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Riding the Waves

by Joyce Johnson


Stuff is happening too close together without time to catch our breath or get our footing between the waves of events. It’s like a storm at sea. Winston Churchill said when asked what his view of “history” was and he said, “...just one damn thing after another!” You can say that again Winny! And history repeats it’s cycles, as all life does. Our fellow humans are struggling to survive another war. They have to paddle hard through the mental/emotional turbulence—no time for fear.


I love the beach, my earliest and best memories are there. The four potent life elements are lined up, clearly seen, and felt: fire, air, water and earth. I have sat for hours with the seagulls watching waves—beautiful, animated, uncontrollable—singing that soft roar of the sea you can hear in conch shells. The waves gently folded their crests over and flow in, or rear dramatically and gallop into shore; or explode on the nearby ancient rock outcrops. (A rare time or two I have seen them shoot up and say Boo! from blow holes.) So arresting, powerful, and show-offy that I sometimes applaud and cheer. One day, I stood on the shore in eye-stinging awe watching a dozen dolphins surfing the big, gentle swells. I found this piece below in the archives of Dec 15, 2016 PCCJ and cannot resist it’s message that keeps deepening as I age. So I rewrote it for you, and share…

...The Big Wave. I was in my late teens standing on the sandy slope where the water line began, on the beach in So. California. Although a clear sunny day, a storm at sea had created turbulence and larger waves were rolling in quick succession to shore (one right after another) making quite a sport of negotiating the waves, if I dared.


I held my 2×3 ft. body surfing raft by it’s rope lying behind me like a pull toy. Mom and my siblings sat on towels nearby watching me. Mom knew I was going in, and said the universal Mom quote: “Be careful dear!” She and I were very close, able swimmers, and adored the sea. I was confident. I counted the waves running in cycles of 7 or 8, followed by a big one. I soon just bucked up my will and ran splashing in with a war cry to help get over the shock of cold water fast. My raft and I plunged over the smaller shore waves; I wanted to get to a certain spot just beyond to wait for a choice big one to ride in. I took my time and paddled around, and over the swells, enjoying the sun’s warmth on my back.


After a while I glimpsed a huge swell out on the horizon…I raised up on my elbows to see better… sometimes its only the wake of a passing freighter. But this one kept growing. My heart raced. No time for fear! No time to paddle to shore. No choice. I began to just paddle with all my strength to reach and get over it whatever it was. Then the water went flat and the big swell sucked it and me into it’s power. In retro, all this happened in seconds but you all know how time can stand still. Tho afraid, I felt that the living wall of water seemed to pause a second in it’s path—to observe the bikini clad girl paddling so bravely to meet and conquer it. I bonded to it sort of, you see? Perhaps therefore it wanted not to tumble me. (Ah!...deathless youth.)


Later it was called a “rogue” wave. No, I didn’t make it over the top, but only to the top, when it began to break. Oh no! But I managed to wrench myself around shore-ward, in time, and the thrust of the break tossed me like a beach ball. Airborne I got a glimpse of distant tiny people on the sand who were scrambling off the sand to get away. Then I fell down in front of the tumbling foam behind me, and I only remember bouncing to shore in the most exciting ride of my life... and deposited on a big pile of seaweed where I spun slowly to a stop. The surge continued beyond to chase the sunbathers, I could hear the squeals and shouts, then having expended itself, paused and reversed. I listened to millions of tiny foam bubbles pop and sing as it rushed past me back down the sloping wet sand, where it collided with and ruffled up the next shore wave, and the next—and disappeared back into its source.


A handsome lifeguard ran up to me, halted, and asked if I was ok. I nodded and he ran to the water’s edge looking for any others… (mercifully, no other kids had been playing in the shore waves at that time.) A young man hurried past me and said with wide eyes, “are you the one that caught that?” I nodded, still in a kind of shock, then I saw my mom standing like a pillar about 30 feet away; her pearly, sun-lit hair like a halo with a visor. I know now she had never taken her eyes off me. I also know in retro over the years, that I was not alone out there. I got slowly up and went to her. No words needed between us.


Living in Montana has also been one wild and wonderful ride after another! (...hey! we surf and sled the snowy slopes don’t we?…:-D) We sure live in way more graphic demonstrations of the seasons here. We have staying power, are creative, work hard and take risks with a certain traditional American spirit—ride the waves of life, and land, and all it’s challenges, and we take care of one another.


Here we are again in the darkest and coldest cycle of the year in an even darker “shake-up” cycle on the planet—a different kind of rogue wave is rolling in on the horizon. Keep on paddling and hang on to the “raft” of your courage and Faith. Walk the talk of kindness and compassion for all life around you. It will bring light to the temporarily darkened world. My throat has lump in it. My eyes sting. I hear the ancient song of the sea…or is it...Creation applauding and cheering thee.

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