: views from the Hill

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Dreams of waves crashing ...

I spent a formative year, the year before we left for Brazil, living in Manhattan Beach, CA, while my dad taught geology at UCLA. I was four. We lived on The Strand, with just a road and a sea wall separating us from the beach and the Pacific Ocean beyond. There were five sibs then -- the last of we six not yet born. Skip, the oldest, would've been eleven. My younger sister, two.

I still dream of the beach house. In my dreams I wander through the rooms, searching for something. Skip had his own bedroom upstairs, with a closet whose back opened into the attic. I walk through the back of his closet a la THE LION, THE WITCH AND ... searching. The larger upstairs room was a bedroom and playroom for the four remaining sibs with a multitude of beds, including a large bed that slid in and out of the wall. I search there as well. Downstairs, the built-in kitchen table had benches that opened up for additional storage. In my dreams I wander through the house. My dad had a corner of the living room set up as his office where he would grade papers and prepare lectures. I was fascinated by the model of THE SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS he had hanging from the ceiling.

In my dreams, it is never clear just what it is I'm searching for.

I remember falling asleep sucking sea salt from my toes after afternoons playing on the beach.

I remember getting caught by the waves and tumbled under, gasping for air, unable to breathe, struggling to shore. I was four and it was the first of many times I got sucked into a wave. I've never been an enthusiastic body surfer although I was probably never in any real danger of drowning. Still ...

I remember the grownups talking about a possible tidal wave headed our way, a scare that petered out to nothing but which frightened my four-year-old self and left me now, forty-eight years later, with recurring dreams of large waves sucking me under, as I struggle for air, unable to breathe.

Sometimes I see the fog curling over the Santa Cruz Mountains and spilling down the eastern slopes. In my mind's eye I see not fog, but a wave, larger than any wave possible, swelling up from the Pacific Ocean until it reaches a monstrous height, then crashing over the mountains and relentlessly, inexorably swallowing us all.

Snorkeling in the Galapagos earlier this month, I was caught up unexpectedly by a wave and tumbled. I dove under that wave and into the next that was crashing over and came up beyond the surf, unshaken, proud of myself for facing into the waves and conquering the fears that had held me.

Perhaps, I thought, my dreams of gasping for air as waves crashed over me might end.

But now, I think not.

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