We recently had a friend, Jess, come visit for two weeks. Unfazed by my endless warnings that Brian and I would be working most of the day, she arrived with a backpack full of books and a bottle of sunscreen and plans to surf, shop and eat her away around Sayulita, with or without our company.
Each morning, the three of us would cook breakfast together. And then Brian and I would plop down at our computers and off Jess would go with her bikini and her beach blanket and her dog-eared book.
Hours later, she’d return with color on her skin and saltwater in her hair and tales of the Iguana sanctuary tree she’d found or the best agua fresca she’d discovered. I’d still be bra-less and in my pajamas. Sometimes you just need someone to hold up that mirror.
While out for a run one morning, Jess and I watched a man dip behind the barrier of a dead-end road. “I wonder where he’s going,” I said. Jess looked at me with a spark of adventure in her eye. “Let’s find out.”
We followed the man to a dirt path that wound out of town. It snaked through the dark overgrowth of jungle, past a secluded beach, and eventually dumped us out the next town over in San Pancho. Jess and I felt like untamed wilderness explorers. Our 4-mile run turned in to four hours. I didn’t miss my computer once.
On her last day in town Jess and I booked a snorkeling trip out to the Marieta Islands. We caught a six-passenger boat and bumped over the choppy waves and up the emerald green coastline, the mountains jutted up out of the sea. I gripped the side of the boat and howled with laughter in the airborne seconds before the hull crashed down.
The Marieta Islands turned out to be a lot like a waterpark at Disney World. There was one roped-off area for snorkeling and hundreds of orange life-vest-clad tourists. I couldn’t doggie paddle without kicking the poor guy next to me. Jess and I glanced at each other, disappointed.
But on the ride back to Sayulita we received a spectacular reward. Rising up out of the ocean, very near our boat, swam a family of Humpback whales. Their slick black backs crested the surface of the water and their gigantic tails rose up out of the sea, a trio of beautiful apparitions. I realized with a twinge of delight that not a single passenger onboard reached for their cameras. We were all there, in the salt air, unencumbered by distraction.
The day after Jess left, Christmas day, I forbid Brian and I from working. We packed a bag and headed down to the beach. I swam into the sea and watched the pelicans dive-bomb the water. The waves were roaring. I got pummeled, tossed around like the inside of a washing machine and when I finally crawled back onto land, sand in places that sand should never be, I sat down next to Brian under our beach umbrella and wondered, What am I worshipping that it took me two months to get pummeled by these waves?
But somehow, despite myself, life keeps waiting like a loyal dog right outside my apartment door. Life says, Look, whales! Bigger and more powerful than the boat that holds you. Life says, I will show you the energy of the water; the sweetness of bananas picked right off the tree, the magnificence of a deserted beach.
Life keeps reminding me, gently, that it really isn’t enough for me to be in love with her. I’ve got to treat her like I love her too. I’ve got to step away from my computer. I’ve got to meet her out and feed her well and take her exploring. And, when she asks for it, I’ve got to swim like mad towards the horizon so that we can roll around in the white-capped wild waves.