There are times when we all feel our true power.
Not necessarily in the Tony Robbins sense of the term, though that does apply, but truly powerful, like we really can do anything we set our minds to. Moments when all the obstacles that hindered our daily stream of consciousness – hitches in our mood – were just plain non-existent: we could see them for the matterless concepts that they really are, in the final analysis. Moments of actual clarity.
Out in California, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, there was one such moment. Actually, there were ten.
The last day of a three-day stay before moving southward towards Greater Los Angeles and the flight home saw the fog lift a little bit, enough to clear the horizon around dusk. As it happened, the tides were also set to come in around sunset.
A day and a half prior to, walking on the sand, I’d had a quick flash of one of these moments as I headed up Carmel Beach towards the links at Pebble Beach, the boundaries of which line the top of a cliff that overlooks the north end of the public beach. The realization hit me, “I’m in California, on my own, looking out over the Pacific, exploring a strange shore far away from home”.
Of course, the location isn’t as exotic – around the same time that I was there, other friends were touring across Asia for a month, or exploring Europe and South America – but it doesn’t have to be. It simply has to be a place of power, a reason to undertake a journey and initiate a process whereby you re-empower yourself.
The feeling I had exploring the beach was one of true clarity. I wasn’t my work persona, my past failures, my divorce, or being the guy with no apparent future worth having….but yet I also was. It was a moment of total acceptance of all my aspects of self, and the world as it was. A moment that lasted with the same evanescent lifespan of a lightning strike: there, then gone. The New Agers call it satori: if I’m to use their terminology, the experience qualifies.
That last night in Carmel, I stayed on the beach in the evening. The weather there was cold – about low twenties Celsius for my entire visit – but compared to the heat wave that was happening back home in Toronto, it was definitely welcome. In the summer, tourists absolutely flood this little town, and hit the beach despite the cool air and notoriously unpredictable weather.
A few visitors were lingering as the sun finally sank below the cloud level into the clear patch of sky on the horizon, lighting beach fires and enjoying small dinner picnics, but it was short-lived as the tide waters started coming in. Eventually, the beach emptied, except for me and a few ambitious fishermen.
Everyone has life milestones, and many of them are so damned small that we feel stupid talking about them to people because they don’t get it. Before leaving for California, I’d mentioned in passing to someone at work that seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time was a major milestone. The response I got? “Ocean’s the same pretty much anywhere”.
It’s not really for anyone else to judge, really, but that was a reminder that not everyone has the desire for sheer exploration. Some people are just like that: they don’t get the idea, as William Shatner once put it, that the mountain just being there is reason enough to climb it.
I had missed the sunset due to the cloud cover for two out of the three days I was in Carmel. I was not going to miss the third, and I was not disappointed. I sat, cross-legged, watching the sun slip below the mighty Pacific, biggest single thing on the planet. My first ocean sunset, and another one off my Bucket List.
Why I’m drawn to the mechanics of a turning planet, I don’t know, and I doubt I ever will, but I can now say that I was able to watch the day begin over the Atlantic in Cancun from my honeymoon hotel room, and five years later witness the day end, all on my own, over the Pacific in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
But it was on the walk back that I really found power.
The tide waters were rushing in as the light really started to fade. On the ridge overlooking the beach, the quaint houses were turning on their lights as the residents and cottagers started to turn in for the night.
But the waters were surging – surging! – from the ocean and though it was cold, I had adapted and was literally soaking in the experience. The previously calm Carmel Beach was now wide awake with the ebb and flow of waves and wind and air. The next morning, I would have to leave early to head south, and there would be no time to return. These were my last moments at Carmel Beach.
Walking up towards end of Ocean Drive, there was a large pool of tidewater that was swirling with each wave. Vivid memories from my last childhood visit to a Trinidadian beach when I was five years old of little rivers letting out into the sea at Mayaro have left me with a fascination of places where the waters meet, and in that moment, that old feeling fused with the very new experience I was having right at that time. I waded into the tidal pool just as the waters surged again.
Then, I felt the most peculiar sensation. Between the swirling tidal pool behind me and the ocean in front, I found myself being rocked by the waters, just enough to not knock me over, but enough to keep me off balance. It was hard to keep balance as I was swayed to and fro by the waves on either side. I remember laughing out loud in little chuckles as I tried to navigate my way, of looking up at the sky and seeing a few stars in the clearing gray skies above the California shore.
I really felt as though I was at play with this place, that somehow the waters and the waves and the night and the dusk were all coming together for one reason: delight. No one else was around. No one there to see me grinning like an idiot and just laughing at being tossed around like a rag doll. As otherwise cheesy as it might sound, and for what it is worth to me for the time I spent there, this was Carmel saying goodbye.
In those moments, I did feel powerful, not in the sense that I was in control, but that I was connected to the same power that makes a summer night what it is, that gives all oceans their might, that shows all those silly concerns that some of us make paramount the rest of the time – will I get this job or lose that one? Should I be living with my parents? What if I die alone, never having met anyone else again? – to be so fucking trivial. So trivial….
As with all things, though, it had to end. I made my way through the waves back towards the higher ground on the beach. I turned and took one last, lingering look at that dark horizon, and said, out loud, a simple, quiet “thanks” before making my way up to Ocean Avenue, and a long walk back to my rental car, and a short drive to my motel, just outside of town along Highway 1.
I haven’t written much about my one week on my own in California – about the full day scouting out the glory that is San Francisco, or tracing the Free Speech Movement back to its roots in Berkeley, or even my slightly bumpy adventure in Los Angeles before flying home. Hell, I’m not entirely sure why I felt like writing about this experience tonight, of all times.
My plans, as always, change quickly from entry to entry. I’m now looking to move back to Hamilton, sharing an apartment with one of my closest friends and brothers, assuming we can get our collective shit together. Convergence is now available on Lulu and I’m back where I was before with my writing career – where QLO was just before my divorce happened and otherwise tore my entire existence a new one – querying agents and selling self-published copies.
I’m starting my course on novel-writing in a week and hoping to meet new friends who share my ambition and get where I’m coming from. My daily anxieties are once again about finding new work close to where I will be living and making a life that’s worth waking up to in the morning.
About the day when I can really look myself in the mirror and love, unconditionally, the face that’s staring back at me.
When I really wonder about whether my belief in soul mates, in my soul mate, is based mostly on true faith in destiny or a reaction to the very real possibility that what I had before was it, and there’s nothing else to look towards except living and dying alone.
Where were these worries during that last few minutes on Carmel Beach?
Overall, I haven’t enjoyed this big adventure I’ve been on for the past two years, but that’s the thing about adventure: it’s not meant to be enjoyed. Not everything had to be about hedonistic pleasure. Adventures are about thickening your skin, sharpening your mind, and opening your heart to greater things in life.
But the adventure has had its moments, here and there. And of those moments, the ten minutes I spent among the waves on my last night at Carmel-by-the-Sea have the added bonus of being among those I’ll carry with me the rest of my life, with joy, and gratitude.