A CONFESSION ABOUT THE OCEAN
I’m not an ocean kind of guy. Never have been. Even as a kid, then teen, then young adult, going to the ocean has never filled me with warm fuzzies, certainly not like going hiking in the mountains has for all of those same years.
Having said that, today a weird thing happened. Arriving at Crescent City, California, the Gateway to the Redwoods, I was blown away, dare I say flabbergasted, at the beauty and sheer awesomeness of the Pacific Ocean at that location.
There is a jetty there, must be a quarter-mile long, jutting out into the ocean, and you can walk on it, waves crashing onto the rocks mere yards from where you walk. The lighthouse rises above the shoreline, the wind bends nature to its will, gulls shrieking, windswept sand, ripples of sand, as though the gods painted the shoreline in an ever-changing mosaic.
I began to question my sanity for not loving the ocean prior to that moment. And then, as though those same gods decided to smash me over the head with the obvious I have been missing, the drive south, along the 101, was fifty miles of gasping at the power and stunning landscape which is the Pacific Ocean.
I’m a writer and I have no words.
MY OWN RESTRICTIONS
I am reminded of an ancient Taoist teaching, that an educated man is restricted by his own learning. It’s a fascinating thing to contemplate, the possibility that we only know what we only know, and if we believe our limited knowledge is the universe of all knowledge, then our conclusions, our every decision, will be based on a restricted, and constricted, understanding of the world and the universe.
Think about that and, before you reject it as so much Eastern philosophical nonsense, take a look at the people around you, the people on the news, even the people in your very tight circle of friends and family. Look at the misinformation floating around the internet, and the people willing to believe it. Think about the beliefs of millions, cemented in their every fiber, based upon a very limited number of facts.
I bring this up because I am seeing things, along this trip, which I never thought were possible, things I had never heard of, never learned in school, and I find that remarkable for someone seventy-four years of age, and if you would have told me some of these things actually existed, prior to this trip, I would have doubted you. Why? Because they were not part of my restricted knowledge.
I was restricted by my own learning.
How many others are as well?
SO, I WAS THINKING
Eureka, California, wind howling. Nasty day for anyone with balance problems, the Pacific Ocean brewing up one hell of a windstorm, the wind unobstructed for about fifteen-hundred miles, straight at Redwood Country, batten down the hatches, whatever that means.
Got me thinking. It was a nasty day to go for walks, much colder than the thermometer let on, wind chill and all that meteorological talk, in another lifetime it would have been hard for me to enjoy myself. I’m not a big fan of wind, never have been, strange thing to dislike but there you have it, call it a character flaw and let’s move on with my ruminations.
The thing is, though, and I give credit to the Taoists for this lesson in life . . . it is not my job to fight the wind. It is my job to coexist with the wind and, in fact, if I’m really trying to become one with this universe, it is my job to embrace the positives that wind provides. It’s about attitude, my friends. I cannot change the wind. I cannot change what the wind will do, nor can I redirect it so it does not annoy me. I can, however, change my attitude towards the wind, and today that is what I chose to do. Standing on the top of a small hill, watching the wind wreak havoc with the shoreline, waves pounding the sand, wearing down the rocks, spraying mist near and far, I was in awe of the power I witnessed, better than anything on Netflix, that’s for damned sure, and I was lucky enough, at this time in my life, to be healthy, financially stable enough to take this journey, and willing to see the beauty in Mother Nature’s incredible display.
There is some learning going on during this trip, my friends, and it ain’t Mother Nature doing the learning.
Their names are Toby and Maggie, brother and sister, different litters, Maggie the elder by a year-and-a-half, couldn’t be more different. Toby is the jokester, the clown, the rambunctious; Maggie the shy, the cautious, the measured; both are as close as we will ever have to goodwill ambassadors on a trip.
I can’t count the number of times people have asked about those two on this trip. Little kids want to pet them; old kids want to pet them. Everyone wants to ask about them, what breed are they, guessing as they ask, oh how beautiful they are, such lovely dogs, door-openers for conversations with complete strangers, no matter where we are.
I’m always struck by this fact: people don’t ask us what our political leanings are when they talk about our dogs. They don’t ask us about religion or military funding or state’s rights or abortion or any of a thousand other hot topics we read about daily. They are just people talking to people, two dogs the common denominator, smiles and friendly chatter the order of the day. It’s as though the dogs have this magical elixir which allows people to forget about the divisive topics and simply concentrate on what is important, namely people treating other people with respect.
And the thing is, it takes no effort whatsoever. It comes so naturally, for me, for them, for the dogs.
Makes me wonder . . . and forgive me if I’m sounding obtuse, but it really does make me wonder, what should be most important to us all, and what appears to be most important to us all?
What’s that military saying, might be Marines, my apologies if it isn’t . . . God, family, country, or maybe I have the order wrong, doesn’t really make any difference for the point I’m making . . . the three pillars of American society, that’s what they are . . . anyway, where is decency in that recitation of American values? Where is friendliness? Empathy? Compassion? Seems a bit limited to me, God, family, country, as if we are taking that nationalism thing a bit too seriously, to the exclusion of all others, and I seem to remember where that kind of thinking got a certain country back in the late 1930’s. But then, I’m a bear of very little brain, so what do I really know?
Do I love America? Of course I do, but I Iove humanity much more, and I apologize, in advance, if that bothers anyone.