After the three week New York-Oakland-Long Beach-Washington, D.C. stint, I told myself I’d surf every day upon returning. So far I’m at two out of six – and the fact that I’m at only 17 for the year does not bode well.

Trying not to panic. But what if the short-lived surf side of my life is on the wane? What if I’ve already surfed as much as I ever will and I’ll never get any better? (Replace “surf” with “write” or “paint” or “travel” or “love” and there’s why most of us fear death.)

#16: My first day back, a Sunday. Gray skies and the buoy reading 2 at 9. I despair of surfing and suggest to Bobby we walk on the beach instead. A fine idea – nice to be home and the dog isn’t getting any younger. We meander along water’s edge, catching up on all the domestic issues I’ve missed, but even as I’m trying to concentrate on what he’s saying about the kids and the garden, I can’t help but notice the little waves breaking prettily and not so small as to be uncatchable. Yes, they’re probably only knee-high, but peaking consistently with long peeling, glassy shoulders. Maybe with a longboard? If the wind doesn’t come up?

Back home, I nudge Nick into coming with me to check the surf. We haul the longboards down the spit a ways, find a peak, spend an hour-and-a-half on the paddle out-catch a wave-paddle out-catch a wave circuit. The wind never comes up. The ocean stays glassed off. The interval had picked up, so even though the waves lacked in height, they had enough zip to carry us from outside to shore – and from my vantage point on the wave, I could see shells and rocks glisten on the ocean’s floor. The sea is rarely so clear here. A good reminder, this day, that there is sometimes magic in small, unexpected, things.

#17: Two days later, slightly more size – and by “slightly more,” I mean waist-to-chest high, I need to get in the water, no question of going out, only where to go. Given that I am 1.) lazy and b.) tired, I pass up better-looking waves in favor of ones next to a wide channel. Less paddling! No whitewater! I’m a wuss! Yay!

The ocean delivered, sort of. I lost count of how many waves I caught, but the pattern was the same: paddle, drop, try to make the section, get caught in the close-out, fall over (or, on better ones, glide to a stop and drop down on my board), paddle back, repeat. It was a good day to work on technical aspects. Timing the drop. Staying low. Bottom turn. More like doing laps than getting lost – but I can use the practice and being in the ocean always provides a shift in perspective. One I regularly need. I had that moment, that one where I felt my shoulders relax, my spirit lighten. So yeah, junky waves, whatever. It was good to be out.