The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean, I thought about how inadequate and insignificant one life really is.
I’d traveled 2,000 miles by plane and then by car to stand on the edge of a cliff, surrounding a cove, facing a blue vastness so unlike the other bodies of water I’d dipped my toes into. I was so small and so much space was out there that it hurt my head to think about for too long.
Around me were rich colors – deep blues of the ocean, rich browns and tans of the earth and bright greens of trees and flowers. Surrounding the cove, the Earth rose out of the ocean in a way I am unused to. The Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico are lined with white sand beaches perfect for lazing away summer afternoons next to the murky, muted blue-green water. The real world of cars and houses and hotels and tourist shops is away from the water, buffered by sand dunes and beach grasses and signs asking you to please not disturb them for fear of erosion. In La Jolla, the Earth curved around the water in steep hills and cliffs and rocks. Erosion was at work there, naturally.
Seals sunned themselves on the larger rocks while enormous pelicans preened. Besides the occasional hermit crab and marine bird, I’d never seen sea life in a natural habitat. We spent nearly an hour just watching them play – natural show-offs to the crowds that formed along the small park’s railings. Honest-to-goodness palm trees lined the streets. These were no crepe myrtles or wannabe palms – these were the real deal – tall and majestic and begging to be filmed from the back of a convertible.
Fancy restaurants with Bentleys and Maseratis valet parked outside were a dime a dozen, snuggled in close with posh boutiques and high end anchor stores. Tourists and Californians bustled around, looking for a parking spot, watching for a glimpse of someone famous, universally unaware and unawed by the beauty to their west.
I was woefully out of place except when I was leaning on the rail, looking out at the blue of the Pacific and picturing my life, so small in comparison.
It’s funny how things like this can live in your memory. You remember your trip to La Jolla and San Diego, but it isn’t until you look at your vacation photos, four and a half years later, that you realize how you actually felt when you saw the Pacific for the very first time, or the first time you crossed a desert by car, or the first time you ate the best fish tacos of your life.
One vacation photo that never existed digitally or otherwise outside our minds is one that I pray will never flutter away with age or distance. One moment we are roaring across the beach on the back of a borrowed ATV, kicking up sand behind us, motor whining as we crest the dunes with the setting sun shining straight into our blinded eyes. He kills the motor. We breathe out, we look back over our shoulders to see the dying sunlight flood across the absolutely serene surface of the Sea of Cortez. We gasp. There are no words for what we saw, no crayon or poetic sentiments to describe that color radiating out from us, glittering, but I’ll be forever grateful that I wasn’t alone in seeing it. We saw it together. Our untellable secret. Our supreme moment of beauty. Our shared memory. My proof that one life is big enough to behold such a thing.
***I’m participating in a February blog prompt writing group. Today’s prompt involved memories, obviously. Want to join in? Contact me for more information.***