Mornings in a small town unfold slowly, with greetings, coffee cup in hand, and waves to those across the lane sneaking out in their robes to grab the paper or bring in the garbage cans. In a town like Stinson, where each day brings visitors, there’s a distinct sensation of What will this day have in store? as residents pull back curtains and shop and restaurant owners open doors.
The boys and I sat out on the deck at The Breakers Cafe eating our breakfast. The foothills of Mt. Tam rose like a propped up pillow behind the Sand Dollar across the street, striped with houses featuring broad expanses of glass to soak in the sea view. Children played on a deck of one house, tossing a ball back and forth, then watched it sail over the railing to the shrub covered hill below. For a moment they peered over the edge, then ran off on an adventure to locate their lost toy. A couple holding hands entered the real estate office across the street. She kissed his cheek before crossing the threshold. I hoped they had the opportunity in life to migrate here and this was their first step in that direction.
Overnight a little adolescent rambunctiousness played out with beer kegs from the Sand Dollar ending up in the middle of Highway 1, and various other prankish maneuvers happening around town. The residents smiled with each other as they shared the details of the early morning events, while crisscrossing the road, going about their morning business. They couldn’t summon up any anger because back in their adolescent days they participated in the same shenanigans in this very place.
Full of pancakes and waffles, the boys ventured next door to look at books. I found them in the back room gathering toys to pitch to me as must haves, can’t pass ups, and I’ve been looking for these forevers. We left with two flexible flyers to take to the beach. Halfway down the block, I felt an urge to go back and look at the homes for sale in the window of Highway One Properties. A quirky, half castle caught my eye.
Let’s go in, guys.
After morning small talk, I asked the woman who greeted me about the unconventional castle perched above Stinson Beach.
Well, I don’t have the listing, but I did take the pictures. It’s a unique home, full of reclaimed cobblestone and wood and stable doors from the city. It needs a lot of work, but it’s amazing. There’s a tunnel in the basement that’s big enough to throw a party in!
Do you have an extra copy of the flyer in the window? I’d love it for my vision board.
I had the feeling that ninety percent of the people entering through the doors at Highway One are at the vision stage in their quest to live here. I wonder how many make it to the fruition stage.
With flyer in hand, the boys and I took off for the beach. Our day was unplanned. Maybe we’d spend a few hours flying our planes and sitting in the sand and then head back home; an early evening was called for after forgoing sleep for shooting stars. The dudes were far ahead, enjoying the freedom of being left to explore alone in a place that feels safe, protected. I lagged behind, trying to create enthusiasm for the day while simultaneously scolding myself for feeling glum about my awkward evening.
You go! and You suck! is not an excellent strategy for accomplishing something, getting somewhere, unsticking yourself.
The shadow that grew out from my feet stretching west across the parking lot begged for me to explore it, to find out from where this unsettled feeling was broadcasting its chilly message.
I was allowing something to get in the way of my fun. That something was living in that shadow. I fed it at dinner last night, and on the overnight it grew. I felt less than, not enough, out of step at a dance I wasn’t invited to. Befuddled and deflated. And all sorts of bleh. I fed it a nice breakfast of I don’t deserve, fueling it for a day of doubt, leaving me unsettled, not me.
The dudes were on their knees in the sand tearing open the box that held their planes. I joined them and we built our flyers. Somehow I managed to lose the little dude’s rudder. He fell into a sleep-deprived, maple syrup fueled rush of tears. So, I seized the moment as an opportunity to spill my own. There we sat, two people with no valid reason for crying in the sand crying in the sand.
The tall dude grabbed his plane and ran from the scene wanting to fly and have fun, while the little dude and I released our inner angst.
Honey, I am so sorry. I don’t know how it disappeared. Why don’t we just share the other plane?
The request to share often does not work in the happiest of times. When sad, it’s a guaranteed losing proposition. But there I was, forging ahead to only encourage more tears from us both. Which resulted in me saying something that makes my skin crawl in retrospect:
I feel like I can’t do anything right. I’m sorry I lost the rudder. Gosh, do you have to make me feel so bad about it?
Which, of course, resulted in buckets more tears. One deep breath later, I rose to walk to the water’s edge needing space and alone time to stop the madness.
