Sometimes it’s a gentle pull, other times the force is enough to lay you flat on your face. The undertow. The pull of the ocean. Ever since I can remember the ocean has been as much of my summer as popsicles, watermelon, and long drives. I have run down the same path to the Atlantic Ocean from our family’s house in South Carolina for years.
I grin as my feet remember the ocean floor, much like a reunion of best friends. The hard sand grows a little softer, the wetness and unknown creatures greet my feet like a handshake. One that lasts only as long as needed. It serves as a mere formality; a simple avenue to the real embrace: catching a wave. It’s simple: give in to the pull, enjoy the first wave, taste the salt, feel the sticky, cool ocean, and repeat. A relationship that never gets old.
I can still remember years ago when my Great Grandpa warned me before our family took off for a couple weeks in the sand: “Now be careful of the undertow, it’s stronger than you think…it’ll get ya if your not careful”. I forced my facial expression to show sincere concern and appreciation of such advice, despite the melting hershey kiss in my mouth and the softer love of the ocean in my heart.
The undertow floods my mind these days. Not only because I dream about reuniting with my salty friend in a less than a month, but because in many ways he is evident in my heart. The gentle pull seems a little too gentle. The ocean floor is sliding past my feet at a frustratingly sluggish pace. The water is the perfect temperature, the sun is beating down, people are catching waves left and right. Given the conditions I should be experiencing the thrill right now; the knot in my stomach that is instantly born when a wave picks me up so fast I can’t stop it if I wanted to.
I haven’t caught a wave in weeks, months even. It’s summer. This the time when riding is the best. When it’s all about the thrill, about getting on top of big one and riding it all the way in, until your belly hits the sand, and your lungs feel the all too familiar burn. The good burn that comes with only the best of waves.
Like so much of life, sliding is part of the ride. You can’t get the good waves without the undertow. Although I often just desire the wave, the crash, the ride, the thrill, it would do me good to see the slide as not a necessary evil but a compliment of the ride. During this slide there is hope. While your feet start to drift, and your suit sways with the conflicting waves and the undertow- give into the expectation. The anticipation of how great this wave is going to be, how much joy there will be found in simply being carried into shore. Take joy in fact that at least you are in the ocean. Take heart knowing that a coming wave produces these undertows. A wave will come.
I have hope during this season of sliding. It is found in the memory of waves and of seeing others experience the thrill. My hope is found in joyfully getting pulled into a wave, enjoying the undertow, trusting that the one who created the shifting Ocean, will bring a wave.
I can feel the sand slipping faster already.
|Dad and brother|