midway through the journey of our life

Not many people know this, but I am quite fond of my husband, who turned 35 yesterday. I have a somewhat erratic approach to his birthdays, investing vast effort in celebrations and then forgetting small details, like what day it is. One year I drove him down to Big Sur for a dirty weekend. We arrived at our cabin after lights out, to find the kitchen innocent of a single utensil. We dined on croissants toasted under the broiler, avocado cut with my pocket-knife and champagne drunk from the bottle.

That was the weekend we saw a Californian condor, near McWay Falls.

This year I was slightly preoccupied with Julia, who turned one month old yesterday. It was only a week ago that I sent email to the usual suspects plus a wish-list of people I knew Jeremy would love to see. To my horror, many of the usual suspects already had other plans. Me at 5pm, rending my garments: No one’s going to come!

But practically everyone on the wishlist came. We drank mulled wine at the lovely red-walled Revolution Cafe and had tapas and sangria at Esperpento. I watched the light shining out of Jeremy’s face as he talked and laughed; it was as good as seeing a condor.

Aaron M, that salty dog, told me tales of the sea. “My dad was living on an old motor launch in the Marina. One day this sailboat pulls up next to us, and the mate has left the ship. The guy says to me, Do you want to go to Hawaii? I’m working in a health food store on Castro Street. So I say, Yeah.

“He taught me to sail but he’d only ever sailed in the Bay. We didn’t make it two hundred miles before we had to turn around, he was so seasick. I was stubborn. I’d told everyone I was going to Hawaii, then to Sydney, then who knew where. I said I’ll go where the ocean calls me! I didn’t want to have to see them again, like, five days later. So I’m arguing with the guy, and it was a bit like, Who is the captain here?

“So we turned around. Actually it was on the trip back that I fell in love with the ocean, and who knows how my life would have turned out otherwise? We were in a huge swell, like fifteen foot. I got into a rhythm. You have to steer diagonally across the wave, then when it crests, you turn and steer diagonally the other way. So you’re turning the wheel all the way and then turning it back. And I’m sitting like this, watching the swell come up from behind me, and it’s like I’m playing with the ocean, this wild, amazing force. I’m saying, Play with me. Don’t hurt us. Just play.

“We’d got out to where the sea wasn’t green any more, all messed up with debris from the shore. It was this inky, midnight blue, so beautiful. And we saw the, what do you call it, the bioluminescence. I didn’t know what it was, I thought maybe it was radioactive debris. But we could reach into the water and pull out single strands and shred them, and the bioluminescence fell on the deck and shattered like mercury.

“Yeah, I just got up and went. And ever since, I’ve been in love with the sea. It’s one of the reasons I love Serena; she’s game for anything.”

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