Winter In California
I woke up today at 4:45 am. That isn’t usual for me, I am more of a 6:30am(ish) guy. Today was special though, an old friend invited me for an ocean swim before the sun came up and I couldn't turn that down. The sky was black when I walked outside with my coffee and got into my car, and the bite of cold in the air definitely made me second guess my trajectory towards the water. There’s nothing quite as intoxicating as a warm bed on a chilly, winter morning. So much so that otherwise unique pre-dawn outings can sometimes get second billing to the main event of sleeping past the alarm and doing that weird “yes” head motion on the pillow. You know the one, where you find a spot so deliciously comfortable that you kind of nod in approval onto the you-soaked linen.
Today I was determined though. No surfboard, no waiting for the air to warm up, No tethers of any kind really. I wanted to swim out towards a horizon that was dark enough to disappear into the water, creating an illusion of a lightless infinity. To be there, tiny and insignificant, as the miracle of sunrise made its appearance.
I made the right decision.
As the sky bent into a riot of pastels to the west it became apparent to me and my co-conspirators that we were not alone. A relatively large pod of dolphins was also partaking of the sunrise, batting their flukes at one another and investigating us with a mild caution. Close enough that you could count the nicks in the elder mammal’s dorsal fin and we were left wondering what he’d done to earn those distinctive marks. Then between us and the shore a sea lion introduced itself, disappeared, then reappeared multiple times like some aquatic illusionist performing its version of sleight of flipper.
We swam for a while after the sun was up then slowly made our way back to the shore. I took a few deep breaths, shook the water out of my ears, then I turned around to take another drink of the morning scene there at the shoreline. It occurred to me that as sacred as this outing had been, there was nothing particularly unique about the circumstances. The sun comes up every day, the ocean has been doing its reliable push and pull for billions of years and people like me have been cooling their limbs in it since there have been people. What is sacred is our potential and capacity to notice. To will ourselves past the mild discomfort of cold and or silly impediment of being a (mostly) land dwelling mammal and be an enthusiastic participant in something as routine as the spinning of the earth.
As I come up to the start of my 46th lap around the sun, I am reminded of the sacred within the mundane and though the old adage says, “the devil is in the details”, I am becoming more convinced that God is just as present therein. It is, perhaps, a matter of perception.
February 7th, 2022