Savoring the Waves

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 11.32.19 PMAs I sat at the beach today, watching people anticipating incoming waves, scoping out the size and potential for each, the eagerness in their faces resonated with me. I remember so well, as a child, staying in the ocean for hours on end, excited by the waves, strategizing how to best handle the really big ones – and enjoying the thrill of that perfect ride.

Even when a giant wave took hold, wrestling me into its powerful presence, leaving me a bit scared, a bit discombobulated, I never quit. I kept going back for more.

That’s what struck me today too. That combined challenge and thrill, no matter how big the wave and the kids especially kept going back for more, again and again.

That’s not true for everyone I saw today – and it wouldn’t be at any other time.

Some of us are content to sit on the shore, to build carefully planned-out sand castles. To bring the ocean to us instead via pails to fill dug-out holes and elaborate waterways, safely on the sand.

In time, we learned the tide could come up and swiftly swallow our handiwork whole. For those who feared the ocean’s power, to begin with, this had to be a terrifying reality of the destruction only imagined before.

If you were one of the kids who sat on the sand, maybe you watched the others on their boogie boards or those simply body surfing in the spray. Did you envy them their carefree behavior or think they were crazy to exhibit such a lack of caution with the waves?

As someone most often chest-deep in the ocean, always past the desired up-to-your-waist-only-please put forth by my parents, I remember the icy plunge diving headfirst into oversized Humarock Beach waves, over and over again. I recall the feeling of coasting smoothly astride the softer tall waves, generally found in the aftermath of a behemoth monster that, just prior, crashed violently over our heads.

Do you remember being tossed and turned, like some errant piece of seaweed with nothing to cling to or be clasped on by? Water rushing up your nose, taking away your breath and bringing a sting to your sinuses, throat, and eyes?

Did you then head to shore, to the comfort of your towel, perhaps even your mother’s arms? Or did you shake it off; sure you wouldn’t let another catch you off guard?

Yet no matter how well-thought out your plan was for the next big one, in spite of the best preparation, you learned that we don’t have much control when and where that wave will break. Sometimes it’s timed perfectly, gently washing over us giving us a bit of a chill at worst – and other times, we’re too close to do anything but brace ourselves for what’s to come and do our best to stand firmly on our feet or at least stay afloat as the wave rushes over us.

But still, for many of us, we stay in the water, sensing potential challenges. We’re almost disappointed when the wave is suddenly small and far too easy to manage.

I’m reminded today, that while the smaller challenges can indeed provide a smooth, satisfying outcome and experience, it’s the bigger ones, the waves that can go a million different ways, that can provide us with the greatest thrill of all – and more satisfaction than an easy ride ever could.

That’s always the one that makes me feel most alive, and in realizing that simple truth, it certainly explains a lot for me.

Lessons sure present themselves at the most interesting times, even during a peaceful afternoon at the beach.

That Crooked Little Finger

I171764_10150178509391959_584942_ot was his pinkie finger that took my breath away. I literally gasped when I saw it. The man himself was fairly nondescript, on TV talking about something—I have no idea what—wearing a billed cap and casual outdoorsy clothes. He was a middle-aged man that I noticed out of the corner of my eye while tidying up my living room. For some reason, the peripheral scene suddenly captured my full focus for a second or two—and then I gasped as his hand came into view.

There was his littlest finger, different from the rest; not just smaller, but crooked, bent at the knuckle joint midway, frozen in its misshapen stance. He couldn’t straighten it if he tried—I know that, because I tried to straighten my father’s pinkie countless times throughout my childhood, convinced that if I just pushed down on it gently enough or maybe this time, firm enough, I could make that finger straight again. It fascinated me.

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