Belief, Beer and Tide Pools

The sky remains cold and damp as I fiddle with my windshield wipers intermittent timer. Too fast, then too slow and constantly falling out of time with the songs on the radio. Even though it’s late afternoon the gray skies and drifting fog gives this dreary day a sleepy morning feeling.  I pull into the parking lot of an ancient looking motel and double check my GPS to confirm if this indeed is the Ocean Spray motel. I begin to have second thoughts about saving fifty bucks by making reservations at a place that only has three out of five stars. Never trust the glowing comments made about an establishment on the internet. No one, or nothing is what it appears to be on the internet. Anyone who’s tried their luck on one of those internet dating sights can attest to this. I figured that after I downed three beers my motel arrangements wouldn’t appear so shabby. Beer makes life’s intolerable events bearable. 

The old gal behind the registration counter stares out at me through thick eyeglasses that gave her the look of a bulging eyed goldfish. From the back room, which I surmised is her living quarters, I can hear the familiar voice of Pat Sayjak blathering on about someone buying a vowel.  She tilted her head back and looked down her nose at me. “Is it just you mister, or do you have a lady friend along for the ride?”  There was a bit of sarcasm in her enunciation of the words, “lady friend”. I stared into her exaggerated bulging fisheyes and responded, “No, just me ma’am, just me.”  She offered up a suspicious nod, “Okay, no partying or hell raising allowed, quiet time starts at 10:00 pm and check out no later than 10:00 am.  Here’s your key, room number 12.” She turned and shuffled back into the blue hue of her TV room. 

I open the door to room 12 and I’m greeted by the odor of mildew and the lingering hint of Fraabreeze. It’s a poor attempt at giving this joint an air of respectability. I’m more than sure that these four walls have seen and heard their share of dirty things——(maybe I’ll sleep in my clothes). I crack the window, pop a beer and lean back against the squeaky headboard. In the distance I hear the comforting sound of waves breaking against the rocky shore. The occasional lonely sound of a foghorn gently lulls me into slumber. It calls out a warning to those lost sailers who may be drifting too close to the rocks. These waters with their tricky currents and hidden reefs have pushed many a vessel into the teeth of its rocky shoreline.   

I’ve made my share of memories traveling up and down the northern coast of California, but my favorite memories go back to when I was a kid seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  My lifelong buddy’s name is Patrick and his mother’s name is Jeanne. Jeanne had a big influence on my young life. She’d pile Pat, his sister Erin and me into her 1970 Bonneville and we’d drive westward out of the flat Sacramento Valley. We’d travel through the green lush coastal range making our way to a place on a map where the land gives way to an emerald sea with its endless gray horizon. My god, I remember how those enormous vistas made me feel small. Highway 1 meanders its way along the rugged cliffs and through the stands of mighty old growth sequoias. We’d eventually reach that sea weathered town known as Fort Bragg. Even though fifty years has passed since I first pulled into this town, it appears to have changed very little. It’s a landscape of moss covered picket fences, overgrown berry-bushes and a misty coastline that time seems to have forgotten. Home isn’t where you’re necessarily from, it’s more about being at a place where you feel that you’ve always belonged. I finish off my beers and fall asleep to the sound of breakers crashing on the shore and that sweet song of a foghorn calling out into the darkness.

The next morning I wake early and take my shower in a yellow tile stained stall. I stop at a cafe and grab a hot coffee to go. I’m headed to MacKerricher State park where my tide table guide indicates low tide is at its peak at 5:50 am.  I look at my watch and see that I’m on schedule to get to the tide pools on time.  Out on the horizon I spy a fishing trawler chugging its way north. If I weren’t prone to seasickness, I’d love to be at the helm of that boat. I imagine myself being addressed as captain Sabino by the bartender as I enter the local tavern. After being out to sea for weeks, I envision myself saddling up to the bar and buying a round of drinks for the entire bar. Lost in my fantasy causes me to absentmindedly drive slower than the speed limit, the car behind me impatiently honks, rousing me from my daydream. I think to myself, “Fucking jerk”. 

