About 6 or 7 years ago, StarMan and I found ourselves surrounded in way-too-high waves off the Florida Space Coast, stupidly trapped in a rip-tide. I knew that we were in trouble approximately 20 seconds before he did. We had been in the water for at least 40 minutes, laughing and enjoying the bouncy waves. We were unaware that with each playful wave jump, we were getting carried a few feet further from shore. The waves were tall and irregular that day, a fact that was made abundantly clear only after we were wore out and ready to go back to our beach towels.
At some point, the ocean floor dropped out of feet-reach as one wave after another mercilessly crashed on top of us. In a panic, I realized that (1) there was a powerful force keeping me from swimming back to shore, and (2) the gap between the relentless walls of water was too brief to get a much-needed gulp of air. Using my dwindling lung reserves, I yelled to StarMan “I’m in trouble!”, and his eyes told me that he was in the same unfortunate predicament. A passing surfer went by; our terrified calls for help were drowned out by the deafening surf.
At some point, I gave up. My lungs were depleted of air and I didn’t have the strength to fight the waves any longer. I remember, quite clearly, making that conscious decision to stop fighting, knowing that I was about to die. I felt a bit embarrassed by the thought of dying in that manner, on a beach that had practically been my second home many years ago. I wondered if StarMan would make it back to shore — he was about 15 feet closer to the beach than I, a difference that I hoped would be sufficient. I felt sorry for him, for losing me in such an awful manner. Other than these strange thoughts, I was OK with the dying part. A very odd feeling, to exchange the “fight or flight” self-preservation instinct for complete surrender to a highly undesirable fate.
At the very moment of giving up, a wave picked us up and carried us several yards towards the beach … just enough that my tippie-toes felt solid ground! We both dug in, grabbed each other, dared the surf to reclaim us, and clawed our way back to safety. Beyond exhausted, we collapsed at the water’s edge, staring into each other’s eyes knowingly but in silence. We knew that we had cheated death that day. To this day, we regard it as “The Day That Shall Not Be Named”. The day was uncanny in more than one way: StarMan had this fungus thing going on in one of his big toes that just would not go away for several months prior to the Florida trip. When we returned to our hotel after the harrowing experience, his toenail was a healthy pink, utterly free of any hint of its former ugly self. In our more existential moments, we wonder if perhaps we did die that day, emerging into some parallel universe in which StarMan never had toe fungus and a moronic TV reality show host becomes U.S. President. But I digress …
On that frightening day, more than anything I wanted to find firm ground. For the past several months I have found myself again being tossed about by frothy whitecaps, metaphorically speaking. Like that day, the waves are unrelated events that seemed to have conspired to crash down simultaneously. Needless to say, I’ve been so occupied with treading water that I have severely neglected this blog (has it really been 2 years since my last entry?). I’m between waves at the moment, but I’ve got my eye on a potentially enormous breaker on the horizon whose size is still indeterminate. I’ll spend some time discussing these last several months of wave-hopping in upcoming posts. It’s good to be back!