Here. Take the plane and see if you can get it to fly without a rudder. Just try. You never know. Ask your brother to help you.
When I reached the water I looked back to find the dudes sending their flyers up into the sky and watching them nosedive back to earth. The exact trajectory I experienced in the last 24 hours. My eyes fell to the sand directly in front of me.
Okay. So maybe this feeling is because Stinson will not be your Shangri-La. The fantasy beach town experience may be just that, a mirage…a flight of imagination. But it doesn’t matter right now. You’ve got two little boys over there who are sending planes into the air and want to see you clap in delight as each takes its own unique return path to earth.
I became very conscious of how I fed this being of doubt and made the choice to shut down the buffet. I’m not taking another minute of this perfect day to feel sorry for myself. That’s a cop out, and it achieves squat, it creates nothing of value.
Stay in the moment. There’s a whole day ahead to experience. Magic to create. Don’t slap the Universe in the face because doubt forced your hand.
I looked up from the sand to find the dudes racing toward me.
It’s okay Mommy, the tall dude said as he wrapped his arms around me. We can still fly the planes. Let’s go climb!
As we made our way back to our pile of sweatshirts, sneakers and water bottles, I willed myself to let the day carry me where it may. Even in my depleted state, I knew that magic was to be had, but to be found it had to be sought out and believed in. I looked again for the rudder and found fragments of it in the sand under a sweatshirt. I must have broken it into pieces somehow. With sweatshirts in hand, I rose and my eyes fell upon a feather sticking out of the sand ten feet away.
Hey, little dude! C’mere!
He brought his plane over to me and together we gently forced the quill into the slit where the rudder was to be. The feather stood tall and strong, ready for action. The little dude was delighted by the bold new look of his plane. The fact that the feather didn’t make the plane fly any better was lost on him. He didn’t want to let it go anymore, preferring to hold it in his hand and run fast, looking at it as he blazed down the beach, the feather arced back as if flying at cruising altitude.
I gathered our gear and set off for the boulders, pushing aside the reasons to not climb and explore and instead took the time to remind myself that I was still me, still experiencing this amazing journey, still whole, still very happy, and still so very grateful. Go live these next few hours on the beach and let it fill you up, pushing out the doubt, the feeling of not being in the right place at the right time. I’m blessed to be able to walk on this beach, to have those two perfect little souls up ahead, and to be starting a new life that’s all mine to create.
So start acting like it.
Those words soothed me and gave me a much needed kick in the tuchus. And ten steps later I found my first sand dollar. Ever. It was barely an inch across. A mere baby. Perfectly formed, not a chip in its armor. There it sat, on packed sand, facing me. If I had been two steps left or right I wouldn’t have seen it. Bending down, I lifted it out of the sand and laid it in the center of my palm.
Along with feeling a full body hug from Nature, I heard this:
We’re giving you a glimpse of all that can be. Don’t be nervous that it’s being ripped away. Nothing of the sort is happening here. Just know that it’s not yet ready for you, and you have much to do to be ready for it.
A sense of well-being flooded me, pushing away the doubt that made me feel fragile. I gently clutched my tiny sand dollar, a quarter really, and jogged south to find the dudes.
MOMMY! You HAVE to come over here! C’mere, quick! Wait till you see THIS!
The tall dude was 100 feet away, bouncing up and down on an imaginary pogo stick, frantically waving me over to a rock south of those we typically climb. A dozen or so people between us laughed at his exuberance.
When I reached the rock the sight took my breath away.
Hundreds of mollusks clung to the crown and sides, each held on with their foot and the bracing support of those all around them. Below them gathered a few hundred light pink sea anemones, little circles with concave bellies cupping sea water, their edges coated with sand, looking like upside down mushroom caps. A few the size of doughnuts, more brown than pink, squeezed themselves in amongst their younger, thinner, prettier brethren. Holding court, balanced on one leg, arms thrown wide was a red starfish.
Two women approached us. The tall dude played tour guide, pointing out the various sea life. They had seen this before.
The tide is at its lowest all year. Wait till you see what’s further down the beach, boys. Make sure you find the cave. And then to me one of the women said, And look out for the naked volleyball players.
My eyes popped open.
Would they be a good kind of naked or the you really shouldn’t be getting naked kind of naked?
