The surf and silt it washed up onto the shore beckoned me on a daily basis. This siren’s call became the mandate and mantra of what defined my days closing 2010 and beginning 2011. I would lazily roll over in bed to be greeted by the bright sunshine filtering through the wooden slats and the cheerful din of boughs full of birds outside.
Swimsuit on, breakfast tucked in, our small band of family members would work our way down to the beach, skin slick with sunscreen. Michael and I wormed our way out into the ocean that welcomed us like old friends. Even after my skin mottled and itched from sun sensitivity, I carelessly bade the call of the salty water and the need to bring myself into its rhythms- up, under, up. The world we had left behind felt like a blip cut into the surface of my heart. I came alive under the heft of the waves and the pull of the undercurrent. I began crafting a slowly made peace from hours spent with Michael talking as we looked out beyond the water’s edge, past the horizon line and into a place we couldn’t see but felt certain existed. Beck spent his days writing and walking- the two activities are so deeply worn into each other, are they not? Mama and Tia B. would join us at the beach and sometimes if we were lucky, in the water too.
A year ago looked so different.
Scavenging the beach, we found a stick and scratched 2011 into the warm Costa Rican sand. We waved for the camera as the sunset began shellacking the sky in peaches and golds. We scurried up beach from the tide that now crashed and licked the large outcroppings of rocks. New Year’s Eve 2010 cooked up a fine feast of noodles served alongside red wine. At midnight, we toasted and sat outside in rocking chairs or in my preferred spot, the porch hammock, talking. Under a Costa Rican sky, we felt untouchable and somehow the scabs of yester-year felt so very distant. With my love and close family nearby, I began to mend.
Death is not something easily cast aside. Grief doesn’t have a best by date. In this country where my Dad had lived for several years in high school, the sea, the sand, the conversations and time alone began the tricky work of separating my self from a year in which he was still alive. God used these elements to begin the grand work in me of healing, even as a part of me broke.
Miles and miles of beach walking did no favors for my ankle. Shortly after I came back from Costa Rica, I found myself doing something simple, something mundane in the act of walking to the copy machine. I found myself unable to move forward or back. I stood still, perhaps listening to my body for the first time in a long while. It told me to stop. It told me to be still. I hobbled back to my desk aware in that acute sense of communing with all your inner sensors for what was amiss. One week of oddity led into a month and then several months afterwards, the pain persisted as the healing continued.
Things that are quickly broken are not necessarily quickly mended.
In the time that my mobility slowed, my frustration and anger swelled like a great storm that later subsided as my caregivers in physical therapy addressed the physical situation through rote repetitions to relax the overworked area. Through the simple movements over the span of months, bodily healing had begun. It took a visit with my acupuncturist to help clarify what I innately understood. My body was holding onto an anger I couldn’t reasonably grasp. I sat on the table explaining the nature of the pain, the sensation of it and its matriculation.
Where 2010 was a year of stark contrasts, of unquenchable happiness and the resounding boom of loss, 2011 served as soft cushion underfoot. It became a year of listening and making notes, of taking heed to that foreign language of the body. Call it a lesson of the ocean: slow down. Speed up. Stay the course. It takes that vast expanse to right the rhythm once it’s thrown off. Some pains require time to mellow, though I’m loathe to believe they ever heal 100 percent, but I remember the ocean metronome. And sometimes, healing might require a bowl of White Bean Stew with Rosemary and Garlic. Sometimes, all it takes to reset are a new start and a bowl of steamy savory stew.