Riding the gentlest of waves

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It had grown late, but I couldn't bring myself to get out of the warm Gulf Coast waters of Florida. Working with children all day left me little time to be alone with my thoughts, so I found a calming solitude in my evening surf outings.

I made it an after-work tradition to drive directly from the house where I took care of three children to the beach to check the waves. My only stop on the way was a brief detour by my apartment, where I paused just long enough to change clothes and grab my surfboard and a towel.

Upon reaching my surf checkpoint this evening, I had found the waves less than surfable. These conditions would normally have sent me packing. But the calm water, instead of disappointing me, seemed to invite me to paddle out.

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I parked my car and walked a short distance to the small waves lightly breaking on the sand. Somewhere between my car and the water my ears lost track of the traffic noise and caught hold of the sound of the surf. Nearing the water's edge, I set my surfboard down for a moment to ask myself what I was doing here when surfing was so obviously not a possibility. A thirst for the refreshment I got from surfing overrode any concern. I quickly strapped my surfing leash to my ankle and sloshed out into the water.

Once settled onto my board, I began paddling. That's when it started. Peace. I was leaving the world behind. It was as though the water had a life completely separate from the land, and I was no longer capable of feeling anything related to stress, frustration, or schedule. Reaching the edge of the wooden pier that stuck out into the water like an extended arm, I let my own arms relax and sat up on my board to take a look around.

Scanning the beach and the water around me, I saw no one. I was completely alone, in a moment only I owned. I caught sight of my car, patiently standing at its post, the only lifeguard on duty. Looking farther, I saw the beachfront road I'd traveled. Sitting out in the water, I felt somehow more alive and more aware of life than the people rushing by in their air-conditioned cars, filled with the noise of pulsating stereos, completely unaware of the beauty only a few steps away.

Now the sun had set, and I was left in its afterglow. The early-night moon hung above me, bathing everything in its beauty, peace, and freshness. I took a deep breath and tried to hold the warmth of the tropical air in my lungs. Sitting in the water and looking in on the shore had given me the distance necessary to quiet the shouting of responsibilities and duties. Now I could hear the whispers of things that really mattered.

I sat and reflected, sometimes squirting water through my fisted hands. I allowed myself all the time I needed to completely recharge. I saw the perfect whiteness of waves hitting the glowing sand of the beach. On the horizon, a barely visible thin line of dark sky was merging with the ever-so-slightly-darker ocean.

I sat a few moments longer, completely absorbed in a moment with no yesterdays or tomorrows, just the satisfaction of the present.

Hints of tomorrow's responsibilities and the rumble of an empty stomach began to intrude on the moment. Two hours after having stepped onto the sand, it was time to paddle in. Reluctantly, I leaned forward and dipped my hands into the warm ocean water.

I reached the shore, slid from my board, and stood on the pebbly sand. Trotting out from the calm surf with my board held above my head, I felt a refreshed sense of calm. I hoped to carry this outlook with me into the days that followed.

Noisy cars began to override the calming lull of the ocean waves as I neared the road and civilization. Still dripping with water, I glanced back and took in the landscape one last time. I clamped my surfboard to the roof rack and climbed inside my car. With one click of the radio knob, this moment would be but a memory.

For the time being, I decided, radio was an invention best left untouched. With my windows rolled down, I merged my car onto the road and began the slow journey home to the music of the evening breeze. The distractions of tomorrow would come, but there was no need to help them along.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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