I watched the sun rise from the sidewalk behind the Dolphin house, at which I have made my bed for the last two nights. The quarters here at Pigeon Point have names like that: Dolphin, Pelican, Seal. I have stayed in Dolphin both times. I prefer it. With its own kitchen, an accessible shower and lavatory, and proximity to the office and walkway to the sea, it suits me.
I leave the sea today. I head up the coast, take a right turn at Half Moon Bay, and travel the long way to Palo Alto. I would not mind going the mountain view route but I want to stay by the sea as long as possible. While I enjoyed my two days in Marin County — and my lunch with a fellow Rotarian in San Rafael — the sea draws me here, with its rolling sound, its heavy air, its powerful presence.
I watched a para-surfer ride those rolling waves yesterday. From my bench on the ridge behind the hostel, the surfer’s body seemed minuscule, and the waves thundering against the beach terrified me. The surfer’s sail leaped and jerked in the powerful current of the air above the ocean. I alternated between terror and admiration. My stomach lurched. How brave! How brave! I could never be so brave.
I wind-surfed once, in my carefree misspent youth. My boyfriend at the time hailed from Martha’s Vineyard. We flew to Boston and drove south to the island for a week of vacation in the cool of early summer. We wore hooded sweatshirts, his over shorts, mine over capris, and sat in his stepfather’s boat drinking mugs of cider. His sister Claire and her husband Roger took us around the island to show me everything they loved about living on the Vineyard.
One afternoon, the three of them took turns riding the waves on the ocean side of Edgarton. I sat in the boat, admiring their prowess and wishing for stronger legs. But Roger said,, Come, do this too, Corinne; I’ll help you. His brother-in-law scoffed. She can’t do that, she’s crippled, and suddenly I could not demur.
With the skeptical one at the helm, ordered to hold the boat still by Roger, Claire held my hand as I stepped out of my sandals and over the side of the boat. Roger stood on the surfboard holding it steady, reaching with one hand for mine. I straddled the board’s smooth wet surface and placed my hands where Roger showed me. Then Roger moved away, back into the boat, holding everything, letting me drift a bit and then, I felt myself move off the side of the boat and into the waves’ grip.
I lasted only a few minutes before I felt myself topple, but Roger anticipated this and leaped from the boat to scoop my body back to safety while Claire steadied the sails of the surfboard. My body shuddered as I fell into a seat, laughing, my wild long hair flying. Claire and Roger crowed, gleeful, ecstatic, while Claire’s brother guided the boat back to the harbor without speaking. As we tied the boat and climbed to the boardwalk, I saw my boyfriend glaring at his brother-in-law; and felt a different kind of lurching in my stomach — not from the exhilaration of riding the waves but fear — and confusion — and dread.
Later I asked him: Why did that upset you? He told me: I wasn’t upset, I just did not want you hurt.
I never believed him. Some people want you to soar; some people want you to stand on solid ground, watching, waiting, letting life happen without you.
The house has awakened. One traveler has warmed soup in a pot and sits in the living room, preparing to resume his bike ride from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. Another made fresh coffee; and a woman from the house next door which does not have a kitchen, stands watching the sea from the window, waiting for the kettle to boil. The gentle sea speaks to me from a slight crack in the window. I yield to its call.
It’s the twenty-eighth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. I had an emotional meltdown on Friday, driving down the coast. I let myself find quiet yesterday; and I hope to carry that peacefulness with me today as I drive to the third and final leg of this journey. Life continues.