The Sea As My Mistress is in the Desert again.

28 11 2015

Once, in another life, I jumped into what I remember as the Indian Ocean, far from the sight of land. Looking back on it, I think it must have been the Arabian Sea, based on what else was going on at the time. That isn’t important, though. What is important is that I remember thinking to myself that I would be born anew in the baptism of the sea. I remember feeling that I would come out of the water a new person, with a new life. As it turns out, life doesn’t often work that way. We don’t get to choose our baptisms, nor do we even see them often, until we look back in hindsight.

Now, looking back from a different life, my life then was much the same the day before that dunk as the day after, and the only really memorable thing about that time is the thought that jumping into the ocean would somehow change who I am.

When I look back though, I do see other markers, other times, when my life changed enough that I may as well call the life before a different life than the life after. None of them are epiphanies gleaned in a moment. All of them are times that I didn’t see for what they were at the time.

After the stunning revelation that my first wife didn’t love me in a way that I was acceptable with (some 15 years into our marriage), I drove across the country in a moving truck, carrying the majority of my worldly goods to her new place of residence while she drove my children, my dog, and my cats in a brand new mini van that I had just bought her. We were an unhappy, rag-tag caravan, not so much traveling together as stopping at the same places in the evenings, in some nod to frugality. I slept on floors in nameless hotel rooms all the way from the east coast to the desert in Arizona. I don’t remember the parts of the trip from the evenings, though. I remember the long drives through the desert, alone in that rented truck. I remember the joy I felt, finding fresh made tortillas at a truck stop in west Texas, filled with the most mediocre carne guisada that I have ever had. I remember tracing the tracks of my childhood in a three hour detour to the sleepy town I grew up in. I remember listening, over and over, whenever I could find them on the radio, to two songs. One seems kind of obvious, now. It was, of course, We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together. It was a new song, at the time, and it was catchy, and it nicely filled what was going through my head. The other song, Home, is a ballad about not being alone, and it reached out to me, there in the depths of the desert, seeming to call to me, despite the fact that I was busy taking my entire life, and moving it away from me. And so it was. I did leave that life in Arizona, with all its things, its bits, and its bobbles. But the song was right too. I reached out. I got closer to my parents, my sisters than I had been in years.

That life there, the one after that trip to the desert, it was a happy life, but lonely. I practiced yoga. I learned calculus. I had friends and went to concerts and generally spent some time learning how to be human, without the supports I had become so accustomed to in the years before. I had my coffee shop, and my yoga studio, and everyone at both knew me by name, by face, by habit, but all at a distance. Friendly, but not close.

I didn’t know, then, that it was a different life. That my time, there in the desert had left me changed. It did though.

Eventually, as quiet times do, that life came to a close. I reached out, and got closer. I made friends, and found old acquaintances who turned out to be friends. I learned to love my neighbor for the good man that he was, even though I didn’t know it at first.  Eventually I met a lady. We were awkward, as new couples often are, but we persevered. I tried to like beer, in a strange road trip to a beer festival in Savannah with an Australian friend of ours. I learned to appreciate dancing in our backyard, even without ever really learning how. I learned how to loose at mini-golf, and that it wasn’t important who won, but who played. Then, suddenly, inevitably, I proposed.

Later, in the desert, I was with my wife, and we visited my aunt. We had been, recently, to Arizona, to see my children. It was an awkward, strained visit, fraught with worry. And I had the chance to see, again, all those things, all those bits, and all those bobbles that made up my old life. And I left knowing that the only things that I missed from that life, the only parts that I wish I still had, are the friendships of my children. I didn’t see it, there in the desert of Arizona. I didn’t see it at my aunt’s house, my aunt who is my aunt because I have the good opinion of her niece, when we had dinner and talked of cousins and family and friends and joy. I didn’t see it a day later, in a different desert, where we broke bread with my parents and sisters and their families. But looking back I see it. It is there, in the sand of the desert, marking another line across my life.

I can see back, in that long ago time before the desert, when I worried about having a nice house, and a nice car, and a nice job, and I looked to see what people would do for me, and I didn’t know that I had friends. I can see back, to that time after the desert, when I wandered lost, without my old supports, and not knowing what to do. And I can see back, to that epiphany that I never had, that just became who I am, instead of what I realized. In that time, in the desert again, where I figured out that I don’t care about things anymore. I care about people. I care about friends, I care about family, I care about our joy, and our sorrow. And my worries are how to be a good friend, and a good husband, and a good father. And my grief is that I came out of that desert, that second time, without the friendship of my children, that I didn’t even realize that I had lost.

And then, after all that, here I am again. On the ocean, thinking my life is at a turning point. I did this once before, and I was wrong. Maybe this time I will be right, but even if I am, well, as the song says, “The ocean is a desert with its life underground and a perfect disguise above”.


The Sea As My Mistress stops for ice cream.

5 11 2012

Cornudas, TX

Once, I had a bowl of ice cream in this town.  Not because I wanted ice cream, but because I wanted to pee.  Strange, but true.


Still can’t pee for free.