I pull up into the parking lot of the state park and roll my window down. Man, the smell of the ocean does something to me that makes me involuntarily smile. In the past fifty years there’s been a lot of changes, but this place remains frozen in time. The damp weather is the great equalizer making everything look permanently worn and tired, yet it’s comfortable and unexplainably familiar, like the face of an old friend. Thinking back, I remember Jeanne with her fiery red hair and her strong willed personality. She had an independent streak that fostered a fearlessness in her eyes.  If inadvertently provoked she could have a bit of a temper——you didn’t fuck with Jeanne! She was a feminist before that word had become into vogue. With just her tenacity and a love for nature, she’d haul us kids into her car and we’d head out on spontaneous adventures. We were like a bunch of carefree gypsies rolling down the highway together, playing twenty one questions, singing along with the radio and laughing with a spontaneity that only comes with that rare feeling of being young and free.   

Before the intrusion of smartphones, social networking and 24/7 news cycles, we’d spend an entire day exploring beaches and the woods. I suppose this is gonna make me sound like an old fart, but I do believe life was simpler back in the “olden days”. Kids these days would probably shake their heads and laugh at the notion of being unplugged from the internet for a twenty four hour stretch.That twelve year old boy inside of me is still amazed at the beauty and danger that comes with climbing down the slippery cliffs to the wave sprayed rocks.  It’s a funny thing how beauty and danger seem to go hand in hand. I clamor from one green mossy rock to the next. I peer into the tide pools observing their tiny worlds within. Each tide-pool is a community of sea urchin’s, sea anemones, starfish and skittering rock craps. I stick my finger in the middle of a sea anemone and watch as it closes around me. I lick my dry lips and taste that organic flavor of  sea-salt. The ocean is mother-nature’s womb, the place where life first quivered into existence, evolving from nothingness into everything-ness——what a beautiful mystery to behold.  I’m not sure why it is, but the ocean with it rolling waves and windy cliffs draws us all back to its holy vastness. I watch folks standing silently at the edge of this continent staring introspectively into the hypnotic waves. Couples hold hands as the whistling winds mess their damp hair. I suppose there’s still pieces of us all in those thundering waves. I stroll the beach and see the litter of driftwood and seaweed left behind from where high-tide left its mark. These tides are tied to the pull of the moon phases—-all things supernaturally connected. Nature is my cathedral, my church. 

I climb back in my car and head to the harbor where I’ll have lunch at one of the open air grottos’s. The fishmongers are busy cleaning and laying out the days fresh catch. I smell the fresh fish, deep fried calamari and steaming clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. The glass refrigerated case is filled with squids, abalone and a multitude of different types of fish neatly laid out atop white crushed ice. Behind the counter with its decorative fishing nets and colorful buoys is an old 19 inch TV hanging from the ceiling. It’s hard to believe, but fifty years ago at this very grotto I watched Neil Armstrong on a snowy TV screen utter the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” My god, how many grains of sand have passed through my hour glass since that memorable day? I wish I could turn that hour glass over again and allow me another fifty years.

When I visit a place from the past that changed me, I become engulfed by a tremendous ache deep inside my chest. I’m keenly aware of the impermanence of all things. This life is chaotic and messy, people come and go, people change, memories become irretrievable and the continuum of time splinters and disappears into thin air.  There’s no way of going back from what was, to what is, time only moves in one direction——-forward. Time is like the waves that break on the shore and then recede back into eternity.

I hand my motel key to the googly eyed women at the front desk. She in-quizzically  inquires, “Did ya enjoy your stay? Ya find everything you came for?” I responded in a pensive tone,“I came here to remember something——or maybe more importantly, to once again believe in something.” She leans forward and in a hushed voice asks,“And, what do you believe in?” I pause for a moment as I consider her question, “That each and every day is truly extraordinary. And, if this enormous ocean is possible and real, and if it can be imagined like god can be imagined, then anything and all things are possible. That’s what I believe.”

