“The cure to anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” – Isak Dinesin
There is this little town in California, about 40 miles north of San Diego, named Oceanside. It’s been a part of my life since I can remember. Each summer my family packed us kids into the family van and ventured from Utah to California for a week. Often times it would act as a family reunion for my dad’s side. Sometimes we would hit up Disneyland, Sea World, or Six Flags with the cousins, making our poor parents wait in ridiculously long ride lines for hours. (Props to my parents and my aunts and uncles because I now see how boring and hot that can be.) Most of the time, however, we spent on the beach. I’d march down the condo steps, cross a small street, and my feet would hit warm sand. With a book, a beach chair, and a coke in hand, I’d settle in by digging my feet down to the cool sand. Then, along with my family, I’d simply bask in the sun. We didn’t make plans. We didn’t feel rushed. It was just us and the ocean.
As I’ve become an adult with my own little family, I’ve carried on this tradition. It’s not a big family reunion anymore. It’s me and my three siblings and their families and my mom and dad. We look forward to Oceanside every year, and the day after we get home we start counting down to the next trip. Since I was a little girl, the ocean has calmed me. It’s been a source of peace and courage. One time, when I was in pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced prior, the ocean took me in and healed me.
Kate was born on April 26th, 2010. I remember it all as if it was yesterday. Two weeks later, I handed her back to her mother and drove home. The nine hours in the car were almost silent, my stifled tears being the only audible sounds next to the whoosh of cars driving past us. I don’t remember what happened next. The following month or two was filled with mostly sobs. I felt almost catatonic, with stiff and robotic movements following the pattern of my life before Kate. The emotional and mental pain hurt me physically. There were days I could feel it running through my body like lightning, except it didn’t run through me back into the earth. It stayed. For years it stayed.
One time, when I was in pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced prior, the ocean took me in and healed me.
A few months later, we packed for our yearly Oceanside trip. I needed to get out of my house, my town, my state. There is a place a few hours from Oceanside where we always stop for gas. As I walked into the gas station, I could smell the salt water in the air. Something about it had the ability to hush my mind, as if to say, “You are safe here.”
When we made the final turn onto Main Street, we could see the ocean sprawled out in front of us. We then haphazardly unpacked the cars and headed straight for the beach. When my toes hit the warm sand, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. As I walked towards the water, the sand started to cauterize my wounds. I heard the waves build and crash as they syncopated to the beating of my heart.
Mother Ocean doesn’t care who you are, she will heal you just the same. She breathed in and out with the waves, pulling me in. The ocean accepted my tears, adding them to all the others, and showed me that I am part of something bigger than myself. Mother Ocean didn’t rush me; she kept her breathing waves steady. In . . . out . . . in . . . out. When I had cried every drop of salt water my body could offer, she gently filled my heart with comfort. Every night I met with her and she was always there, ready to catch my tears and heal my wounds.
It wasn’t just the beach and the ocean. Everything about this place comforted me. The creaking of the old fans in the bedroom, the breeze coming through the screen door, the starchy sheets, the sound of the waves, the unrushed rhythm of life. This place breathed new life into me. It healed every part of me.
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott