Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Image and written content
Image and written content
Life is a whirlwind; a maelstrom where we are thrown hither and yon by the storm of events that constitute the days of our lives. Caught irretrievably in the eye of those storms, we yearn for a measure of peaceful silence. But most of the time, that longing remains frustratingly unrequited. We do take those periods we call "vacations," but instead we squeeze a whole summer's worth of activities into two weeks meant for rest, relaxation, and recharging, and return to work exhausted.
For both of us, it has been a stressful time. Losing one job, gaining another, selling one house, buying another, leaving one life behind, and trying to assimilate life in a new location. We both work in high-pressure vocations where a mistake carries a cost in human life. In addition, winter for me is...well...tough sledding while I suffer daily from PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome). Thus deprived of my best method of stress relief, I'm left to muddle through till spring.
We did, however, make time for a trip to California. But not for vacation. Our oldest daughter and her husband are in the last chapter of what has been a troubled marriage. Divorce in inevitable. They have three small boys, two of them autistic and the third recovering from an open heart surgery when he was one year old. Hovering over them all is a shroud of mourning for a daughter who left this life at the tender age of six months. We knew that the tension in the air would be thick as the two of them struggled to maintain a veneer of civility.
The stress of the trip was ameliorated by California itself. That first day, we left Dulles in a light snowfall. Hours later, we stood in a city park wearing shorts and t-shirts under a clear sky reveling in the glory of a 72-degree day. Virginia, with it's cold, snow, and hard work seemed so very far away.
One evening, we drove down to Laguna Beach. This is a typical seaside community, populated by an eclectic mix of the very wealthy and the very wierd. We arrived about 30 minutes before sunset, the refreshing smell of the Pacific was in the air. Following a winding path, we made our way to an overlook. Down below, gulls and pelicans dotted the rugged rocks, occasionally lifting off to glide gracefully on the unseen winds along the cliffs.
This was my ocean, insofar as a human can lay claim to a piece of his home planet. for ten years, I crossed and recrossed this body of water bound for long months of arduous duty and exotic ports of call. I came to know the Pacific. I saw her in all her moods, from peaceful calm to violent storm. I knew the awe of her waves and the peace of her sunsets, sharing those Great Waters with giant whales, graceful dolphins, and silvery darts of flying fish jetting from our bow wave.
On this evening, I stood and watched the sun slide slowly towards the horizon. The grey clouds of the ever-present marine layer formed pockets through which beams of golden light lanced skyward and seaward. Beneath it all, the sea pulsed the steady rolling and crashing of the waves.
I was lost in the magnificence of the moment. The mighty ocean then seemed to reach out and embrace me. The fear and frustration that had been such a burden drained away, leaving me feeling peaceful and blessed. In the ceaseless whisper of her waves I could hear her voice telling me, "It'll be okay."
The sun had set, but the sky was still lit with the gentle purples of dusk. From the west, night was rolling in on the surf. The air had turned chilly, my hands becoming cold and stiff. But I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay there forever.
It was only a moment; a respite. Life, with all of its complexities and challenges, had to go on. So reluctantly, I turned my back on the Pacific and returned to my life.
But it was a different man who walked back up that hill. In the words of screenwriter Larry Ferguson, "the sea had granted me new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home."