Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Our children got to experience many amazing things on our recent three-and-a-half-week road trip, including real ocean waves.

I grew up in Maryland, near the Atlantic, and we spent a week or two at the beach every year. I took riding the waves for granted—from an early age, I knew the timing, how to read currents, that rough days leave a lot of sand in your suit. I can tell you my worst “dump” story—I waited a bit too long and got churned by the water so badly I thought I was swimming up until I hit sand. I have an undertow story, too.

I respect the water and I love it. There’s no thrill like matching yourself against a mighty force of nature. I loved hanging with my siblings at the beach, teaching all our kids what my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncle had taught us. First and always, watch the water. Never turn your back on it, but also notice everything—the timing, the slant of the waves, if they crest quickly or build slowly. And if you’re tired, get out.

Of course, moving in and out of the water gets tricky—that’s the part where you have to cross the breakers, fast. Last week, both our kids got dumped pretty thoroughly while crossing the breakers. I felt glad it happened early in the week. That way, they knew to respect the water, but they had time to learn to enjoy it afterward, too.

I’ve come back from our indescribably wonderful trip with strings of memories and images piled up in my mind, a delightful pile of souvenirs to enjoy. The metaphor of the ocean has stuck with me, though, popping up frequently in the last day or so.

The last forty-eight hours (Really? Only two days?) have been enlightening. As I’ve tried to catch the rhythm of my pre-vacation life, I’ve realized something. I’ve been fighting a cold, choppy sea for a couple of years now. I’ve had my eyes on the incoming waves, but I’ve forgotten to check in with myself. After a couple of weeks off, a couple of weeks to be rather than to do, I realized something else. I’m tired. Dangerously so.

So, I’m in the process of making my way to a blanket on the sun-warmed sand, sprinting as hard as I can to make it between the breakers. And you know what? Yesterday, I got caught. A series of waves smacked me and dumped me on my head. And my tail. And my head.

I feel like I’m wading out now, but I keep checking over my shoulder for incoming waves. The beach waits; I’m almost there. I think my rubbery knees will carry me that far. I keep telling myself that last slog through rushing water, then wet sand, then deep, loose sand can be the hardest, but I’m almost there.

Almost there.

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