Monica mountains that it's not that difficult to see why someone chooses a life like that. To be transformed, consumed, transported before getting dragged back, once again a wet, shivering human.

In conflict with time. And fear. Probably.