21 June 2012

daddy's going under

For many people, the grandeur and glory of the ocean is a wondrous beauty to be admired and adored...from a distance.

For my sons, Ian and Trevor, the grandeur and glory of the ocean is a wondrous beauty to be engaged and explored...up close and personal.

When we first moved to the Bay Area several years ago, we loved the fact that we lived a mere 9 miles from the beach. But we quickly learned that just because it was sunny on the east side of the peninsula, by the San Francisco Bay (where we lived), that did NOT mean that it was sunny down at the Pacific Ocean. Often, the fog from San Francisco stretches down the coastline for many miles, but is blocked to the east by the Santa Cruz Mountains. And besides the fog, the water temperature at the beaches in the area is extremely cold. As a result, most native Northern Californians go to the beach to admire the beauty from afar while dressed warmly.

But these factors did not deter us from venturing out to the coast whenever possible.

And so, on a sunny Sunday in late November, we decided to do what most native SOUTHERN Californians would do on such a day.

We went to the beach.

With our brand new dog in tow, Bart (whom Trevor named after the famed rail system, before we even adopted HER from the local shelter), we headed down to Miramar Beach at Half Moon Bay to have a nice walk. Having adjusted to our new culture, sweatshirts and jeans were the attire of the day, not swimsuits.

We parked, and Kirsten got Bart out and leashed (which took all of about 15 seconds). But in that time, the boys had disappeared. They were so ecstatic to be at the beach, they just couldn't wait to get down to the shoreline. So we headed down in that direction, walking along the pathway on the cliffs above the sand.

But the boys were nowhere in sight.

We scanned the beach to see any sight of them. Nothing.

But after a minute or so, Kir saw two little pairs of shoes and socks dumped down near the water. And as our focus panned out from the sand towards the water, we saw them.

Splashing around in the frigid surf, submerging themselves under the waves, bursting up through the surface like bottle rockets blasting into the blue skies.

Fully and completely clothed.

Because for my boys, the ocean is not something to be observed.

It is something in which to be submerged.

When we go to the beach, Ian is usually the first one in the water and the last one to get out of the water. We've learned that part of the reason for this is that his senses are so highly attuned, the experience of water surrounding his body is beyond exhilarating. It is extraordinary. It is intoxicating. It is an experience that unleashes an explosion of ecstatic energy through his whole body and soul. It makes little difference whether the water is as cold as the rockies or as warm as a jacuzzi.

Knowing this, why would he EVER want to get out of the water?

I prefer to spend some time in the sun first, getting hot and hopefully not burned, before i venture into the water. But when i do eventually decide to slowly make my way out into the waves, Ian is always there waiting with a BIG smile on his face, cheering and giggling. Because while he's excited that i'm finally making my way out into his 'sensory satori' in the surf, he's even more excited for me to do something he has been anticipating all day.

He's waiting for me to completely submerge myself in the water.

His first words to me, even before i get out to where he is?

'Daddy's going under!'

And once i do go under, down into the murky depths, feeling the pressure in my head, and then emerge back up into the sparkling sunlight with a great big SPLASH, Ian goes absolutely nuts.

He smiles and belly laughs.

He reaches out to me and gently touches my face.

And then he fully embraces me.

Then we start playing around...bobbing up and over some of the bigger waves...body surfing some of the smaller ones...splishing and splashing and laughing through it all.

But when the biggest waves come, we always do what most people (other than professional surfers preparing to ride them) do in order to make it through them.

We go under.

Ian loves for me to tell him stories, usually storybooks from his childhood that he has memorized. And it seems that being out in the ocean together is a prime time for him to ask me to recite some of those stories with him.

A perennial favorite is 'Green Eggs and Ham'. Ian especially likes the part where the grumpy guy shouts out to Sam-I-Am whilst in midair, 'I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM!' And then finishes his phrase once he's underwater...


From the very first time i ever read Ian this story, i would read that line whilst shaking my index finger over my lips to imitate the sound of speaking underwater. And he has always loved this and been fascinated by the sounds emanating from my mouth.

So, when we are out in the water, it is only fitting that when we get to that line, Ian motions to me to put my lips just under the surface of the water and say the line, which i do.

HUGE laughs all around (along with some swallowed salt water for me).

Because...'Daddys went under!'

It's amazing to me how Ian's simple little actions and phrases can communicate so much.

As we were loving our laughs and splashes in the sea just a few days ago on his 'Graduation Grand Adventure', it hit me how profound his routine at the beach is to me.

Especially at a time when, in my own life's journey, there are more days than not where the waves of pressure in my head, pain in my heart, perplexity in my psyche, and paralysis in my soul swell and overwhelm me to the point where i'm traveling down so deep into the murky darkness, i feel like i'm about to drown.


'Daddy's going under'. Literally.

And sometimes, the waves we face in life are so big, the best and even only thing we can do is go UNDER them. In order to go THROUGH them.

And ironically, it's submerging ourselves into the depths of that paralysis and perplexity and pain and pressure that ends up empowering us to emerge from those depths and burst through the surface into the  sparkling sunlight of sensory satori and clarity and healing and peace.

And a laughter-filled grace.

And a radiant, joyful face.

And a passionately powerful, accepting and loving embrace.

'Daddy's goes under!'

'IAN goes under!'

A face of joy, grace and embrace :)


  1. Glad I took the the time to read this Brian...our "Ian" is on his way to Kalispell. We are like 9 yr olds waiting for our (almost) 9 yr old grandson to be here so we can experience the joy, wonder & love of his world....I so relate to you & Kir and the love of both your boys.........thanks for sharing...love to all of you Jeannette

    1. thanks so much, jeannette...enjoy your time with your 'Ian' :)