Some Saturday nights, we drive to ocean towns after the sun has set, and delicately climb down concrete stairs to the beach, lit only by the light of our cell phones, careful not to take them too fast and fall.
Once on the sand, we take off our shoes, passing families gathered around bonfires, intent on making our way to the unpopulated shore. We are not here for marshmallows or crowds--we are here for the ocean, the vast night sky, and the sound of water rushing towards us.
On this particular evening, I make my way to the water and gingerly place my toes in the surf, bracing myself for the sting of the cold.
But tonight, the water is warm, & so instead of letting out a squeal, I stretch my arms up and out, as if to embrace the sky.
There aren't very many places in Southern California dimly lit enough to see the stars; even fewer places this quiet. The moon is such a thin sliver that I think if I blew on it, it would scatter and dissolve like a dandelion.
I've written before about my childlike love of the beach, & it's possible I love it even more at night than during the day. There's no crowd, no bass from a stereo nearby, no concern about whether or not we put enough quarters in the parking meter.
No, not at night. Everything is open and quiet and the only sound is the water lapping on to the sand and then retreating, over and over and over again.
I take a deep breath of ocean air in an attempt to still my heart and be fully present in the moment; to sink into the sensation of wet sand between my toes and the cool breeze on my face and the presence of my sweet friends beside me--the kind of friends who understand the need to stand ankle deep in the ocean under the cover of stars.
I'm remembering how to feel, albeit in fits and spurts.
It comes when I am least expecting it; while in a coffee shop, driving down the freeway, or with my feet in the warm water of the Pacific. In these moments, I want to sing and cry and shout, I want to both stand in silence and laugh until my sides ache, all at the same time.
In the same heartbeat I am mourning but hopeful, remembering but moving forward.
I am coming home, ever so slowly, to myself, taking up residence once again in these limbs and this heart and this imperfect but beautiful life.
“...eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in…
And you will be heart-shaken and respectful. " (Mary Oliver)