I think maybe I thought I'd sleep better right out of the gate. If nothing else, I was hoping to finally make good on the long-broken promise I've been making to my mother about getting a good night's sleep.
But there was the heat. It was the kind of swelter that first chased Amy and me out of New York and into the cold embrace of Karl the Fog back in the summer of 1996. With that kind of heat, my daughter couldn't sleep, Amy couldn't sleep, I couldn't sleep, the dog couldn't sleep. My daughter eventually got drowsy, fantasizing about body pillows made of soft, moldable ice packs. The dog pawed insistently at his bed for a while—thinking perhaps a cooler surface could be found if only he could just break through the fabric. Then he sighed loudly, several times, to alert us to his displeasure and eventually settled down. Amy and I read our library books. (OK, she read her library book. I read Facebook; my library book made me sneeze.) And eventually we, too, dropped off.
But my sleep was light, erratic, and interrupted. I was anxious, and then mad at myself for being anxious when I'm supposed to be relaxing. Truth be told, I was scared. In 7, 6, 5 hours, I would be zipping myself into a wetsuit and attempting to surf. In the ocean. With an instructor, Carlos, yes. But in the ocean. Surfing. Me. And seaweed. And sharks. And my contact lenses, which seem to be breaking up with me these days. And Amy, thank god for Amy. But Amy and the ocean. The cold ocean. With the waves that tumble you around and around. And the water that gets in your nose and your ears. And my body—my aging, out-of-shape, sleep-deprived, asthmatic body.
When, eventually, I made it to the dreaming stage, I dreamed of dogs. Old dogs. A dog named Bob, whom I used to know, may he rest in peace. And a dog named Conan, who walks around the park the way I feel when I walk around the park—young at heart in many ways, but more salt than pepper, and definitely a little worse for wear. When I woke up, I wondered if my subconscious mind had been attempting to make a pun. Something about old dogs and new tricks. But maybe a dream about old dogs is just a dream about old dogs.
All I know is that for all the agitation of the night before, the moment when I stepped in the water this morning, all the fear ran right out of me. The weather was perfect. The waves were perfect. Even the seaweed was perfect. The wetsuit kept me warm, and the cool ocean kept me refreshed. Carlos joked that when you fall doing anything else, you feel bad but when you fall while surfing, you just laugh. It's true. I let out little chortles every time I forgot to bend my knees and went flying off. Face first. Butt first. Hands first. I fell a lot. And I laughed a lot. And I rode a couple of waves too. Two of them. They were magnificent.
I never realized that you could be awful at something and love it. Deeply, deeply love it—in the same way you love something you are amazing at.
I am terrible at surfing. And I am now addicted to it.
This is why I live in California. It just took me a while to find out.