I forgot how much I love the Pacific Ocean, how much its rhythm quiets me, how fast it breaks me from my complacency, how quickly it wakes me into the present; coloring my mind with the soft sound of lapping, crashing, receding, and the white of the water’s insistent presence, drawing me toward something bright in the dark of moonless-ness. The muted crunch of teeny pebbles reverberates almost silently as I step with the awkward intensity of absolute desire not to fill my shoes with gritty sand before giving into the inevitable and removing the barrier between my naked foot and the gentle give of the shoreline.


I forgot about the ocean’s power over me, incessant in its pull, waves demanding my attention as they pound and recede from the sand. About the scrape of sediment as it pushes between my toes and over the top of my foot, kicking up the back of my leg and forward, redistributing itself in barely visible sprinkles. About the chill that makes me inhale quickly, even if it’s only my feet that touch the water.


It’s easy to forget when I’ve been away, when I’ve allowed the last 10 years of my life to take precedence over the first 20, when I’ve lost the strain of myself that used to give into the ocean constantly—that person I was before I became who I am. The one who fought through adolescent reveries and love and loss and confusion to trudge through a decade of pathways. The one who used to feel the ocean inside her blood as she stood and stared; the salt and wind would wrap her up, enveloping her in a sea of comfort that separated her from the longing or anger or angst that drove her to the shoreline for counseling.


It’s easy to forget that when I left those coastal California counseling sessions, I used to be fearless. Fierce and determined to trail no one, to start fresh, to lay down the bricks that would build me a new path, to face my fears head on, to wrangle the unknown and force it to be what it was and not what I wanted it to be. To force myself to be who I was and not who I or anyone else thought I should be.


Saving daylight

SLO panorama

The buzz of electricity filled wires knocked against my eardrums as I stood at a crest midway up the first dale of the Irish Hills. I was standing next to a gigantic steel tower, which had gray beams that crisscrossed against the blue after-work sky. Blue. Not midnight blue. It was about 5:30 p.m. on a Monday, and I was on a little hike.

I took the wrong fork in the wide trail that jogs up the hill a few hundred yards from the Prefumo Canyon Road trailhead and it ended in a wide green swath of grassy hillside that overlooked Laguna Lake Park in San Luis. Pretty sweet, but not the quiet serenity of peace I was looking for—it was louder and more urban than that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Mariposa trail was what I should have followed, but I took the other one. Back on the Mariposa trail, the path shrunk into a narrow mountain bike trail that sunk into the ground like an earthen halfpipe. I saw an older man and his spry pup as I crossed over from the short trail to the right trail, and that was it. The rest of the trail was mine. Mine to watch over and give voice to. Mine to travel up and look out over the valley without interruption. A rarity.

Uninterrupted pensive reflection and footsteps that rolled over unstable rocky footing. Of course, my first thought was that a mountain lion could take me out without anyone knowing, and then I thought, I would probably let the dog have at it and watch the ensuing damage and destruction while being scared out of my mind. But after that, I got down to hiking business; climbing along the path that got rockier as I went higher and then widened out at the top of the first ridge line, a scrub-filled hilltop with low-growing trees and the smell of sage.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fog began stealing the late afternoon’s golden light as I neared the vantage point I wanted to reach. There it was, that peace of accomplishment I was searching for, without the buzz I wasn’t.