Well, I suppose it depends on your taste.
Pft. Any naked is good naked at this point.
We set off down the beach to find the…um…other sea life. Boy did we.
In a shallow cave made from rocks stacked on sand were dozens of hand-sized anemones lounging under a sky of blue and gray mussels and white barnacles. Sea grasses cascaded over top, the walls lined with bubble wrap made up of hundreds of the pink-hued discs. The shallow tidal pool, the community pool for a high-density sea neighborhood, was brimming with life, seen and certainly unseen.
The dudes stuck their fingers gently into the bellies of anemones, barely resisted pulling mussels off the rocks to pry apart their shells and see the life inside, and chased crabs that scurried along rock edges, plunging themselves in the sand as little hands closed in. We scampered from one exposed tidal pool to the next, until we came to a rock whose southern face, shaped like a hammock on its side, was filled with starfish. Well-fed ones.
We stroked their bodies and marveled at how strong their grip on home base was as we tried to gently lift them off. One starfish was half-attached. The little dude spotted him and had him by the leg (or arm?) in seconds. He passed the sea star to his big brother whose face transformed from curious to awestruck as the critter sucked a hold on his palm with dozens of mini cream colored plungers. His eyes met mine.
Mom, he breathed out.
I know, honey. He’s amazing, isn’t he?
We gently placed him back down on the lower part of the rock and took off to find the next neighborhood. I snapped pictures and listened for the excited voices of the dudes. People milled about as if at a museum exhibit, going from one rock to another, crouching down to study these beings that flourish in an environment that morphs from sea to desert daily. We came together to marvel at a cluster of life, then parted to find yet another cluster, gathering with a few new faces, then zigzagging off in other directions to explore some more.
I found myself alone. The boys had ducked into a cave made of leaning rocks, their heads popping up from crevasses like prairie dogs every now and then to spot me and wave. I closed my eyes and used my other senses to draw in the scene.
This was here all along. The feeling of being inspired, of being truly and deeply happy regardless of the challenges of divorce or of creating my new way of being. But I got ahead of myself. Over the past few weeks I’ve been in Stinson Beach even when I wasn’t in Stinson Beach, creating a future that can’t be created from right here, right now unless I live right here, right now. When I jump ahead, my present set of circumstances seizes up. There’s progress on my list of things to do, but my ability to manifest magic wilts. What’s the sense in savoring the fantasy if it’s going to prevent me from creating it as my reality?
While creating expectations, I ceased to marvel. The opposite of marvel is expectation. As in, Well, it’s what I expected. Not, Holy Anemony! This is crazy, mouth-wateringly gorgeous! By definition, expectation is devoid of magic.
I whispered, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for being up ahead, thinking about who I will become, how I will live, and how that will all make me feel, ignoring who I am today and how I live now and how that makes me feel. And for wanting to know RIGHT NOW if it’s all going to play out as I hope. Spending time ahead leaves me empty. And there’s no me up there yet to fill, so my energy just floats around waiting for me to snap out of it so it can come home and get back to work, to being useful.
Relief spread through me slowly as I made my way to the cave to gather the boys. It was time to head home. Spent in a very good way. I found them covered in sand, crawling through a tunnel chasing a crab. Instead of being torturous, I imagined the crab as golden retriever thrilled with the game of chase. That made me feel less sorry for him, but I’m not sure it had any affect on his sense of well-being.
As we passed the last of the tidal pools on our return trip north, a couple in their late 50s, holding hands, approached me. I had seen them earlier as we gathered around a rock ogling a single orange star fish surrounded by sea grass. The man, tall, with thick gray hair and pale blue eyes stretched out his arm. Resting in his palm was a large sand dollar, nearly four inches across, a perfect circle of bone china, except for one small chip in the lower left corner.
We want you to have this.
I hesitated. Really?
He smiled and stretched a little more. I gently lifted it out of his palm.
Thank you. This really means a lot to me. I held their gaze in the hopes that they could feel my gratitude.
Our 24 hour journey to Stinson Beach was like a carnival ride – thrills, chills and a little nauseating. What better way to end it than with burgers and custard. Just me and the dudes. A little triangle of love.
With my two sand dollars tucked one in each mitten.