It was a beautiful morning and Jack had already cleared his schedule for the day, hoping to spend some time with her. But Isabel had a deadline looming and she was way behind schedule. She needed to work for awhile without distraction and he found himself with some time to kill. Normally he would have been irritated that the weather report called for more rain, but at the moment, he was content to live with it. He was behind schedule on a job too, but he was working outdoors and he’d have to catch up when the weather improved. It came with the territory and he was used to it by now. He’d been working construction for almost thirty years and the weather in this town was as unpredictable today as it was when he’d first started out.
He ran upstairs to the bedroom of the cabin. It was beginning to feel like home and more than once he found himself wishing it was. Opening the duffel bag he’d brought with him, he decided it might be a good idea to finally unpack his things and he shook out the few pairs of pants he’d brought and tossed them in one of the drawers. He wasn’t fussy. Most of his work clothes consisted of old jeans and long sleeved flannel shirts over t-shirts. It only took him about five minutes to put it all away and he wondered why he hadn’t bothered to do it a few days ago. He picked up the two books he’d brought with him, and decided on one, stretching out on the bed and setting the other one on the nightstand beside him. Switching on the light, he put his glasses on and opened to the first page of Isabel's novel…
I was born in the city of Long Beach, at the tail end of a stormy winter. I always thought that was funny, because there wasn’t a beach anywhere in sight, certainly not a long one...and in California, winter is supposed to be non-existent and the sun is always expected to shine. The real view was something a bit different from that ideal. The hospital windows were filled with buildings and highways and a brown and dingy smog, courtesy of a world that was rushing by, completely unaware of the tiny baby girl on the fourteenth floor, arriving off schedule, apparently in just as much of a hurry. I was a month too early but I was a fighter, even then. And I would be drawn to waves and to storms from that very first day of my life. I suppose you could say I was born to it, and I would seek the sound and feel of both, for the rest of my days.
My dad was a Navy man and we moved to the east coast shortly after I was born. We settled on the shores of a lake, three thousand miles away, making frequent trips to Hawaii and California to visit family. I came to think of the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii as home, as easily as I called the various lakes of New York my home and would wander my whole life back and forth between the two coasts. When I set out at nineteen, ready to start a life of my own, I would be baptized by yet another body of water, a lake whose waves were reminiscent of the shores of both my birthplace on the west coast, and that of my father, on the island of Oahu. Water has always been in my soul, and it would forever be my biggest comfort.
For the first two decades of my life, I felt like a ship at sea, frequently blown off course, lost and drifting aimlessly beneath a bitter gray sky and shining light into the encroaching darkness in earnest. I was searching for belonging and seeking safe harbor on the heels of storm after storm on the rocky coastline of my life. And I was always chasing something… a boy, an ideal, an impossible dream. But in a stroke of fate, I found my safe haven in a blinking lighthouse before I even turned twenty. I had run aground again, ripping my hull on a scatter of jagged rocks, but when I looked up… that light was as strong a light as any I’d ever seen, and so I stayed. I put down my anchor, I set out to repair my boat, and I stayed.
I return to this place every November no matter where my life has taken me, driven by the relentless waves inside of me as much as I am by the waves crashing below me. I always come alone and on the same day every year... to remember and to feel. Those rocks on the shoreline are still rough against the backs of my legs as I swingthem in an arc, up and then down again, but I pay them no mind. Today, thin wisps of gray hair blow softly around my face and I reach up with one hand to hold them back, remembering this younger version of myself without animosity. We must each make our own journey, and this one, here in this place.. is mine. It will always be mine. With a sigh, I let it all go once again, as I have done every other year. I will continue to do this, for as long as I am able.
There is still a great comfort in the way the waves in their soft shades of blue and gold melt together, never changing, always returning as I do, year after year without fail. A lone seagull flies overhead and his mournful cry reverberates seamlessly against the beating of my own heart. Gathering up my camera, I wander down to the water and stand for a long time, lost in thought, silently taking in the scene in front of me. It reminds me so much of the Paciﬁc Ocean and I marvel at how the same amazing grace can exist in the changing moods of a lake way out here in the middle of nowhere. I close my eyes, whispering a fervent prayer and send it sailing on the wind into the misty sunrise, before slipping away without a sound, as if I'd never been there.
* * *
He stands in the shadow of the mighty oak tree at the edge of his property with his hat in his hands, never making a sound, despite the merciless pounding of his broken heart. He has watched me come, and he watches me go, every year now for thirty years. And when I am gone, he returns to the silence I leave behind me, wrapping it around him like a cloak until the next time…sliding quietly back into the shadows.
I know he is there. But I have yet to find the courage to break our silence.