The Water Cycle
Of the many things I hadn't done since destroying my right knee last year: a barefoot run on the beach. I woke with the intent of doing just that - it was a Saturday, daylight was shining through the apartment's slats, and I needed to get outside. Sun and sea and sweat.
I parked on Grandview and headed down the somewhat treacherous wooden stairs to the shore - it would be worse coming back, of course, inflated calves and stressed arches. There were a few guys in the water. Surprisingly glassy for midday, a slight swell pushing waist-high mush. The shortboarders were frustrated. The longboarders were feeling it. I hadn't surfed for...a year? Must've been that long. The knee, of course. Life. I'd paddle out tomorrow, I decided. Maybe dawn patrol it and grab a coffee after. Maybe spend the whole day in the water, floating, drifting, seeing where the tides take me. Who knew. The reset button had been pressed. The program was recycling. There wasn't an instruction manual. No playbook. These were the things that I'd need to figure out on my own.
Constants. The bones and muscles remembered the dry sand, pads of my feet digging into substrate, pushing me down the shoreline. I don't like to listen to music when I run on the beach; it's as good a place as any to retreat into my head. That morning I had been working with Lucas on some homework - a report he was writing about the snow leopard, and of course I told him that I had a book for him by a guy named Peter Matthiessen, and he probably wouldn't like it now, but wait until you're in high school, dude, you'll love it. I remembered another homework session, the year before, talking about the water cycle. How water goes from Ocean to Sky, turns to rain, falls to the land and runs back down to the ocean. He was so excited to tell me that he knew this, that age when science really does seem like magic. He'd mention it every time we'd come to the beach. I'm sure he'll do it the next time. Constants.
I ran and ran, past Stone Steps, a few miles, there and back again. Sometimes when I run on dry sand I do so with eyes closed. I think that if I do this it'll help my strengthen my ankles; they'll automatically adjust to minute changes in topography, minature dunes on a small desert, shifting below my feet. Shutting my eyes I thought I remembered what I used to look like when I'd do this run back in my 20's, young dumb and full of come, as it were, slight smirk on my face as I passed slower older guys and hurdled over girls lying on towels, yet another shirtless cocky asshole loping down the sands of Pacific Beach. I smiled and remembered a line from that Tennyson poem about Ulysses: though much is taken, much abides. I guess we'll see if you were right, Al.
The stairs back up. I stopped, slightly winded. The surfers were still out there. I thought about jumping in. It looked cold - probably would be a bit chilly, since May had just begun. Half the guys were in wetsuits. Half were trunking it. No way of knowing, really. Just like everything, one supposes. I thought again about the water cycle. Water falls, goes to sea, returns to the sky. A reset. "Do it", I said aloud.
It was cold. But it felt fine.