Reflecting on a 12/28 visit to Half Moon Bay
Life is precious.
I imagine the wave cascading towards the beach, accelerating, growing in height, sweeping over me and our dog Gabby with power and ferocity. Piercing my false sense of safety on the stairwell, the illusion that the ocean will not take what is beloved to me. Penetrating deep into my core, shaking me awake. I am still shivering a day later, after a hot shower and hours of snuggling in warm covers. The ocean in my bones, warning me to be careful. A beautiful life could have been lost.
I’m very sorry for placing the life of Gabby at risk because of my actions.
I am committed to learning to care for other beings with reverence.
I will look deeply at my misperceptions of danger - with humans and within the natural world - and receive guidance with greater openness and ease.
Please forgive me.
Yesterday I asked Ryan if he can forgive me for placing Gabby’s life at risk because of my actions. He said yes. Can I begin to forgive myself for the whimsy and delight that overshadowed any recognition of danger? Can I grow in my ability to discern danger and to keep myself and loved ones safe?
I keep coming back to the jostling of Gabby’s leash on my wrist, the possibility of life lost. Dear one, she is safe now. I am safe now. We are warm and cozy at home.
This is an opportunity for me to step into deeper maturity, recognizing that my behaviors impact the safety and wellbeing of those I love. I am being called by the ocean to wrestle with my feelings of invincibility, to sense my own mortality, and to recognize that I am and will be responsible to others in my care. Dogs, infants, and small humans that will depend on me to make decisions for all of our safety. I must think and act with care and caution.
The wave was unexpected, random. A family was there with their toddler just minutes before. The wave swept across the beach, racing, growing, powerful, fierce. The ocean can sweep away dogs and children - even my own body - in one moment. I am not in control against a powerful ocean, fed by storms and rising seas. I am entirely fallible, somewhat naive, and need to grow my ability to sense danger in the natural world.
And I must not turn away from the resistance to guidance and instruction that tempers my days, the lingering effects of growing up in a household with parents exerting control over so many daily decisions. I grew up defiant to their guidance, took on a “fuck you” narrative to anyone looking to provide feedback. It was a means of self-preservation and protection against the rigorous control of childhood. Defiance was a way to assert my autonomy in small and large ways.
Fuck you. You don’t get to tell me what to do. I can do whatever I want.
For years I’ve operated with ambition and defiance, doing exactly what I want to do, fuck all else. And yet now I am called by Ryan and the ocean and Gabby into partnership and family. I am called to motherhood by an aging body and a womb longing for the sweet blossoming of a child. I will become a mother. And this process, this transition, requires me to grow up, to grow into new ways of thinking and perceiving myself. I cannot be a separate being acting on spontaneous whims. I am responsible to myself, Ryan, and to Gabby, and to our future children, whose existence rests on my health and ability to carry them to term.
I sincerely regret the ways in which my actions, even out of joy and longing for the ocean, risked Gabby’s life and wellbeing. I resolve to be more careful when other beings are at stake, be they dogs or my future children. I must learn to take responsibility for beings beyond myself, to think of their wellbeing in parallel with my own. We are not separate entities. I must grow up and learn to care for others with the same thoughtful consideration I bring to my lazy days. That is the beginning of motherhood. That is the budding blossom. I must grow up.
Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay: A remembering
The sky is vast and beautiful, coming and going without beginning or end. The waves are pounding the beach, powerful, fierce, rageful. Ryan and Gabby wait for me at the top of the stairwell, pointing out that the beach is closed. There is one family exploring by the sand on a flat surface of stairs. Ryan, Gabby, and I venture midway, peering over the edge towards the water. The family leaves. I implore Ryan to continue down the steps. The steps are damp, but we are elevated and dry, and I feel safe.
The waves approach the staircase where my blanket rests, but settles at the base of the stairs. I am cuddling Gabby, listening to oceansong, smiling in wonder at the majesty of the earth. A wave approaches, low to the ground. I sense no threat, and it continues, accelerating in speed, escalating in height. There is a moment of recognition when the water surges up towards me. The wave suddenly crashes over my body, drenches me in saltwater, snatches my shoes and phone. Gabby jostles beside me, her leash (by chance) wrapped around my wrist. The wave recedes in her fury. We are safe and the danger has passed for now.
I am in shock, stumbling over the location of my car keys, my shoes scattered, one far along the beach, another in the bushes. My phone is missing and I scan the shoreline for the familiar brown leather. It is nearby along the shore, and Ryan retrieves it in one sprint. We make our way to higher ground. Ryan says something about rice to save my phone. I am trembling in shock. Ryan is panicking. Promise me you’ll never do something like this with our kids, he says, and I recognize at once the possible loss of our beloved Gabby.
The terror of putting our beloved Gabby in danger of being swept away to the ocean, her unable to swim or maneuver, a terror as vast and unapproachable as the crashing ocean herself. When I can touch that terror, I understand Ryan’s silence. Churning unbreaking anxiety limiting the possibility of searing, heartbreaking loss. Ryan faces Gabby’s absence every day, witnessing her slow down, have digestive problems, lose her hearing and eyesight. The threat - the eventuality - of losing her must be terrifying.
Dear one, in the aftermath of this terror, I offer my care and love. That was so scary, unexpected, terrifying, the possibility of loss so near. I honor your shock, horror, and distress. I will snuggle with you until you warm up in your bones. I hold with tenderness your longing to be seen and loved and forgiven by yourself. Ryan loves and forgives you. Please find it in yourself to offer that same love and forgiveness.
Dear Melanie, you are not solely responsible for the events leading up to the wave. You held onto Gabby’s leash and didn’t let go. You spotted your phone and wallet lying nearby, and prioritized getting home safely over egg salad sandwiches or repairing your phone. You did not panic over the possibility that your phone might be lost. You stayed quiet when hurt by Ryan’s criticism and silence, recognizing that Ryan was unable to offer compassion in the moment. You drove home without shoes. You peeled off your soaked clothing and got yourself into the shower.
You were brave and resourceful, loving and kind. You didn’t turn away from Ryan, and brought him pizza on the way over in the evening. You were able to apologize and take responsibility for yourself without expecting Ryan to meet you first. You even got yourself more time with Eveline today to process aloud! You turned a terrible moment into a memory of resilience. You’ve made it into an opportunity to grow in intimacy with Ryan and to prepare for motherhood.
You are beautiful and entirely worthy of forgiveness. We all are.
I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.