Walking home Sunday night, the boardwalk was very busy. I walked past a dozen little vignettes - people both strange and ordinary doing things just as weird or quotidian.
"You must be related to James Brown!" "As a matter of fact, I am!"
"You headed home, you need help?"
"Mira, mira. No se!"
At the spot where my little walk up late meets the beach, the drum circle was going. It was huge. It's big every weekend, but this was the biggest I'd seen it. Hundreds of people - so big that the bonfire and circle of candles they were playing around were obscured by their bodies, though its orange glow was still evident, blazing skyward above them. I walked out and leaned against the last palm tree before the sand of the beach itself. I listened to the group drumming - they sounded better and more cohesive than usual. Whatever mojo they were raising, they were raising a lot of it.
I watched the ocean. The moon was high in the sky, almost directly overhead, half-full. The ocean by night was the color of tarnished silver. Where the light of the moon touched the wavetops, the tarnish disappears, and the water becomes a gleaming silver. The silver looks so solid that I could walk out on it, an argent road out into ... where? I listen, and the ocean is trying to tell me. But I come no closer, and eventually go home.
This morning I got up very early - a combination of daylight savings time and cat shenanigans. Rather than roll over, I remembered a line by Rumi; "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep." I got up and headed out for the beach. The funny thing is - I've lived right by the water for more than a month now, and I haven't yet walked all the way down to the water. Why? I don't know, I was waiting for something. Not today. The breeze at dawn. The ocean has secrets to tell me.
Venice is a very wide beach. The trudge across the shifting sands was hard work. From the boardwalk, I couldn't even hear the ocean - beach reclamation vehicles were working back and forth, and their motors were loud. All the way across, the bank slopes steeply down to the high-tide mark. Here, the voice of the ocean was all there was to be heard. "Roar - crash. Roar - crash." The water was a slate grey color, very nearly the same as the foggy sky. The waves were small and sulky. "Where have you been? Hmmph. Where have you been? Hmmph." I stood for a long while - I had meant to look for beach glass, but instead I just listened to the waves. A pelican landed not too far away, and huddled, sullen; floating on the waves. A little bird with a long beak like a drinking straw dashed down to the edge of the water, hurriedly pecking away as the waves retreated. When the water coursed back, the bird skittered back up the slope, indignant. He twittered with every lap. Behind me, two tall grey birds, probably plovers, walked along side by side. One opened its beak and chased the other - who fled, head lowered. But they never got further apart, and never closer together. Always side by side, even as one chased the other. It's the company that matters, even if you have to peck them.
Eventually the waves picked up. The undertow was so fierce it formed a second breaker underneath the whitetop crashing over its head. This is unlike the Atlantic - the riptide here is strong, the Pacific wants to carry you out to its bosom. A line of pelicans skimmed over the water, just inches above the troughs and the waves. Their captain led the way, gliding with hardly any wing beats at all. As they passed, the other pelican that had been resting out on the water took off; a marked contrast to the graceful file that had just slipped by - his flapping was ungainly and laborsome. Seagulls wheeled overhead, and a cormorant, too.
A man walked by and broke the spell. He called out a cheery, "Good morning!" which I returned. Yes indeed, good morning. The ocean has secrets to tell me. Listen. Hear it?
On the way to work, I passed two different murals, both bright and cheery caricatures - and both with the words, "Remember who you are." painted into the upper right hand corner.
Remember who you are. Do you remember? I'm thinking.