There is a fluttery anticipation that accompanies the planning and packing for a trip. Deep down, I want more than anything for the journey to exceed the preemptive excitement. I hope something outrageous will happen. Yet, over and over again, small surprises tend to exceed any pre-travel fantasies.
It's those everyday scenes stumbled upon that make such an impression. So, I have no choice but to write about them, creating the backbone of lasting memories. This tale and its hero made a winter getaway in Santa Barbara exponentially more than the sum of my expectations.
I saw him standing on the edge of the sand, where the tide makes a tiny cliff, and with arms stretched out like wings he stepped off and landed on his rump, squealing as he slid the entire two feet of the slope. He did this over and over, his periwinkle clothes and striped cap flashing color against the paleness of the beach.
Jogging back, I noticed someone had dug a large hole, and the blue adventurer was on tiptoe at its edge. Then he yelled into the darkening air and jumped, only his head poking out over the rim. Later, I passed him on the steps leading up to the parking lot. He had tangled blond curls and a mother who held his small hand in hers, coaxing him up the long steep stairs.
It's hard work stepping off the edge of the world and shouting each time with joy. Hard work to scramble back up and do it over again and again, until you know down in your bones that the descent will always be thrilling and the bottom will always hold.
Nancy G. Shapiro is a coach and writer who conducts writing and well-being retreats at LifePath Center http://www.lifepathretreats.com and other locales.