My workout was finished. Home was ten miles one direction, the beach forty miles the other direction. It was a for-sure-I-need-a-shower day, but the ocean beckoned. So I rushed into Kohl's and bought a floppy hat on clearance to cover my dirty hair and shade my face then drove to Santa Monica.
Traffic was a bit nasty as I inched my way toward the coast, but I paid it no mind. I observed cars, clouds, buildings, and mountains along the way. I played through my car stereo whatever was on my iPhone (unsure of how most of it got there). John Denver accompanied me on the journey, as well as the dad from Fiddler on the Roof, Taylor Swift, and some island-tune-singing person.
I parked in a structure on Second Street and walked to the pier—the packed-with-people-from-everywhere pier. My white woven hat provided protection from the sun but also a sense of anonymity (lest paparazzi were to recognize me!). From the shade of the hat, I peered at the inhabitants of the pier, but didn't give much attention to anyone I saw. As I walked and noticed what was around me, my attention remained uncaptured by anything in particular. The two different vendors offering to write my name on rice, the seller of VW van magnets, the man offering to tell a joke if you gave him money, whose tattered sign read, “Come on, people! Give me a tip. It's my birthday,” the singing young woman, whose songs I neither liked nor disliked—none occupied much of my mind as the tide of people ushered me toward the pier's end.
Ah, at the end of the pier I stood. The breeze, so cool and strong enough to blow lingering thoughts away, refreshed me. The color of the water—that deep green—ministered to me in ways I didn't understand but in ways I knew I needed. The singer's voice faded to the background, as did the playful laughs of children, the families chatting in various languages. I heard the faint sound of a little girl's voice telling her mommy she saw a seal. I glanced around the teal water below, and there I saw it too. A sweet seal playing in, floating upon, and resting within the love of God—I mean, the ocean. My heart rose with each swell that carried the seal up then down. I sensed his playful, restful, trusting spirit and knew this is why I steered toward the beach that day.
I made my way back to my car, paid a dollar twenty-five for parking, then drove for over two and a half hours to get home. This time country music entertained me while again I noticed cars, buildings, clouds, and mountains. I arrived home and tossed the white hat onto a chair, where it remains. I'm not sure whether I will wear it again. But it served me well, to cover my hair and shade my face so I could go to the beach to see what Love wanted to show me, that summer day.
Diane Mann, 2017