When I stopped for ice cream, the newspaper on the table top announced that the population sign was not correct.  There were not 7 residents, there were 9!  In the 20ish years since, they have gone back down to 8, and have become unconcerned enough by it that they had to stop and count them up when I asked.  Oh how the mighty have fallen…

The Sea As My Mistress and the Myth of My Childhood

20 10 2012

So this is the story of my youth.  Maybe it is the truth, and maybe it isn’t, but it is the story I tell myself at night when I try to remember where I come from.

When I was a boy, I lived in a small town in the desert.  As far as I was concerned though, it was a city.  I lived in a neighborhood with my family, with a giant tree in the front yard.  We had French doors in the living room that looked out over the back yard, where we kept the trampoline.  My friend, Steve, lived way across town in the boonies at the end of a dirt road.

Steve's Shed

Steve’s shed. The house is gone now, but I remember playing by that shed. The fence is new, as is the grass.

I would ride my bike out to his house, and spend the weekend in his backyard, digging a giant hole that we called a fort.  We would sleep there, with a campfire made from railroad ties.  It seemed terribly exciting at the time.

The old Allsups

This Chevron station used to be an Allsups, which is more or less the same thing, only in New Mexico. I used to ride past on the way to Steve’s house. When I had a dime, I would go in and buy two Atomic Fireballs. Individually. If you bought them together, they cost 11 cents. When we had more, Steve and I would spend 20 minutes trying to figure out which bottle of Sprite had a winning cap in the perpetual Sprite contest. Once, I think we ended up with about a six pack of drinks off of a single purchase.

Sometimes, we would hop on our bikes and ride over to the park, and play on the giant rocket in the park.  It had four levels, and a gantry that was at least twice as long as the rocket was tall.

The rocket slide

The rocket in the park. The gantry is gone now. Apparently kids can no longer be trusted to not hurt themselves.

We would tear all around the rocket, playing the game of the day, be it space astronaut or pirate or tag.

Nearby, my older sisters were lifeguards at the beach.  The river had a rusting old diving platform moored out in the deep water, and it was always swarming with kids, set loose from the yolks of school and chores.

Swimming on the river

The platform is long gone, but the island is still there, lifeguard chairs ready for throngs of children reveling in their summer freedom.

In between, there was a terrace where you could rent paddleboats to take out on the river.  Once, after I moved, I came back to stay with Steve for a while, and we rode our bikes out one morning, intent on causing mayhem.   We tooled around, playing racquetball at the local court, exploring the roads and byways of the town, and generally being where we weren’t supposed to be.  His mom, unaware of our whereabouts, came looking for us.  We finally ran into her around dark, and she was mad!  We expected it to be the end of the fun for a while, but things took a different turn instead.  She had loaded all Steve’s younger siblings in the car to go looking, and instead of dragging us home by the ear when she found us, she put us in the car, and we all went to the terrace, which was closed for the day, and sat around and talked for a couple of hours.  I don’t remember what we talked about, but there we sat, having a grand old time until a couple of hours after dark.  In retrospect, I think she wasn’t mad at us, but rather at Steve’s step dad, and that we stayed out in an attempt to avoid him for a few hours.

The amphitheater

During the height of the summer, this amphitheater would have concerts (mostly from the local schools) and was the prime seating for all other manner of gathering.


Ok, fine people, story time is over for today.  There is more, but this is all you get for now.

This Weekend the Sea as My Mistress

25 01 2011

Will be here!

The Sea As My Mistress Sees The Worst Case of Crabs Ever!!

22 12 2010

Strange statues from Haw Par Villa in Singapore.  It used to be called Tiger Balm Garden.

The Sea As My Mistress Sees The Light!

21 12 2010

In this case, the Light through a stained glass window at a wintery in Val Paraiso, Chile.  For some reason that summer I went to wineries every place I went.

The Sea As My Mistress Remembers the Girl From Ipanema

16 12 2010

So, as might have become apparent by now, I’ve changed the title of my blog.  I’ve realized that I am very bad at writing in this thing, and, well, faithful reader (you know who you are, both of you.) you deserve better.  So here is my attempt at fixing that.  I know I won’t write more, though, so instead I’m using this in a shameless attempt to show off the pictures that I have sitting on my computer, documenting the various places that I have been, and things that I have seen.  So, the title has changed to something in more interesting.  Those of you who read A Softer World will recognize the new title as a sort of poke at Emily there, who I know only through her pictures, which more or less prompted me to start doing this thing here again. She is a much better photographer than I am, but I hope to improve. Right now, you get a mixed bag of photos, some mine, some friends’, but eventually I’ll weed out the cool ones from other cameras and only have my own to rely on. I’ll try for witty titles, and for that I hope you can forgive me.

This particular shot is, in fact, Ipanema Beach.  We didn’t actually spend any time on the sand there, though we did spend a day on Copocabana Beach.  Both were spectacular beaches, though more crowded than you would believe.  Also, if you have heard the rumors that Brazil has the most beautiful women in the world, I have shocking news for you.  The average of beauty there is about normal, and they do have the most beautiful women in the world.  (For those of you who aren’t too math savy, ask a friend.)

Well, that’s it for now, hopefully there will be more in coming days!!