Beach Day Valentine

Beach Day Valentine

During the summer I try to go to the beach every weekend. It’s about a thirty minute drive. It seems wrong not to go that often. The ocean is the best thing going in Los Angeles. Hands down, the very best thing. And the weather. The two together are peanut butter and jelly. 

When I first moved here, 19 years ago, I was bemoaning the lack of big, leafy trees, the lack of deciduous forest. Do you know what that is? It’s what they have on the East Coast and in Europe. It’s the type of tree that sheds it’s leaves every season and gives you autumn. It doesn’t happen without a lot of rain. California is more desert -y than deciduous. We don’t have to shovel snow and wear mittens, but we also don’t get much tree canopy. The sun is always present. For a while I was longing for shade and forest. Oh woah is me, how can I be happy? Where can I go for long walks and reflection? The location nearest me with the highest portion of wet nature was the beach. So, as the song says, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Well guess what, I married the one I was with and I’ve never been happier.

Some of this is due to discovering the boogie board. The alliteration makes it sound goofy and there are no other phrases for it, but boogie boarding is the most spiritually enjoyable thing in the whole world. To Boogie Board is to become one with the ocean. It is to dial in all your senses to the rhythm of the ocean. You watch the waves, you hear them, you feel them, you anticipate them. You are trying to catch them, so you can ride them. In that moment you and the wave merge, you are the ocean, with all its power, its consistency, its vastness. The motion wipes all petty concerns from your tired, over amped monkey mind, and you just fly through the water, all senses completely in harmony. For a brief while, there are no human problems. 

After I tire myself out, I eat a sandwich. It tastes so good. Then I watch the ocean for a while. I watch the people play. Humanity is at its absolute best at the ocean. Everyone is happy. You don’t haul yourself out there if you don’t want to be there, so the people who get grumpy and uptight about sand in their ass self-select out. The scene is incredibly diverse. Children playing, old people relaxing, young people being hot, married people playing paddle ball, groups of friends laughing it up over whatever bonds them together. It’s marvelous. It’s harmonious. It’s soul regenerating. It’s the opposite of being online. It’s the opposite of reading the news. 

After digesting, I take myself for a long walk. I could look at wet sand and rolling water forever. I don’t know why. It just appeals to be. As an artist I like theme and variation. This is that. The beach is like my therapist. I peruse the thoughts that need untangling and I get a grip on myself. 

Coincidently, while writing this, my favorite blogger, Dyske.com, also wrote about the beach. His wife loves to go, and he does not. It was interesting to be confronted by his complete lack of interest in my favorite activity. It forced me to consider that not everyone reading this would relate. Why does that make me feel weird? I already know that. Besides my immediate family, I don’t know anyone who goes on and on and on and on about the beach as much as me.

What I find at the beach, other people find elsewhere and that is as it should be. The world is filled with wonders, natural and manmade. The important thing is to partake of what brings you genuine joy as often as you can. Don’t chose a lesser option when you can choose joy.

Happy Cactus

Happy Cactus

I was hiking and came upon this guy. A thought floats through my head, that’s a very happy cactus. Immediately I interrogate this thought. By happy, I mean healthy? By healthy I mean unblemished? By unblemished I mean..? What do I mean?

Aren’t cacti especially adept at weathering drought? Isn’t their whole claim to evolutionary fame their ability to withstand hardship, to endure in the face of incredible scarcity? This cactus hasn’t done any of that. He looks well watered if you ask me. That’s some bright green sheen with nary a needle to mar his vanity inducing surface. Can he really be happy? What has he survived? What does he have to be so proud of except for something he is one hundred percent sure to lose? His “good” looks.

That sets me to pondering all the cactus up here that don’t inspire the thought happy. I wonder if they are in fact quite happy. There are some big ass bunches of cacti just taking over. They are clearly doing well for themselves. Some pads are scarred with dead skin that looks almost charred but new pads thrive from this base. They seem to have an indomitable spirit, a what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger kind of vibe. Are they happy? What is happy?

I want to be like these guys: tough, leathery, protected, in community, supporting, hearty, interesting, unique. Thank you to all my cactus friends, real and metaphorical. Let’s be needles out together.

Happiness is not money in the bank, it’s a per diem you have to earn and spend every day

I was doing laundry and feeling grateful to own a washing machine.  It’s such a luxury.  So I tell myself, hey Caren, here’s something to be happy about. And Caren says, I know, we’ve discussed this before, why are you telling me this again?  That’s when I had a revelation.  All the gratitude and happiness I have ever felt prior to this moment doesn’t matter.  I can’t save it, I can’t get it back.  In fact, since all I can do is lose it, it quickly morphs from a source of joy to a potential devastating loss.  Yuck!

I was doing the exact right thing in pointing out to Caren, who is so easily annoyed by everything, that this really is awesome, that today, right now, we have a washing machine.  I should tell her this every time we use it and she should graciously act like it’s the first time she is hearing such good news.  If our happiness is a daily per diem that I either spend or lose, I best spend it.

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Later, in the early evening, Caren and I go to hot yoga and stop talking to each other, which is why we do it.  After class the parking lot valet can’t find our car key.  The valet is looking in other cars for our key while our sweat soaked body cools in the night air.  Nobody thought to bring a coverup.  Actually I did think of it but Caren told me to not worry about it because it only takes 3 minutes to get home.  See!  You can never be too careful Caren!

In the 30 minute search for the missing keys, Caren does not freak out and she doesn’t discuss it with me either, she stays calm.  It’s weird, her calm, cool and collected persona.  Personally I would like to see more of it inside the home, not just outside of it. But whatever.  Like that’s gonna happen.

The valet lets us drive his red mini cooper back to our house to get our husbands key.  Can I just say I really dislike the mini cooper driving experience?  You can not see well behind you, it doesn’t feel safe.  The two back seat headrests severely block the rear view window.

Finally at home and eating dinner, Caren and I pick up were we left off. She says, I don’t think the quality of the past is irrelevant. If my memories were horrible I would be miserable so there must be some value to positive memories.  Simply by not burdening us with despair, a happy yesterday contributes to today’s pleasure.  Doesn’t that discount your argument from earlier?  I’m about to counter when our daughter interrupts by saying she likes dinner and asking if I like it. How am I supposed to think about happiness in the midst of this mindless chit chat!  Yes, I love the pasta, now let me tell Caren why she’s wrong, again.  I know I am missing something important here.  Don’t worry, I’ll add it to the list of things I need to get a grip on.

What’s our takeaway from all this contradictory mental rambling Caren? What are we actually going to do?  Caren says, Sit down and I’ll pour us a stiff Do What We Always Do, serve it with a splash of bitters and a tiny twist of Striving For Self Improvement.  Now leave me alone.  I want to watch television.

The next day I call the the yoga studio and they already know about it.  The key had been left in the backseat of another practitioners car and she thoughtfully returned them to the studio.  That lack of red tape will definitely make things better in days to come!  No going to the car dealership, no multiple calls to the parking agency trying to get reimbursement. So much to be grateful for.  I gotta go tell Caren.