Friday morning finds us back on the beach. Jack delights to see a red flag flying above the white, powder sugar sand. Waves crest at the sandbar and hurdle into the shore as dark clouds gather on the horizon, far out over the Gulf. My son doesn't care. These are his "ideal" beach conditions. Do I worry just a bit that only a few other people are in the water? About a hundred yards down the beach, two teenaged boys plunge in the surf. A little family teeters by the edge of the water. The children, longing to rush in to meet the onslaught of surf, are held back by cautious hands. Jack and I, intrepid, hold our boogie boards above our heads and meet the tide.
Standing in the waist-high waters, I don't have time to think before a powerful crush of water pushes me back toward the shore, like a bully daring me to cross an invisible line on the sand. Jack is taken under. Completely submerged. I move toward the spot where he stood, readying myself to plunge in after him. Within seconds he is spit out. His damp head pops from the roiling surf. He laughs and shouts. "Mom, did you see that? That was awesome! Did you see me?" And in the next moment, he rushes into the waves and is consumed again.
Now let me assure you that Jack is an excellent swimmer, and he is not a daring child. He has always been cautious, so much so that I once wondered if he would ever agree to plunge his head beneath water. There was a time not too long ago when he would cry if a wave smacked him in the face. Now, he laughs it off. Surfing is a game between he and the waves. He keeps score. He "feeds" the ocean handfuls of sand to appease its "hunger" and draw out its best surf. I hear him singing a refrain from a song we listened to in the car on the drive down. He explains he is taming the waves. In this way, he controls—if not the ocean—his fear.
Life is this way. We are ever in the balance, and yet we willingly plunge in. We forge ahead with our goals and dreams because they draw us in—sometimes rudely pushing us back or abruptly spitting us out. The alternative would be to sit upon the shore and wistfully wonder what it would feel like to experience the crush of something more powerful than ourselves. So we throw ourselves in. We take a risk. Find ways to comfort ourselves if we grow fearful. Then, we run headlong into the surf. In the process, we forget the danger that is all around us and have fun.
Jack and I spend an hour or so tossed like flotsam on the waves. I drink a gallon of salt water and my ears and hair are crusted in sand. No matter. We have abrasions on our shins and elbows from where the surf pummeled us into the soft sand. We don't care. That's why we're here.