Sunday, December 27, 2009

Write of Passage - Day 6

August 7, 2009: Crescent City, CA--Morning on the Coast

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

I woke up this morning, early, before daylight. By nature, I'm not one who ever goes back to sleep once I'm awake. When I'm up, I'm up. Nevertheless, I knew for a fact that going back to sleep today was out of the question. It wasn't even a consideration. Waiting for us just beyond
the threshold of our hotel door, were treasures like we have never seen before. The mighty Pacific ocean was less than a stone's throw away; the towering Redwood National Forest was just down the road. There was so much to see today, so much to touch, taste, smell, and breathe in. I wondered how a single day was going to hold it all. Was it even possible? Yes, today was going to be huge. There was no way I was staying in bed for one more minute of it.
I slipped from beneath my covers, and padded my way softly to the balcony, sliding open the small glass door. The sound of waves gently washing over the rocky shore, was like beautifully orchestrated music, being played for those who were awake to listen. I couldn't see the water yet, but it wouldn't be long before the morning sun brought it to full light.
I knew then where I needed to be. I had to be on the shoreline, when this day broke open. The water's edge was pulling on me as surely as the moon pulls on the ocean's tide.
It would have been easy to let Cote sleep, to let her stay inside the warmth of her dreams. I could have quietly slipped out of the room, and explored the coast in solitude, in silent meditation and morning prayer. But Cote and I had come so far together. I couldn't walk out without first waking her up, asking if she wanted to join me. I went back inside and shook her gently.
"Cote, it's morning. It's early, really early, but I'm going to go down to the water. Do you want to come with me?"
"What? What time is it?"
"Not quite 6. But I want to be down there before the sun comes up. You don't have to go, but I didn't want to leave without asking you."
"No. I think I'll stay here. Is that alright?"
"Yeah, that's fine. It's just that we've come all this way, to reach the west coast. I just have to be out there, I have to see it. I don't want to miss any of it."
A heavy sigh escaped from beneath the blanket.
"Hold on. I'm coming with you...."
We didn't even get dressed. What for? This morning wasn't about trying to make a good impression on was instead about impressing the beauty of nature on our hearts, as we continued to keep this rite of passage real and true. We slipped on our sandals, and headed downstairs, dressed in our comfy pajama pants and sweatshirts. We made one quick stop at the breakfast counter, which was still closed, but a thermos of hot coffee was waiting for those early risers in need of a quick caffeine kick. I grabbed a cup and took it along with me.
As Cote and I stepped outside, the light of day was just beginning to break. We climbed over the grassy embankment, and gingerly picked our way over pebbles and driftwood to the water's edge. Without saying a word, we knew what had to be done first.
Standing side by side, we simultaneously dipped our toes into the mighty Pacific. The chilly water had us squealing with delight, as it rippled around our feet. Multi-colored stones sparkled back up at us, each one like a tiny, tempting jewel. We were here. Finally. We were as far west as the open road was going to take us. But nothing about this trip was over. In life, nothing is ever really "over." The landscape just changes. The path may curve, the road may fork, or in our case, even end. But the possibilities in life remain as vast and wide as the ocean of blue stretching out before us. Endings, after all, are just new beginnings, waiting to happen. Cote and I could stand together upon this shoreline and look back at how far we'd come, as well as look forward to all that was yet to be.
It was while we were looking forward, that the most amazing thing happened. In the grey mist of morning, with the sun slowly kissing both the surface of the water and the boulders that dotted the shoreline, the rocks began to move! Cote and I couldn't believe our eyes! We pointed and squinted, and pointed some more. How could this be? What was happening?
Finally, the sun broke through strong enough to fade the hazy mist, and into full view came harbor seals. Tons of them......right before our very eyes! They stretched and yawned, and groaned and grunted. They had been there the whole time, waiting to add a whole new dimension to our ever-changing landscape. But who knew? Once again, the possibilities of life seemed endless before us. Cote and I stood in silent awe for several minutes, watching as these majestic creatures came to life, bold and beautiful.
Finally, with an empty coffee cup now in hand, Cote and I were ready to explore the shoreline and scavenge the beach for the most unusual rocks we could find. We drifted in between and around the huge boulders that rose up out of the water like giant sea
creatures rising from the deep. We climbed a few, we slid our fingers across their slippery surface, and we peeked inside cracks and crevices so as not to miss a thing. We met a local woman out walking her dog, and we stumbled upon a few "fishermen" wading in thigh high water, poking poles under the massive rock formations. We had no clue what they were fishing for. So after casually watching for a bit and not seeing them pull anything from the water, we thought what the heck, and decided to shout out and ask. Eels, they replied. They were fishing for eels, which hide beneath the rocks when the tide goes back out to sea. They made good eating, or so the young fisherman claimed. We exchanged a few more shouted questions and answers, and then Cote and I bid our thanks and wished them good luck.