Tradition

Between routine and randomness there is tradition. Tradition is what pulls the scattered pieces of our lives together and provides us with a sense of belonging and togetherness. We find ourselves in the simple moments that we share with those we love. It’s in the aroma of mom’s pot roast dinners on a cold wintery night, it’s in grandpa’s instructions on the right way of tying a fly, it’s watching the kids on summer days playing at the same beach I once played at as a kid. It’s in the stories the old ones tell about what it was like in the olden days. It’s baked into grandma’s secret peach pie recipe. It’s in keeping memories alive while pairing yesterday with today for the young ones——these are the things that we hand down—-it’s in the reverence of those who’ve passed on and the gift of those tomorrows yet to come.

We’re lured back to the sea, to the beginnings, where it all started. Standing at the edge of this vast American continent, thousands  of lonely miles traveled beyond the stifling east coast, across Great Plains, over the mighty Rockies, beyond the Great Divide, down the Mississippi River, across the Grand Canyon, riding the Colombia River, leading us here——It’s here, the end of everything and the beginning of all new things——what a beautiful journey this life has been.

Salty air on the tip of my tongue, the smell of Eucalyptus trees, the fog rolls in, recedes, then once again comes and goes. Time is a circle, love a straight line fading into infinity. The Pacific Ocean crashes foamy waves in front of me, leaving seaweed, driftwood and seashells scattered at the high tide mark. Like people and the remnants they leave behind. This sea is the womb of mother nature, the place where life was unexpectantly given birth. If eternity had a scent it would be found in the pungent smell of the ocean . We carry the rhythm of her waves in our pulse. 

My family has been coming to this seaside village for generations. I would love to stay here forever, but traditions aren’t meant to be kept, they are intended to be passed on to those still unfolding and finding their own way. It’s at these yearly seaside get-togethers that the young ones learn from where they’re come and what they’re a part of. I’ve been looking for god, but I’ve discovered she has always been here in my friends and family. 

We take our early morning walks out on the old wooden wharf. Somewhere on the planks below, Harbor Seals bark as seagulls circle and fight over scraps . The fog brings us in closer to one another. We have our favorite restaurant with its buttered sourdough bread that’s dipped in a bowl of steaming clam chowder. We scour the nick-knack shops for the perfect keep-sakes. At night we go to the boardwalk with its Big Dipper roller coaster. The young ones raise their arms high in the air as their car careens down the steep winding track. Everything is a blur of bright lights, screams, clammer and electrifying commotion. The old ones go into the confection shop where taffy can be seen stretching like a long string of rubber. Behind the glass a woman is creating gooey homemade chocolate clusters. If one is lucky or skilled enough to knock down lead milk bottles with a baseball, for a moment you can be someones hero—-for five dollars that’s a bargain. We are all kids here once again. Even the oldest and the youngest can ride the Carousel. The Calliope blares out old time songs as we stretch out from our pumping horses to grab the brass rings that we toss at the Clown’s mouth. It’s all bright lights, dizzying motion, loud laughter and the smell of caramel corn—— all incased in the dampness of the ocean’s night air.

We’re always coming back to where we’ve always been, simply sharing time together——-and such is tradition. 

Ghost ships

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Soundtrack “Fire”.  Go to “View Original” and then press play before reading.

Trapped inside ourselves, this is it, the unsolved puzzle we must learn to live with, to struggle with and sometimes against, faith is encrypted with voodoo, the supernatural and magic are difficult to untwine, truth is temporary and dissolving, love like Atlantis lies hidden beneath myth and fantasy. Every love story is a ghost ship——a weary captain keeps night watch—–lost on rolling seas—-why do these tattered sails push us ever closer to the edge——towards oblivion.  No matter how hard you may try, some worlds will always be flat.

All of that which is true, is what works for a moment, be it love, science or salvation. Allow love to find you——be in love with something or someone before you cease, before all that you are sails off the edge. That’s all I know, cause upon second glance everyone loses their battle with gravity.

