Of life and death are we, specimens of decaying flesh, yet bearing about a sheath that houses immortality; an occasional scintillating of soul revealing the glorious truth. It was appropriate then that our last 70th-birthday-party-San Diego-trip afternoon, that morphed into evening, be spent by the sea.
Eternal sea. I cannot recall a time when I have pressed my feet into fine beach sand and cast my eyes over the rolling water but what I have thought: The ocean is forever; it never stops, refuses a rest period or a break; ebbs and surges, rolls in and then without. Weeks give to months, and negligible thought is directed to that raging water, but as I stand here now, I sense its continuum, its abiding nature, its timelessness. (To be precise, the sea is not infinite, and at the end of the ages will pass away.) Certainly, though, a fitting symbol of birthdays and of life and of death.
Fitting, too, that among our family-Imperial Beach-outing on Friday afternoon was Ella Claire, a baby, a new soul, who only one week ago learned to walk, and who staggers about as drunken, and about whom I heard one of her siblings lovingly say, “Ella, you look like an old lady with arthritis.”
I didn’t ask, but I suspect this may have been her first visit to the ocean, and she was driven to it as metal filings are snatched to a magnet. Holding her mother’s hand, with no apparent fear, she waded into the foamy edgewater, and when Shawnna would bring her back to our spread towels, she immediately turned and trotted toward the water.
The older children had thrown chips, and gulls and pigeons had fluttered in, squawking and chattering and fighting over the morsels, and Ella walked right into the middle of them, sat down, and scooped sand into a pile. She’s a baby, a fresh soul. Her vision of sea is untried, her experience meager.
I watched as Shawnna mothered, grasping Ella’s hand for wading, holding her against the current, and once when a wave came too rough and too close, the mama lifted high the baby until the threat had passed. It was a teaching expedition that Friday afternoon, though neither pen nor book were in sight. I watched a mother prove life to her baby girl.
The sun shinned as we arrived at Imperial Beach, but as the hours passed, an early marine layer moved in, and the wet children were cold. It was time to leave; Andrew and his crew and Rebecca and hers were off to a pizza joint and Jerry and I were to meet our friends for dinner at Islands. “It’s got to be someplace that’s casual,” I told Nita when she called and wanted to take us out for dinner. “We’ll be coming straight from the beach.”