One of the things I love most about where I live is that I can be on the coast in an hour or so. The ocean is the closest thing my brain has to a reset button.
The last time I was fortunate to be seaside, my children and I were huddled in a make-shift tent of blankets and towels. The wind was whipping so fiercely the next day I was wishing I could market it, but there's nothing like nature's free dermabrasion.
Anyway, as we were trying to keep sand from gouging our eyeballs while still making castles, a man with a huge backpack and a tiny dog settled down not far from us. He pulled a large orange tarp-like thing out from his backpack and flapped it open. We couldn't figure out what it was...a tent? A raft? A kite?
With what looked like a bike tire pump, he proceeded to pump this thing up. It ended up looking like a giant pair of bat wings; we still didn't know what it was. He threw some sand on it to weigh it down, and he left with his dog at his heals.
A few more people came along and soon the beach was dotted with these THINGS.
The things turned out, in fact, to be kites. The people, in fact, were surfers. Surfers who used the wind as well as waves to propel them.
Watching them launch from the beach into the Pacific was breath-taking. One minute they were standing on the shore, all laden with hooks and ropes attached to large swaths of fabric, and the next they were dancing on water.
I watched and I drooled. I swear, my muscles were twitching, just aching to experience that...gliding over the water, jumping into the air and diving back into waves; they were both surfing and flying.
Eventually, a woman strode onto the beach and began the same ritual of pulling out the tarp, pumping of the bike pump. At this point, however, the winds had picked up even more and her tarp was whipping around making it hard for her to keep it attached to the pump. I watched for a few moments, and then headed towards her.
"Can I help?" I asked.
For a moment, she was quiet. She looked at me without expression; there was enough time for me to wonder if she was silent because she hadn't heard, or if my intrusion was unwelcome. I explained myself by gesturing to the wind.
She broke out into a smile and said, "That would be great. Grab this part here."
I grabbed the wrong part.
"Sorry." (Why did I apologize? I need to work on that.)
"No problem. Right here."
She asked me, "Have you seen us kite from here before?"
"No. It looks amazing. It must be incredibly physically demanding."
"It is. I am crazy. I am a crazy girl. This is what I've chosen. I'm a crazy girl...I didn't chose to stay home and crochet or cook or have kids. I chose this."
Okay, honestly, for a split second I felt a bit defensive (yet there was nothing judgmental in her delivery; she was clearly thinking out loud). But for the rest of that second, and for the following minutes, I chatted with amazing woman as we got her gear in order. She shared about kitesurfing, and I talked about my life.
Eventually, she also threw some sand on her kite and went off to put on a wetsuit. She asked me if I'd be able to hold up the kite when it was time for her to launch. I gushed that I would love to; the concept of being a part of this experience, however tangentially, thrilled me.
I filled my kids in on the details they weren't able to hear and waited for her to come back. I kept my eye out for her as we built more castles, as I read to my little one or read my own book as my boy read to her, as we shared some sandy sandwiches.
But then I saw her, Crazy Girl, in the water slipping her feet into her board while another wet-suited person held up her kite. Somehow, I'd missed her reappearance on the beach, and I'd lost my chance. The disappointment crept over me as I watched her take off, gliding across the water.
I looked at my kids arguing about how best to build a moat for their sandcastle, "NO! The moat should be a circle and we make a river to the water!"
"NOOOOOO! We bring the water to the moat!"
Even as I started to intervene to make sure their argument didn't continue to escalate, I was aware that I was so glad I chose to be the Crazy Girl With Kids.
With every choice, there is a loss.
Reset button pushed.