When I first learned to surf, my husband taught me how to read the waves. We’d sit for hours, sometimes on shore and sometimes at sea, watching waves and observing their timing and tendencies.
The best way to learn about waves, of course, is to get in them—to paddle through and over them, dive beneath them, be tossed and turned by them, and, in moments of sheer delight, connect with and ride them.
Sometimes, when I catch a wave and paddle back out to sea, I get caught in a set of waves. This means that I stop paddling, ditch my board (letting it remain connected only by its leash), and dive under each wave until the set passes. Sometimes I dive under fourteen or fifteen waves before a break arrives. At that point, I grab my board and paddle out before the next set arrives.
When I’m caught in a set, I sometimes find the wave’s sweet spot and get sucked right through. Other times, I don’t dive deep enough and the wave has its way with me. I get caught in its cycle, and it wrestles me toward shore, spitting me out when it’s done with me. In those moments, I have less air, less orientation, and next to no control.
I’m caught in a set of waves right now, and I’m looking for the sweet spot. Sometimes I find it, and sometimes I’m gulping for air. Sometimes I’m sucked right through, and sometimes I’m pummeled.
But here I am, paddling out to sea. I don’t have to do that. I can choose to enjoy the safety of shore. But that’s not my lot in life. My life is in the ever-changing sea.
In love and liminality,