Blowing in the Wind.

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There is a sort of alchemy within the ocean, the way its power and ubiquitous sorcery sluice for all to marvel in. It is a kind of cosmic baptism for all walks of life. In a way its mystical and watery reticence harbors a clemency, for humans in particular. Because even through all the destruction and separation we have worked hard to carve out in this world, there still exists a vast mysterious ocean to marvel in. A place that doesn’t give a damn about the figurative lines in the sand people have drawn throughout human history, lines between our fear of wildness and our myopic belief that conquering wild places with civility and structure will create safety and happiness.

I come to visit the vast and mysterious ocean landscape often. Yet, often never seems to be enough.

Sometimes I run through the sand and through the frothing spray of crashing waves. Most days, scampering up and down the wiggly boundary where the sea meets the sand is my preferred way to experience it all in. The waves become this marine museum of daydreams and visions, Mother Natures own hieroglyphics pelting against my running legs as the waves curl back on themselves. Other times all I can do is stand there and let the whipping wind braid itself into my tangled mess of hair and bury my feet deep into the sand, root myself into the moment and allow the invisible language between us remind me of important things long forgotten.

This is my ritual.

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And the dog at my side has her own ritual, her own invisible language with the sea that sets off with or without my consideration.

She hits the sand and runs like the wind. A constellation of tiny tracks quickly appear behind her meandering paws as she guns it to nowhere. Like the spray of the crashing waves, the dog has her own whimsical hieroglyphics and she is caving out her own place in history in the sand beneath her. Only the story she has written, the delicate necklace of paw prints, disappears just as quickly as she has strung them, consumed by the museum of crashing waves and daydreams of the ocean beside her.

“What is she feeling?” I wonder to myself.

“Where is she going?” I whisper aloud into the wind.

But mostly I giggle from the joy of it all. The embedded elation in knowing that out here it doe not matter where anyone is going because the ocean renders time inconsequential.

She runs like the wind for a long while. Beating hell with her firecracker spirit, churning my little private world into a sandy slice of heaven.

“Go, Bell, Go!” I holler. Knowing full well she can’t hear me over the water- she wouldn’t be listen to me anyway. She’s all tangled up in instinct and her wild heart.

It’s remarkable to watch her enjoy life so much. She comes from a grim past. She began her life as a street dog. Unwanted, mistreated, malnourished, and scared; an eight pound wanderer of dilapidated buildings, garbage dinners, and dog fights. All those years ago she was a runner too, except back then she would run for survival. She would run with terror in the back of her throat and at the tip of her tail, dodging speeding cars on busy a thoroughfare. Now, thank God, she runs for the pure unfettered enjoyment of it. She was a street dog, and although she still has a bit of the street smarts and toughness in her, a street dog is most certainly is not who she is now. And the sandy beaches along the California coast are a testament to that transformation. She used to run to survive, and now she simply runs to enjoy the beauty of this watery world. She runs to become one with the wind and the water and the sand and the clear blue sky and the crisp rays of afternoon sunlight that make her midnight coat glisten like the sparkling midnight sea she loves so much. In a way, perhaps she still does run for survival, a survival of her wild spirit.

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Joan Didion once wrote, “I’ve already lost touch with a couple people I used to be”.

Her words remind me of the dog at my side and of the alchemy of the ocean. In a sense the ocean has helped my dog lose touch with people she used to be. Mama Nature has licked the wounds of her spirit and shown her that, although people can be cruel, this planet harbors unmatched beauty and wonder and can inspire a kind of freedom and joy that will damn near approach enlightenment.

Some days the magnitude of such beauty and grace are too much for me to take in. All I can do is stand there in awe, anchored in the sand, quietly facing the unrelenting vastness of the ocean, and close my eyes to it all. As odd as it may sound, when I close my eyes I can see it all more clearly and feel it more honestly. You see, the senses of the body are limited to actual perception but the senses of the spirit are transcendental, and they pull at the colorful ribbons of connection that snake their way deep into the past; to places and memories and states of being that only the mysteries of the ocean can conjure.

And so when the world feels too beautiful or too cruel to bare, I stand there in the sand and close my eyes. I let any humanism within me dissolve and allow the alchemy of the ocean heal me. The smells in the wind and the guttural sounds of the water mix into my blood and bones as every pore in my body takes in the ancient tincture of watery power and deep mystery that call forth my own wild spirit.