Always at Tofino

I’ve been thinking constantly about Tofino, that western coast of Vancouver Island, where people swim and surf all year round, even in winter.

For a while, I was into watching parkour, watching folks throw themselves around, over, under, and through whatever obstacle was in their way. And that was great. But there was still a part of me that wanted to see acrobatics that I could (potentially) do — without cringing at the thought of landing hard the wrong way on a solid object. And I was more interested in seeing something in the wilderness, than in the city… something that involved people in dynamic interaction with their environment. Like I am with my own environment.

Then came Tofino. Onto my radar, thanks to YouTube. Surfing in snowstorms. Endless waves that have been rolling in for thousands of years… that can be caught by just about anyone with a wetsuit and a board… male or female. An equal opportunity constant challenge. Not unlike TBI — only much less particular. I think of those waves, deadly as they can be, as being all but oblivious to the presence of humans. TBI, though, seems a whole lot more personal.

Anyway, I’ve been struggling a bit at work, on and off. Struggling with money. Struggling with my marriage. Not constantly. Many days are great, and there are so many good moments. But still, I can’t help but wonder what it might be like to not be here at all… but be at Tofino, enclosed in neoprene, paddling after waves.

What might that feel like? The constant rolling, the chasing, the paddling, the riding, the flying, the falling… the constant ebb and flow, the never-ending crash and pull, the rip tides, the swells, the sky overhead, and the salt on your face, in your eyes, your mouth, frigid water seeping into the tight spaces between skin and wetsuit… I imagine what it must be like, to track through snow to get to the beach… how cold it must be. And how much you must need to want it, to do it. How much you must have to have it. Man, woman, or child. Elder or youngster. Local or import.

I dream of Tofino, having no idea what it’s like, not knowing if I will ever find out. I am almost out of money, for a variety of reasons, many of them neurological, past and present. I am intensely occupied with just keeping viable in the moment, and I am fully invested in living right here, right now. Will I ever see Tofino? Who can say?

What I CAN say is that I don’t necessarily need to be at Tofino to have that kind of experience. Oh, certainly, there is no place like it on earth. But surely some elements of the experience of it can be had, just about anywhere you find yourself. Maybe Tofino is as much a state of mind as it is a place…?

I have friends who like to talk about living capably “in the flow” in terms of being “skillful surfers”. These people bug the living crap out of me. Because they are — almost without exception — extremely un-athletic individuals who love the imagery of surfing without having any idea of what it’s really like to Get Out There in the surf and try your hand at surviving it. They don’t swim, they don’t surf, they don’t even boogie board. They just like the imagery.

But I’m getting prickly. The real thing I need to talk about is how I don’t have to leave the country to get the state of mind I seek — the surfing, the moving, the seeking, the riding, the splashing, the movement. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, I can have that quality of living that I seek, simply by putting myself in that head-space. It’s not easy. Sometimes it seems all but impossible. But it can be done. I did it when I was homeless, two decades ago, walking the streets of a very large city in the winter, wondering what would become of me, realizing that no matter where I was or what I was doing, I could choose to think and feel however I chose to think and feel. That was something NO ONE could take from me. No matter what. Unless I let them.

Now I find myself thinking this same way — almost out of money, wondering what’s going to happen to me and my family and my home… dreaming of Tofino and spending my days in the water. I can spend my days however I like, in whatever frame of mind I so choose. I don’t actually have to be in the water to get soaking wet. I can close my eyes… and imagine…

I may be here, or I may be there, but I can always be at Tofino.

Tonight, I am about as alive as any person can be

I am wiped out. Tired from a day full of really good things, and tired just thinking about all that tomorrow will bring. My job is wiping me out. And that’s okay. Because I know it is, and I know it does, and it just means I have every right to go to bed early tonight.

The autumn night is humming with insects, the sing-song cadence of their sawing wings and their scraping legs a kind of tinnitus, the high pitch of life that is always there, even when it isn’t.

I am reading again. Travelogues by infamous writers. Accounts of Greece and Italy and France and beyond. Stories of New York and California. All of them inaccurate, all of them true, with the kind of truth you can only wring from someone who isn’t often studied in school.

School. Huh. I saw a bumper sticker on my way home tonight from my weekly neuropsych visit — Learning is natural. School is optional. And I read the words of individuals who turn their nose up at the academy.

I used to think I wanted to earn multiple degrees. Find a stable job teaching at a good school — not necessarily a famous one, but one where I could dig in and grow some roots, live the life of the mind and make a name for myself. A name for myself… as though my own name didn’t matter. As though I were like a tree falling in the forest who wouldn’t make a sound unless thousands upon thousands of others could hear me loud and clear.

A name for myself… I was blind and deaf and dumb, struggling to prove to myself that all the things that were “up” with me didn’t make me less of a person… and losing that battle daily. The one who needed most to hear my fall in the forest was me, but I was so busy trying to convince others, I hardly paid any mind to myself.

And all the while thinking “… this inner life, this secret place within, these thoughts of mine, these sensations and confusions and all of it… this is who I am. This is what I am. This is all I have to work with.”

Far from it, I know now. But when you’re 28, you’re so damned sure… and all the while, no one was listening. I thought – no, I knew. No one was listening.

Then I crossed the country. Twice. In a 14-foot rental truck. The second trip found me in a vehicle the same color and size as the truck that blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, within a week after the attack. I got strange and wary looks on that trip. But I made it. I did my explaining whenever necessary. And I kept moving.

Keep moving… that seems to be the key to my live-liness. Not so much like a shark, as a small bird that must constantly eat to keep its energy up. I move with the cycles, picking up speed when the seasons change, so I can make a smooth transition into the next round of sun or rain or snow or wind or whatever.

And the night is my friend. Most of the time.

Tonight,  I am about as alive as any person can be. I ache like the dickens — I swam the other day, wearing an old suit because I misplaced my new one. The old one didn’t fit me well, but I swam anyway. The first time in months. Now my body aches, and my neck and back crack. Just as well. I needed a reminder that yes, I am here and yes, I am alive. Nothing like a little chilly water to wake up the senses. And remind me, there is more to life than warm weather. Warm water. Warm. Cold has a life of its own, and cold has its place, too.

Hungry does, too. And although I’ve eaten my dinner tonight, alone and on my own for the evening, I’m still hungry. Eager for something else. If I have some sense — and I believe I do — I’ll call it a night and make my way to bed, with a book to keep me company till sleep meets me, or my loved one gets home, whichever comes first.

Tonight, I am about as alive as any person can be. And I realize that I need to have people in my life who are as open to LIFE as I am… people who are as welcoming of the full range of human expression, as I am… people who are as undaunted, and as intentional as I am.  People who press out to the limits of what they are capable of, and find out what’s out there, who aren’t held back by what “should be” or “what is” — according to what others say.

This change in my needs for company has been in the making for the past year or so. It’s been stirring in earnest, for the past few months. And over the past weekend, when I saw a bunch of people I used to work with, I realized that the people I got along best with, were the ones who were the most comfortable with themselves, and the most comfortable with risk and reward. The kind of folks who wring what they can out of life — and themselves — and then come back for more. It’s not that they’re not afraid. Far from it. They simply have a tolerance for the experience of fear. And it’s not the ONLY thing they experience.

And they keep learning. I used to want to spend my life in school. Then I realized my life IS my school. I probably won’t be going after those degrees anytime soon. Life is much too interesting, to spend inside the walls of an institution, telling me what to think and say and how to act. The privileges of membership only compensate for so much.

I found this on YouTube tonight:

Scenes to live by.


I’m tired.

Good night.