On Thursday, I went to the beach for the first time in probably three years (except for Mothers’ Day this year, but that was an exception because it was a different beach than normal, and I got to help her fly kites like we used to do when I was a kid – but ANYWAY), and it was nice.
Didn’t take anyone with me, just packed up a bag with a thermos of cocoa, my notebook, a couple of pencils (they’re Pokemon pencils), and a towel. In Northern California, for the Uninitiated, our beaches aren’t those sexy, Santa Barbara kind of soft sand, warm water, even warmer sun; our beaches are like Russian grandmas from the early 1900’s: hard, cold, gritty, and smell sort of like salt and turnips.
But it’s a great place for being an introspective (pseudo-pretentious) douche.
So I walked down the shaky steps, took in the salty, crisp air, and found a big ol’ rock to sit on, contemplate things, and take notes.
If you haven’t yet, do me a favor and check out the “You Are a Human Being” post from Sunday. It’s worth a smile, and there were a few things I meant to dig into there, but never got around to.
One of those things is something called the Overview Effect. In brief, it’s described as a change in awareness and a shift in consciousness by astronauts during spaceflight when they see Earth in space – surrounded by nothing, baseless, floating, and moreover…tiny.
There are books on the idea, movies on the idea, and now blog posts on the idea; which is all a good thing, because it is a truly marvelous concept. Everything you know, love, hate, cherish, have made, eaten, seen, or what-have-you, is all on that tiny dot.
And that’s the reality, which is weird, isn’t it? But also provides a sort of privilege.
After I heard about it a couple of years ago, I started thinking of myself, at times, as a micro-explorer. Mountains aren’t giant, bacteria isn’t tiny, they just are the sizes they are. We just use ourselves to measure them relative to, well, us.
So it was thoughts like that which floated around my brain while I sat on that rock, beside a craggy cliff face which shored up along the tides. I started to think about the shoreline less like a huge wall of broken rock (which broke down into big rocks, which broke down to smaller and smaller rocks, until it was sand, until it was water, etc), and more like a flaky pie crust.
From up top and way up high, that’s all it probably looks like. You see the slab of land that stretches off into hills one way, like paper that gets a bit warped, wavy, and crinkled; and the other ends at the shore.
Do the visuals I’m trying to paint make any sense? Or is it just me?
Well, while out there on that rock, thinking of all these hilariously-too-big ideas (Jesus, that sounds like I’m stroking myself a bit: “Heh, look at me with all my big, genius, philosophy thoughts. I’m so wise and smart and- anyway), I hear something kind of funny.
I fit my pen into my notebook, lean over the edge of the rock, and look down.
Down by the rocks is a sea otter! But it looks different and like it’s holding something, a couple something’s, actually; and it isn’t scattering when I make noise. So I pack up my things, climb down my rock, and try to get a closer look; all the while, still hearing this weird “ching, ching, chang” sound.
I get down to the sand, round the rock, and find the otter. Up close, I realize why he looked strange from up top: he was wearing a helmet. A bright yellow construction helmet. And he was holding a chisel and a hammer, whacking away at a rock.
“Well, this is new,” I said.
“Yeah?” said the otter, turning around. He pocketed the chisel, leaned on his hammer, and adjusted the cigar between his teeth. He also spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent. “What’re ya lookin’ at, kid? You ain’t got anywhere to be?”
“Uh, no. Well, yeah, kinda, but, I mean…”
“Spit it out, kid. You thick in the head or somethin’?”
“You’re an otter.”
“Yeah, and who’re you? Beethoven?”
“If I’m talking with an otter wearing construction gear on beach, I might be.”
“Yeah? Well nice to meet you’s. Name’s Ralph.”
“Shit, Ralph. It’s nice to meet you too.” I hold my hand out to shake, and he takes it. He’s got a strong grip – a good sign. I tell him that.
“Yeah, kid. You too,” he says. “None o’ that limp-wristed bitch shit, m’I right?” He laughs. “Hey, know what kid? I like you. How ’bout me and the wife have you over tonight fa dinnah?”
Whatever plans I had, I cancelled. I was going to have dinner with this otter’s family. So he finished up his work on the rock, and when the tide came in, he ushered me off to a space along the shoreline. It was, for lack of a better term, a cave that wound down and around a ways that finally came to a light at the bottom. I expected it to be cold, but it warmed up rather nicely and kept dry, not humid at all.
“Honey!” Ralph called. “Honey, I’m home. And I brought a friend.”
When she walked around the corner of the comfortably furnished cave, my mouth fell open. “Catherine Zeta-Jones?” I said in astonishment.
She welcomed me in, we all had dinner (cioppino with red wine), I caught up on where CZJ’s been, chatted philosophy with Ralph, and got wine-drunk with both of them…
I woke up a couple hours ago, which is why I didn’t manage to post on Thursday.
Anyway, catch you guys Tuesday (barring any more run-in’s with praeto-natural mammals).