We explored more of the coastline and then eventually wound our way back to where we started, the beach in front of our hotel. There was something here that Cote and I had seen earlier when we first climbed over the grassy embankment, that we were anxious to get back and take a closer look at. It was a stick shelter, made from large pieces of driftwood.
It looked like a small wooden hut. When we first stepped on to the beach at daybreak, two young people, a guy and a girl, seemed to have staked a claim upon it. They sat on the pebbly shore, close to the structure, but not exactly close to each other. Now they were gone, nowhere in sight, so Cote and I circled around the driftwood hut and then stepped inside.
Someone had spent the night here.
There was a small makeshift fire pit, and a fast-food wrapper wadded up in a ball. A couple of log stools were pushed back against the "wall" and there was enough space to spread out a sleeping bag. Maybe the young
(18-20 year old?) rumpled couple we had seen earlier, had done just this. Spent the night here. Maybe they were homeless. Maybe they were adventure-seekers. Maybe they were locals who snuck out for the night. Or maybe they were just passing through town and needed a free place to stay. We didn't know their story, but like everyone else in the world, we were sure they had one.
Our morning continued on in this relaxed, easy fashion. Cote and I explored and talked, we collected rocks and spoke of life's possibilities. We finally went back inside the hotel, with grumbling tummies, to grab a bite to eat. We sat down in front of the huge plate glass windows, overlooking the ocean, a view we couldn't get enough of, and one that filled us in a way food never could.
Before long, the rumpled young man returned, wandering back from down the shoreline. He was alone, with his head bent low, almost as if he was studying the very ground he walked upon. Cote was interested in him. Being close in age, she wanted to know what brought him here, where he was from, and where he might be going.
"Go talk to him," I said.
"What? No way. I couldn't. What would I say?"
"I don't know. Just walk out there. See what happens. "
"I'm scared. What if he thinks I'm weird, or what if the girl shows up and thinks I'm hitting on him?"
"But you're not, Cote. And you're in a safe place. You're in front of a hotel full of people. I'll be sitting right here if you need anything. If you're curious, go out there. Strike up a conversation if it feels right. If it doesn't, just sit there and take in the ocean. If you don't at least try, you'll always wonder what might have happened if you did. Think about it. What do you have to lose? And what do you stand to gain?"
She went. And I watched in amazement, as my daughter walked outside, stepped over the embankment, and took the trail leading down to the water. She would face this fear head on, all on her own. She wouldn't be holding anyone's hand, nor would she have the luxury of someone beside her, adding a buffer zone to any possible embarrassment she may encounter. She had only herself to fall back on. But in doing so, she stood the chance to discover a strength inside herself that was there all along.
I opened my journal, and began to make a few sketches. I pretended my mind was focused on the page in front of me, and not on my eldest child who at that very moment was out in the world all alone. I forced myself to give her time--I forced myself to trust, and I let her go just a little bit more. I looked at my watch, and then turned to look out over the ocean. The embankment blocked her from my view. I took a deep breath, and imagined myself glued to the chair beneath me. I fought the urge to follow. Because really, if I couldn't give her this much, how would I ever let her leave for college in just three short weeks?
After a respectable amount of time (by whose standards, I'm not saying), I gathered up my things, refilled my coffee cup and headed out to find her. She was sitting quietly on a large piece of driftwood, all alone, and lost in thought. The rumpled girl had returned. She was down shore with rumpled boy. They were near the shelter, but still not really near each other. I went and sat next to Cote, curious as to what had happened.
"I didn't talk to him."
"No? Why not?"
"Well, I waited for a bit and just kind of watched to see if he might be open to either of us saying something. But he kept his head down, and then the girl came back. I thought about going up to the both of them, but it just didn't feel right. So I sat down here instead."
"That's OK, Cote. You followed your gut, and that's a good thing. You gave it a shot, so there's no regrets, right? Think about it.....that's more than what a lot of people would have done."
"I know. It's just that I would still like to know their story. I bet they have a lot of interesting stuff going on."
"Yeah, I bet you're right. I bet they do."
We sat there a while longer, not wanting to end the ebb and flow of either the ocean or our thoughts. It had been a magical morning. Full of newfound discoveries, about the world and about some of those who live in it, ourselves included. When the time seemed right, Cote and I stood up, headed back to our room, and got ready for the rest of our day. We had towering trees waiting for us down the road. The ocean had given us the opportunity to look forward, straight out into the horizon, and then back again inside ourselves. The redwoods would draw our eyes upward, towards the very heavens themselves.
I couldn't even begin to imagine what kind of gifts would be waiting for us there.

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Powerful Words

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. ~Kahlil Gibran