When the sun drops down below the rim of the Pacific in the distance, a chill sets in. In the blue light, residual heat rises from the chalky sidewalk. Bare arms stay warm in the numb way that takes over your body when you swim in the cold sea—goose bumps for an instant and then gentle nothingness, wrapped in the warm balm of your own heat mixed with that of the now-set sun. The air is clear and cool. The scent of chaparral wafts over the mashes, mixing with a thick fog that wanders in from beyond the cliffs, masking the landscape and making everything downy. There are no hard edges or discernable shapes.
We know that out there, somewhere, people are feeling something that makes your face tingle and your body become slow and unfeeling. We are immune to the gray chill that befalls continents, aware only of our own temperate existence. Inklings of an outside world retreat to a distant background murmur like the chuckle of waves breaking against a rocky coast.
This is winter in southern California. Our sun is an eternally lit fire; it is unique to this coast, to these hills, to the quick-slow rhythm of our lives.
Sometimes you just have a really good day, and that was yesterday for me. I visited my high school art teacher, and hung out with some of my favorite people. We made art and discussed design and listened to good music… basically my favorite kind of day. I hit up In-n-Out for lunch with Alana and spent a great afternoon just hanging around and being happy.
I live about 15 minutes from the beach by car. Whenever I tell people that I live in Southern California, they always ask me, “So do you go to the beach all the time?” My answer is yes and no. I very rarely ever go to the beach with the intention of swimming, but I’m around the coast quite frequently. I love the ocean. I love its color and its sound and its smell. I love the way it is refreshing and cool on your toes when you step in. I love its rhythmic intensity and its tendency to surprise you with a larger wave than you were expecting. I love the ocean because it is a great force much larger than myself; it’s a huge part of this planet that is foreign to me but is constantly moving and full of life.
When I was little, I used to love the Little Mermaid. I’m pretty sure I only saw the movie once or twice, but I gravitated towards Ariel’s character because I was enchanted with the idea of living in the sea. My mom still calls me her mermaid, even though I’m not tan and I don’t go in the water very frequently. The ocean just calms me and makes me really happy. It’s one of the few things that is so captivating that I want to just sit and exist in its presence, thinking about how small I am in comparison to its churning power.
I am especially aware of how fortunate I am to live where I do, where the sun is out and I can wear a tank top in January, after spending my first semester at Berkeley in the rain. Though Berkeley’s gray skies have a very tender place in my heart, the tropical optimism of Southern California is something I’ve missed.
My winter break is a month long. It’s kind of excruciating. While I’m thankful to have a few days off from the intensity of school life, the days begin to drag and I begin to feel like a purposeless blob. I’ve set myself an exciting project to fill up my last two weeks of vacation, but it’s a big thing to take on solo (more details to come soon, I hope!). Though I’m really psyched to be doing this project, it’s requiring a lot of introspective writing, and I’ve hit a point of self-doubt. It’s not writer’s block as much as it is writer’s commitment phobia. I try and try to start writing what I need to, but it never turns out the way I like; it’s either too journalistic or too abstract, too juvenile or too precocious. The perfectionist in me is throwing a fit. After sitting around the house today, not making any progress and watching TV for (ahem) hours, I decided I just needed to get out and get moving. I walked about a half mile to a nearby park and nestled myself in a little clearing surrounded by pines, removed from the rolling grass of the park and with my back to the hills. I tried writing again for the project before realizing that it just wasn’t happening and that I needed to take a break from forcing it. Instead, I ripped out the page a I had written a single sentence on, crumpled it up into a little ball, and then unfolded it and wrote upside-down on the page. I just spouted, writing about anything I darned well pleased, and the rumply texture of the paper and the new orientation was freeing—I wasn’t trapped in the lines of the notebook anymore. For me, it’s really easy to just try and try and try without realizing that sometimes all you need to get started again is a good step back and a few deep breaths.