This week brought some of the lowest low tides of the year to the Oregon Coast. Low tide can be a magical sort of thing. The ocean recedes, revealing a stretch of sandy floor that had mostly been underwater. You see things that were beneath the surface. You walk on land that wasn’t there. The edges of the world stretch out just a little farther. This is not something you will get everyday, at least not to this degree. If you aren’t aware of it, if it slips your mind, if you are wrapped up in other things, the ocean will swallow it back up, and you won’t get that chance back.
My lifeguard certification was up this year, so I spent a couple of days at the local YMCA getting recertified. I was not very happy with my swim stamina when I did the laps. I felt my fatigue and lack of exercise over the past few months really catching up with me. I was in a class with two others getting certified for the first time. I’ve been through many of these and was trained to teach them for a time, so I offered to add some guidance when we were actually in the pool.
The second rescue we covered was the one where you pull a victim up off the bottom of the deep end. The rescuer jumps in, swims to a point just above the victim, then surges down to the bottom of the pool. I volunteered to demonstrate. Another lifeguarding student volunteered to play the victim and swim to the bottom of the pool. I jumped in, swam over to him, and powered my arms from next to my side to slap above my head. I do this motion pretty strongly, and it propelled me straight down. As I was starting that motion, my victim got nervous from being on the pool floor and surged upward to get air. His head going up, hit my nose going down. It felt like I got punched in the face, or I guess more accurately like someone head-butted me with the top of their skull. I emerged from the water, and my nose started bleeding. I had to get out of the pool, put my head between my knees, get gauze stuffed up my nose, fill out an incident report, and have the deck around me cleaned up with bleach.
I was not bent out of shape over it–I’ve been hit in the nose harder. It was ultimately a little comical to me. My face was a little tender the next few days. My nose and my eye sockets gave me this sleepy feeling like you have when your eyes get drowsy. The guy who jacked me in the nose with his head felt really bad about it and apologized over and over. I was able to get back in and taught the other two students a lot of stuff. And, I passed. I’m a lifeguard again for two more years.
Writing this blog has taught me how seemingly mundane things can turn into something unexpected, how events can shape your perspective on a certain week. Most people don’t go into very many things expecting to come out with a jacked up nose. It’s interesting to think of all the possibilities in play in any given experience. What if I don’t dive down on that rescue? What if victim doesn’t get nervous? We likely wouldn’t consider the near miss. We would go on to something else. But our heads did unfortunately align, and my nose was fauceting blood.
On Monday, Aura got her two month vaccinations. This meant several pretty big needles in the leg. She had been in a pretty good mood up until getting stabbed, but once that needle was in, she let out some screams we had not yet heard her utter. My kid is a little fireball. Her temper doesn’t last too long, but it burns hot. She let out some rage out into the universe that would be heard by many. I wonder how this temper will evolve with her as she grows. It reminds me a bit of my temper. I spent years getting it under control, but when she gets mad, I feel like I can relate to the way she expresses it. Probably a lot of it is me seeing what I want to see in her, but I think about what she will rain down on this world with that temper, and what things will make her angry (besides needles) as she learns more about the world. I know what does it for me. I wonder what things we will share a sense of anger towards.
I took her in my arms and put in what I’m calling the “knock out position.” I hold her with one arm below my armpit, the other against my chest, her head resting in the crook of my elbow, which holds the pacifier against my chest keeping it in her mouth. She’s gotten to where she knows what this will do to her, and sometimes she tries to fight it. She cannot resist it though, especially when she’s been really mad. She was out quickly, resting peacefully. She would nap as went to the Big Wave for lunch. And, she isn’t going to get polio now.
One morning the low tide was synced up just before breakfast. I went out with Digby to walk it. I had to get up a little earlier than usual, but it felt important. My first summer here, I went to the beach regularly. I remember how often low tide would sync up with sunset, and I loved stepping out to this extended edge of our continent, letting the ocean waves wash over my feet. The second summer came, and I didn’t feel like I had the time for those types of indulgences. It messed with my perception of the place I was in and even my own life. I was not as happy, I held onto a lot more anger. The sun sat every day, low tide came twice each day, and I let them pass by me more often than not. I’m trying this summer to reclaim a little of that attention. These things are bigger than me. I should acknowledge them, I should give them their due.
The group who has been with us this week runs an incredible show. It’s a West Coast Regional camp for the United Church of God. They do water skiing, river kayak trips, dance lessons, and horseback riding. They bring in horses from an outfitter in Washington and do 45 minute rides in our woods and on the beach. They love to offer time to our staff as well. They worked on Allyson and me each day, wondering if we might join. On the last day of activities, I had decided I had too much in the office, so I would need to politely decline. Then one of the activity leaders called my cell phone, saying they hadn’t left yet, wondering if I’d like to go. I decided I would do it.
Getting on a horse and letting it transport you totally changes your perspective on the world for the time you’re on its back. You are connecting with an animal. You are high above your normal vantage point. You move at a different rhythm. You see the world at a different speed. I needed that sort of a break from the routines I had locked myself into. You do something with your body one way and your mind gets stuck in a cycle. You do something with your mind one way and your body gets stuck in a cycle. It’s good to break it up.
As the week came to a close, and the Church of God group was wrapping up their last night, our next group Camp KC was coming in for their first night. These two groups seem very different in many ways. The Church of God is a denomination that’s probably by most people considered on the conservative spectrum religiously. They teach their campers etiquette classes. The girls are separated from the boys for specific stretches of the week. It looks like a camp you would expect to see many decades ago. Camp KC is for children and youth affected by HIV. Most of the leaders are part of the LGBTQ community. As different as these groups are on the surface, both have been so incredibly kind to Allyson and I in a way that is very genuine and true to who they are. Both groups have taken so much interest and joy in Aura, almost like she’s family. It is clear both of these groups care about us beyond just the people who work at this place they go to. I have felt so much compassion from these people from different backgrounds. Under their shells, this love feels so much like the same, though. I can appreciate the way both of these groups have chosen their paths. It is a joy to see both of them find a safe place, to feel safe with us, to take care of us as we take care of them.
There’s necessary things in all of it. Spend some time with all of it. There is good to be gained in all of it. There are things that hurt in the moment, stuff on the surface we’d like to avoid. When we grow and look back on it, we may see it for something different. Just don’t stop going out and looking. Find it while you can–there is no time to waste. It won’t be there every time. You will run out of days.