So this is middle age, unexpected, unpredictable, with all those promised existential unanswered questions. With age has come the harsh realization that I will never fully know another, at least not in the way youth had once opened up friends and lovers to me. Does age make us cautious, suspicious——to many broken bones, careless wounds and loves left undone—-if she should read this, she’d hurt what I felt. She interpreted my words better than I, although the poetry came through me, it was born of her, such a mysterious muse, mi amore.

God plays tricks on us all, allowing the fictions of falling through time and occupying space, as we grapple with this thing called life. Come walk with me, and let us pretend our love goes on forever and ever——-beyond the map, and then together we’ll pass through to the other-side of oblivion*****

God, Sex and Love

https://victoruriz.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/05-hero1.m4arain-on-windshield-rholinelle-detorres

I’m sitting here alone in my room after dark, with only one standing lamp giving off a sunday evening glow.  If you were here and the night became still, I’d have you tell me stories about your childhood.  Your soft warm voice would put my worrisome mind at ease.  I want to know you better, and to have you trust me like old friends do.  Its so strange, I feel as if I’ve always known you, perhaps it was in a different time or place—or maybe a thousand lifetimes ago, your face is so familiar, like those in my dusty old photo-album that stare out at me from yellowed snapshots, leaving me with that sad aching feeling deep inside my chest, a mourning for days lost and moments that have placidly slipped by, unnoticed except for my thread-worn memories and aging keepsakes.  At times the past feels as if it just occurred yesterday and then at other times, it feels like all these random events belong to another person from a different lifetime, do you know what I mean?——Maybe we once wandered down dark rainy streets of some unremarkable small town in the midwest, surrounded by an ocean of corn fields—ducking into smokey old taverns with the jukebox playing the likes of Merle Haggard, pool-balls cracking and the local yahoos giving us that familiar glare that says, “What the fuck are you two outcasts doing in here?”—-do you think this is possible?  I do—but I’m a poet and a dreamer and such dubious notions occur to me all the time——-maybe you don’t know what I am trying to say and perhaps you never will—-but for now, we can share our stories and see where they leads us.

I imagine you cooking us supper, preparing it with those immaculate small hands of yours; hands connected to your arms and then to your body and finally to a heart beating deep inside of you.  And I can see you smiling as you go about adding this and that to your unwritten recipe. Evening closes in and the kitchen is filled with that comforting aroma of seasoned dishes simmering on the stove, it smells like home.  It’s no big deal to you, but as for me, I’m enjoying the tenderness that comes with being fussed over.  I don’t know how you do these things, mixing all those mysterious spices and ingredients together, but I believe that sharing food is an act of love—

I watch you move thru space with an effortless grace; with athleticism and agility—oppressive gravity is envious of your dancers finesse. Unlike me, I trip over my own untied shoelaces. I dance like I cook—horribly.  I lumber, I lurch, and then stumble——as I trample across the crumbling ground of my faltering days.  My refuge has always been found in the eloquence of words, even on those darkest of nights when sleep eludes me, I am able to blend them silently together inside my frenzied head like watercolors that beautifully bleed and melt into one another.  The sharing of words is also an act of love. It’s really all I’ve ever had to offer anyone.

I remember on a whim you and I headed up north on highway 1.   The road traced along the rocky coastline, and everything was as it should be, with you sitting in the passenger seat smiling as the radio played the song Hero. Across bridges and up hill and dale we carried on as the rain fell on our windshield making the world appear blurry and dreamlike.  Back then, we had no plans or outside distractions, we were sorting out this thing called life in real-time—-no past, no future, just you and I naïvely melding into one—and so it went—so on and so forth….forever and a day….and for the time being, that was good enough.

We holed up in a dumpy sea weathered motel and drank cheap wine, ate cheese with sour dough-bread and made love. Outside the world was dreary and gray with a damp fog blowing in off the sea.  We had nothing to do or nowhere to go, so we drank more wine and shared our secrets of God, sex and love.  We took walks on the windy beach until we were soaked and tired and then we went back to our musty old hotel room to talk.  I lit a candle and we stared at our shadows on the wall as the flame flickered, we shared our thoughts in hushed voices, quietly falling in love, with the divine surprise of stone being sculpted into art.

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