With only a couple weeks left in El Salvador, we hit the beach for the last time last week. Two years ago, as we prepared to move to this land of long, lonely beaches, I looked forward to getting myself a surfboard, throwing some racks on my minivan, and becoming a regular gremmie. Didn't happen -- I start work at 7:30 am, a solid hour or two before the embassy surfer dudes have to roll in for work, which put before-work surf practice out of reach for me. So we didn't have as much beach time as I thought we would, which frankly turned out okay, since we got to really branch out and see and do a lot more beyond the beach.
Still, there's something elemental and vast about the ocean. When I stand on the shore, on the precipice of blue endlessness, I'm kind of content to just be there, tiny, insignificant, a mite toeing the tightrope between the deep, shuddering earth and the fathomless, overwhelming sea.
I remember a long ago autumn day in Tartous, a Syrian town lapping up against the Mediterranean Sea. I sat on a rock on the beach in the shadow of a coastal Crusader castle and listened to the metronomic tide, heedlessly hurling itself at the stones. Eternity behind every breaker. The ocean smashed out its infinite rhythm, and I thought how the creaky old Crusaders themselves had heard the same mystic water land upon the same sand and stone, and I don't know that I've ever felt more suspended in time. Small before the absolute sea.
There were no weighty moments earlier this week as I watched my children and their friends scamper over the black sand. But it's still hard for me not to have the sensation of being little more than a blip beside the big blue water. Transient, like I'm dissolving back to dust before the constant sea. It was here long before my kids' feet splashed into the very tips of its watery toenails, and it will be here long after we've gone away, to wherever we go when we go away.
I guess that's what I think about when I'm on the shore, feet in wet sand, eyes and brain counting and recounting my children, making sure the unblinking blue universe that dwarfs the horizon and the worlds dancing above it doesn't unwittingly claim one of my kids. We may be finite, but why truncate the mere eye-blink of mortality we're allotted, right?
So farewell to the long, lonely beaches of El Salvador. Where the moon pulls blanket after blanket after blanket of sea up and over stone and sand, then lets it roll back home to the bottomless ocean.
And perhaps so we go as well, lifted from the comfort of an eternal sea by a benevolent Moon. Pulled through the air, we crash to earth in a paroxysm of mother, blood, and water, then slide irresistibly back home. Given up, then reclaimed. The paradox of redemption. Old as the tide.