On the beach with Pablo

¨Necesito del mar porque me enseña, no sé si aprendo música o conciencia, no sé si es ola sola o ser profundo, o sólo ronca voz o deslumbrante, suposición de peces y navíos, el hecho es que hasta cuando estoy dormido, de algún modo magnetico circulo en la universidad del oleaje¨-Pablo Nerudo, El Mar


You stand waist deep in the waves, alone. Your compañeras, your friends, your coworkers- you´ve been mixing Spanish and English with a shocking simplicity lately- are laying on the beach. You alone have ventured out into the waves.

It is midday. The beach is busy but not overcrowded. Families swim in the bath temperature water, couples lounger under cabañas, young people sip bright cocktails from the small wooden bars that line the sand.

But you, you´ve only got eyes for the sea.

It is the sixth day of your vacation, the first day at the beach. The first few days you spent in Mindo, a tiny town in the cloud forest outside of Quito.

Your first morning in Mindo, you and Na went for a run. It was humid but your legs were begging to be stretched, so the two of you headed out down a long dirt road. As time passed, the sun grew hotters and the butterflies came out. Monarchs. Bright orange and striped with black, and you thought of how every year your mother raises monarchs with her second grade class. You thought about their fuzzy caterpillar bodies and how precarious they always seem in their cocoon, hanging by a thin thread of their own making.

Mindo was different than Otavalo, the air thick and sticky, the plants lush and pompous in their vitality. As you ran you couldn´t help but be reminded of a relay you ran last summer, all hot air and back roads,and as soon as that thought ends you´re thinking of Cave Junction when you were ten. Of the path from the wooden A-Frame house where your Aunt and Uncle lived to the glittering creek and the old disintegrating tree house where your mother lived one summer when she was fourteen.

And as you run, along the red dirt path in Mindo, you begin wondering if this is how all new experiences will be percieved: through the lens of the old. If everytime you travel to a new place it will be like a water color painting, the colors darkened, deepened, enhanced by what you have seen before.

Days pass and here you are, waist deep in salt water. It is an overcast day, but you don´t care. You were raised on winter beach trips to the Oregon Coast. When your father would drink a morning coffee-strong, black- and announce that he felt like going to the coast. And you would giddily help load up the truck and go, always accompanied by cracker jacks, corn nuts and made up songs. Only staying on the frigid sand long enough to stick your toes in the water and screech in delight.

There you go again, mixing the present with the past.

The waves are crashing down on you and you giggle, hopping around and splashing water like you´re a little girl again, pretending it´s just you with the whole ocean to yourself.

To the left of the beach large cliffs jut into the water, and big clouds hug the line of sky, and you think of Encinitas, of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, of the way San Diego unfolded beneath your plane the many times you landed there in the past year. You think about the night that you sat on the cold dark sand and looked at the stars and tried to figure out where you fit.

And then of the bodega in Panecillo, near Aurora and the new baby, only four days old. And how from the door of the bodega you can see all the constellations from the northern and southern hemispheres. Another amazing thing about this country. La Mitad del Mundo. The middle of the earth.

You want to stop this flood of memories, to stay present in this  beautiful moment but you can´t. Each wave crashes on to you and you´re reminded of something else you can´t ignore.

The beach house you rented your freshman year of college. Your ninty-year-old grandmother stepping into the Hawaiian sea, her swimsuit skirt rising up and circling her. Your father, ankle deep in water, a coffee cup in hand: strong, black. The view from Pablo Neruda´s house in Valpairaiso, the Pacific seeming so endlessly blue from the hilltop. How he must have sat there, staring at the view and composing lines of poetry in his lover, lines that would become famous.

Only nine weeks left in Ecuador. Only nine more weeks. Your head can´t really imagine this. Can´t imagine packing up your things, returning home. Maybe that is why you can´t separate the present moment from your past, because although you still have two months left, this itself feels like an instant. An intake of breath.

So instead of thinking about November, about your misty future and the upcoming departure, you stand in the waves and you think about the famous poet, and how although he had so many women that he loved, none quite captivated him like the sea.


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