Ode to SoCal (#1)

There are some nostalgic places—memories from childhood turned into idealized scenes—that upon revisiting as an adult are nothing like how they were remembered. Take a trip to Disneyland last December: fighting through hoards of tourists, waiting in lines over an hour long, getting drunk at Downtown Disney to cope with it all only to get on a measly five rides all day was not the joyful place I remember.

Then there are other places that not only live up to the memory but become brighter than they once were. I am at the beach today and it my third time coming here in a month since moving back to Southern California, the place I grew up in but haven’t lived since I left for college at 18.

As I breath in the salty air, the sharp sun and the rolling, cool waves I remember who I am and why I am here. Southern California beaches are where the endless natural world comes crashing against a sprawling polluted metropolis. Natural chaos meets man-made chaos, and in the middle a calm sense of order comes through.

Burning feet squishing through course, hot sand to wet, spongy sand where crabs dig holes and blow bubbles. Salt water crashing frigid against skin then moments later like bath water as the body wants nothing more than to submerge itself whole. Relinquishing oneself to the earth’s magnetic poles as the tide pushes the body in and out, in and out. Lying on sun-warmed towels, relaxed but still panting from the swim. A hat covering the face as the great ball pours down, browning skin, watching surfers, mediating the wind.

Summer beach days were some of my favorite as a kid. Since college, I have been to beaches in Oregon, Northern California, Mexico and Hawaii seeking that familiar beach experience. And as beautiful in their own ways those other water and sandscapes were, they weren’t the same.

When I return to a beach in Southern California, my body instantly knows it. It doesn’t matter which one, from Laguna to Malibu, as it’s not the specific geography, landmarks or people that place me there. It is something about how the sun, sand water and air come together in this part of the world. I feel like I am part of them. That I always have been and always will be.

October 1, 2013

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