My friend Sara took this picture of me on Valentine's Day weekend of 2004. We were on a road trip to San Diego. It was a strange time.
One of the girls on the trip had been one of my best friends from college; when I moved to California with a teaching job, I lived with her family for 6 weeks until Shara and Alicia, both friends of Miranda's, found a 3 bedroom condo and needed a 3rd roommate. Before that, Miranda had lived with my family for a month while taking a summer class in college. It's hard to remember now, but we were very good friends...the kind that cry and pray and laugh together.
But something happened--I don't know if it was because I moved in with some of her friends. Or because I maybe appeared to be strong and thriving at a time when she felt confused in who she was. I never knew what happened, and when i asked a year or two later, she hung up on me. But first she stopped speaking to me or hanging out with me. She only spent time with me when she wanted to be around Shara, and only spoke directly to me when necessary.
On the road trip, I realized that Miranda had begun being mean. I am foolish in my love to tell stories; I'm aware that in a group, it's easy to use them as a way to connect, and I tried to tell stories about college, perhaps trying to reconnect with her because we hadn't spent much time together in months. Her responses were short, but somewhere along the I-5 in a minivan with 6 other girls, it started to sink in that her comments were all barbed; meant to shame or hurt me.
At first I wasn't sure what to do, so I followed my MO. I withdrew. I wasn't angry (yet), I was confused. So I pondered. I read a book while the other girls chatted in the van, and on the beach while they bounced a volleyball around, I went to the sensory comfort of the ocean.
My ears filled with its roar, so I didn't hear the voices I had been listening to, even the voices I thought were friends, who told me I was broken, someone to be slighted and ignored.
My feet numbed to its' February-Pacific chill, braced against the pull and rush of the tide, flexed against the steadfast give of the white sand.
I ran in and out with the tide, moving to the rhythm of this big dance that I didn't understand, following its movements like a child dancing on my father's shoes. Standing on the edge of the Pacific coast and looking at the vast body of water meeting the horizon, I let go of my need to be heard and understood.
And I trusted. I cried a little. I kicked at a few waves.
I gave up my dignity and laughed out loud as the crashing reality of the ocean reminded me that I am both small and great.
And Sara caught me in that moment of freedom.
I have one single print of this image. It is carefully taped inside a frame I painted in a pottery shop in North Carolina with my dear friend Erica, a friend with whom I have spent little real time, but who remains very dear. Around the edge of the frame I had written long ago a poem that has faded beyond reading now. The poem was about chasing sunsets.