Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, January 01, 2007

Reliving A Beautiful Brush With Death

The drive up California 1, Pacific Coast Highway, was spectacular today -- both the vistas and the curving, delightful road, so silkily conquered by 340 German horsepower. Many vista points came and went without a stop because I was so enjoying learning the handsome roadworthiness of my new car.

Hearst Castle peaked above the trees to the right; seal-covered rocks loomed on the left; beautiful arched bridges peaked between curves ahead.

Just before Carmel, I pulled off for the first break not related to gasoline. It was at "the greatest meeting of land and water in the world," according to panter Francis McComas: Point Lobos. This beautiful rock outcropping is perhaps the most haunting place from my youth.

At the time -- the mid-50s -- my family lived in Carmel, while my father attended the Army Language School in Pacific Grove, where he graduated first in his class in Japanese. (He had graduated first in his class in Turkish earlier -- gifted with a skill of languages that also touched my older brother, but not me.)

My mother took to the place, taking a position at a local museum and gaining a fondness for otters that took us to Pt. Lobos from time to time.

My brother and I were great explorers and the tidepools were places of particular fascination -- as they should be for boys in the first and third grade. The windswept, wave-pounded rocks of Pt. Lobos are rich in these pockets of tidal life.

Why should such a place be haunting? Because my brother and I were almost smashed to smithereens there! The memory is still vivid. We were squatting on our haunches, staring into a particularly rich tidepool when suddenly our mother swept in, screaming, grabbing our arms, and pulling us up, in a superhuman feat of strength and balance to the rocks above, just as a great wave crashed onto our perch.

I remember recoiling from the immense power of the wave, and looking at the dozens of sharp rocks in the immediate vicinity that my tiny body would have been smashed against.

How did she see that wave? How did she know it would crash with such force when until then, the ocean had been much calmer? How did she get us out in time? And perhaps most troubling, why were we in such a precarious place to begin with?

I climbed down the rocks today, close to the crashing waves, to relive the moment. The place is a wonderous junction of two worlds; mezmerizing in beauty, rawness and power.

I came to see that my brush with death by the tidepools of Pt. Lobos was just one of many near-misses in my life, more beautiful, perhaps, than my slide across the tunnel roadway on my stomach, my motorcycle skittering behind me, as a great truck charged towards me, but just as potentially deadly.

For whatever reason, God, Mom, Chance all worked to preserve me. Why? I certainly don't know. Perhaps so my Incredible Daughters could be born. Perhaps something else entirely. But certainly something.

And just as certainly, I appreciate it.

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