“The water isn’t cold. The problem is getting out.”
I look at the crystal blue waves rolling toward us. She brought Jewish songs and the bread. I brought a towel and a fresh pair of undies. She keeps her matte red leather boots on. I want to go in. I always want to go in, all the way, full immersion. Whether it’s the Ocean, a melody, or love. I want to soak in it until my pores are fragrant with a new memory.
It’s just past the Autumnal Equinox, a couple of hours before sunset, and the air is 71°F at the beach. It’s not cold, but it’s breezy by the water, and though I love cool weather and spend every single summer day waiting for temps to drop in this too-hot-for-my-new-England-blood town of LA, I don't like to be cold, and with the sun sinking, I waffle. However, today—like every day—is sacred, and we came here for a reason.
“Here they come,” she says and calls to the gulls, tossing a few pieces of bread to the sky.
“Oh, geez. Don't call them!”
“They’re gonna come anyway,” she says and begins to sing.
I am sitting on the sand. Recognizing the song, a prayer, I smooth the wet grains under my palm and join in, our voices rising with the tide.
Return to the land of your soul.
Return to who you are
Return to what you are
Return to where you are born and reborn again...”
The melody is haunting with love, the heart and soul in call and response with Spirit and the land.
She offers me torn pieces of bread. I've told her I only have one thing to release but accept her wisdom that more may come to mind, and take a handful.
I was not raised Jewish. I knew only one Jewish girl in the Historical Village of Pawtuxet, where I grew up. Debra Wolfe. I remember her long dark curly hair. As an adult, a joyous circle of generous friends adopted me into the fold, filling my loneliness with their humane, mystical teachings and community meals and songs. I love all mystical traditions and ceremonies and especially love the tradition we are observing today: one day a year, make direct amends for our mistakes, then go to a large body of water to release them and begin anew, fresh and clean.
I’ve observed this holiday only a couple of times before, each time offering up judgment, fear, and resentment. Today is different. I can feel divine life energy moving through me and am so deeply grateful to be alive! All I want is to be more alive, and to share any gifts given me by the Divine. Aren't all real gifts given by the Divine?
Also, a few years ago, awareness of mortality walked into my home and heart and has not left, making the call to live each moment fully, with love, joy and generosity, that much more present.
“I want to take that one home,” she says, pointng to our growing flock of companions. “He catches every piece I toss up.”
I offer a morsel of bread to the Ocean with my prayer: to release all obstacles to trusting life, God, divine flow. I realize this is all I need: trust, real trust in Life. I feel like a child as I throw the bread. Peace and joy surge through me, so grateful to at least have clarity about what I want!
And then I see them. Just one at first. I am never sure with the first glance; it could be an illusion, wave tips, a seal, or a bird on the water. But they crest again, this time three, one after another, then more!
“Dolphins! Look! We have dolphins!”
They call to me, “Come… come out and play!”
That’s it. In a flash,
pants and top are on the sand, I've pulled a sarong out of a bag, wrapped it around my neck, and I walk into the water.
Not just any water. There is no such a thing as “just any water," but this is the mama, the largest body of water on the planet, Mare Pacificum, “the Peaceful Sea,” and I am in. All the way in.
At first I keep my head up, hair dry, but not for long. For Pete's sake, I’ve just prayed to release all obstacles to trusting life. So I lie back, drench my head, close my eyes, let my toes wiggle in the sun, and float on the lap of gentle swells. Up, down, up…
Is it cold? Yes! It is cold! And it is wonderful. Is it safe? Who knows!? It is sacred. It is water. It is life. And the Peace of surrenderingis greater than that of being on the shore.
After, my friend carries the dripping sarong, and I carry the dry clothes, my happy ocean-washed body wrapped in a towel. At the car, I dress as she applies lipstick and we go to a gathering. At the close of the circle, I am invited to sing. Hair still wet and pores filled with the memory of the sea, I begin:
Return to the land of your soul...