It had grown late, but I couldn't bring myself to get out of the warm Gulf Coast waters of Florida. Working with children all day left me little time to be alone with my thoughts, so I found a calming solitude in my evening surf outings.
I made it an after-work tradition to drive directly from the house where I took care of three children to the beach to check the waves. My only stop on the way was a brief detour by my apartment, where I paused just long enough to change clothes and grab my surfboard and a towel.
Upon reaching my surf checkpoint this evening, I had found the waves less than surfable. These conditions would normally have sent me packing. But the calm water, instead of disappointing me, seemed to invite me to paddle out.
I parked my car and walked a short distance to the small waves lightly breaking on the sand. Somewhere between my car and the water my ears lost track of the traffic noise and caught hold of the sound of the surf. Nearing the water's edge, I set my surfboard down for a moment to ask myself what I was doing here when surfing was so obviously not a possibility. A thirst for the refreshment I got from surfing overrode any concern. I quickly strapped my surfing leash to my ankle and sloshed out into the water.
Once settled onto my board, I began paddling. That's when it started. Peace. I was leaving the world behind. It was as though the water had a life completely separate from the land, and I was no longer capable of feeling anything related to stress, frustration, or schedule. Reaching the edge of the wooden pier that stuck out into the water like an extended arm, I let my own arms relax and sat up on my board to take a look around.
Scanning the beach and the water around me, I saw no one. I was completely alone, in a moment only I owned. I caught sight of my car, patiently standing at its post, the only lifeguard on duty. Looking farther, I saw the beachfront road I'd traveled. Sitting out in the water, I felt somehow more alive and more aware of life than the people rushing by in their air-conditioned cars, filled with the noise of pulsating stereos, completely unaware of the beauty only a few steps away.