The Be-atch Where I Live

My life is a litany of mistakes. Seriously. I’m out here on the western edge clinging for dear life. 32 years ago I married a man. He and I moved out here from Colorado for his job. He left twenty years ago, and I stayed. Blessing? Curse? I don’t know and I don’t even know WHY I stayed!

But SURFING is the perfect metaphor for living in California. Sometimes the tide is in, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a record high tide, and it’s dangerous, and the expert surfers are out on the south facing beaches waiting. Some of us might hang out on a pier watching the swells and thinking, “It looks exactly the same. There’s just more of it.” Sometimes it’s flat and frustrating, and anyone who goes out just bobs on the surface waiting for a break that will absolutely NOT come that day. (That’s me.) The thing is, NO ONE stops looking at the ocean. Hotel California?

After thirty years, the mentality has seeped into my intrinsically mountain mentality. The surfer waits. The mountain person finds another way around, chooses a better day, or (if this is the goal) makes the summit or dies. In my mind, the mountain person acts on the world. The world acts on the surfer. If there’s no surf, most surfers go home. Surfers have friends, but it’s every man/woman for him/herself out there when a wave comes. Going into the high mountains, most of us are NOT Reinhold Messner. We need to be roped in; we need to be able to trust our team with our lives. Surfers help each other, too, but because the medium is different, for surfers help is often a desperate effort attempting rescue.

One is not better than the other. I’m not even sure I like one better than the other. I watch surf films and climbing films. I have surfed and I have climbed. Both are fun, but I would vastly prefer to feel rock under me and see it in front of me than water. And, today, these days, I think I made a mistake coming here in the first place, another mistake staying as long as I have. While WP would like me to write about how this mistake has been a blessing, how can I reduce 30 years of my life into a simple “blessing” or “curse”? It all depends on how I CHOOSE to look at it. As my mom said over and over, “You have to take the good with the bad, honey.”

Sometimes there is no surf. There are always mountains. What’s a mountain person going to do in a world like this? Was it a mistake to stay here so long? Why did I?

“Neither Far Out nor in Deep”
Robert Frost

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be—
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Occasionally it’s like this:


Most of the time like this:

3 thoughts on “The Be-atch Where I Live

  1. I grew up on an island and we went to the beach every week, so when I moved away, all I wanted to see were mountains and hear the wind rustle the leaves in the trees. You’re so lucky to have both – whether you look to the ocean or towards land. And I loved that you included the Robert Frost poem. I’ve never read it before even though he’s one of my favorite poets.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment — I think wherever we are, we wish we were somewhere else and none of these questions is as basic as landscape.

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