Today I woke up excited to get going on my morning ritual here in Venice Beach. It was a grey overcast morning. No sunrise today. I had the beach pretty much all to myself while my husband hurried off to work. I was in a hurry when I packed everything in my bag. I wanted to get out and spend some time doing my morning pages before the crowds showed up.
As I was setting up my beach blanket, a voice told me to “Stop and look.” I waved it off saying “Yes, yes, I will once I get set up and get going on writing my pages.” I really just wanted to get my pages over with so that I could get going with the day. I can’t skip this step of my morning ritual.
As I sat in the middle of my beach blanket, the centre of a mandala, I heard the voice again, “Stop and look, damn it.” Instead I rolled my eyes and grabbed my bag to look for my morning pages. I took out my pages, never looking up, and searched for a pen.
I didn’t have one.
I swear I packed a pen. After feeling around in the bag for about 5 minutes, I gave up. There was not a pen to be found.
I started laughing. Of course. Ok, now I’m listening. I will stop and look.
At first, I just saw the waves and the sand and an almost empty beach. Then my gaze rested on a trio of surfers floating just to the left of my view. They seemed to be waiting. I watched them as they passed up some waves I thought would be good ones. One started paddling to an area of calm. I couldn’t understand why he would paddle to that spot. But then, to my surprise, a swell came out of nowhere and he caught it just in time.
This rhythm of feeling the ocean was amazing to watch. As I sat there, I thought of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, There You Are where he describes a poster of a seventy-ish yogi, Swami Satchiananda, in full white beard and flowing robes atop a surfboard with the caption: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
I an learn to go with the flow as long as I remember to see what’s in front of me.
So sometimes it’s ok to break ritual to stop and look around.
At that moment, I looked down at my bag and I saw my box of pastels. I had brought those but no pen. I don’t remember packing them. In my morning pages, I decided to draw what was right in front of me, the Pacific Ocean, underneath the little picture I drew of the view of the Rockies from the airplane window:
And so I went back to the beach in the afternoon, wanting to draw the beach again but this time in my Book of Hours. Of course, I didn’t end up packing my Book of Hours in my bag to the beach. But I did bring the pastels. After spending a moment breathing, touching, smelling, and listening, I found a piece of scrap paper in my bag. I stopped and looked and began to draw what I saw, feeling as expansive as the vista before me.
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing the here and now.