S2 = C + P
The morning starts with a gentle breeze. The sun peeks above the horizon and begins its ascent into a cloudless blue sky, flooding the air with warmth, fueling invisible particles of oxygen and nitrogen with heat that cause them to swirl and form the wind that would later slow my progress. This transition from darkness to light, this dance between the sun and the earth is affecting everythingóthe air, the ocean, the animals, the plants, and me.
This planetary movement is intricately linked to the complex biological process that is happening in my body. My eyes are opening after a long sleep, a ritual that has been fine-tuning itself for thousands of years. The level of melatonin in my blood is decreasing as the cortisol is increasing. It is believed that this event is linked to the hippocampus as it prepares to face the stresses of the day. My lungs are expanding with vigor, flooding my blood cells with oxygen and energizing my musclesóthe same muscles that later will push against the wind.
Every part of my body is awakening. Slowly, I become more in tune with my surroundings. I feel my existence on this planet connected to the universe. Despite my physical individuality, despite my body occupying a single space in time, the atoms that form my skin, my bones, my brain, and my heart, these neutrons and protons of which I am made donít belong to me. They have existed since the beginning of time. In fact, my inner core, my biological roots have more in common with the stars; we are their children. I can feel the cosmic energy within being stirred by stars millions of miles away, by the moonís gravity, and by the unknown forces that control the solar system. How is it possible to believe that life revolves around us?
After cooking breakfast, sipping Yerba Mate and packing the gear into the kayak, I walk into the sea and pull the kayak off the beach. With a quick jump, I maneuver myself into the cockpit and start to paddle. Looking back one last time, I offer my goodbyes to an imaginary hostóa customary practice I do every time I arrive and depart a destination, paying my respects to a place that doesnít belong to me, honoring the hospitality I humbly received. In that same manner, I ask the ocean permission every time I travel its realm. It is not a religious belief but rather the understanding that my future is in the hands of Nature.
With every paddle stroke, my thoughts, my worries, my wishes, my struggles, my joys, and my pains are stripped away, leaving me naked but with clarity and perspective.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau
The clear blue sky has become swamped with hundreds of white smudges, much like freckles on summer skin. The peaceful clarity of the morning is gone, now replaced with a kind of orchestrated chaos. Pelicans fly everywhere, diving on bait fish while being harassed by seagulls that trail them like leeches. Rays of all different sizes jump out of the water mysteriously, giving the impression that the sea has turned into a giant Whack-A-Mole game. High-flying frigate birds stalk the passing blue-footed boobies, waiting to swoop in and steal their catch. Turkey vultures glide effortlessly, counting the days for the nearby sea lion carcass to reach its perfectly decomposed state.
My kayak is being pulled into this cacophony. The water is chaotic and I feel as if I am riding a mechanical bull. Think of one of the busiest road intersections in your city and de-synchronize the traffic lights. That is how the water is. On one axis, there are the waves bouncing off the cliff and pushing right back against the others that follow behind and on the other axis, there is the wind head butting the current.
“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength” Jack Kerouac
Hours later, I am back on land. The beach is made of creamy white sand. Powdery granules made of crushed shells and limestone that eroded over millions of years. Moved by the tides, currents, and wind, slowly and gradually pushed up against the shore, grain after grain, to now form the soft cushion on which I rest on. This quiet little place on the westerly side of Isla Espiritu Santo, just outside La Paz in Baja California Sur, is tucked between two long cliffs made of a multitude of volcanic ash layers, a product of the Miocene Era. Like a pair of blinkers on a horse, these mineral fingers that advanced far into the water, protecting this tiny oasis, are also preventing me from seeing the vastness of the Gulf of California. My view of this giant interior sea is reduced to a sliver of emerald water. But it doesnít matter. After its daily journey overhead, the sun is about to disappear behind the horizon and is painting the sky with deep hues of orange, pink, red, and purple. Had there been no clouds but a perfect empty sky, the sunset would have still been enjoyable, but it would have lacked zest. There would be no luminous, color-filled performance, just a general fading of light accompanied by a possible green flash and some orange left over at the end. Following a tumultuous day, the sunset is feeding on the same energy and chaos that I witnessed earlier, turning the sky into one of the most spectacular shows ever seen. Beauty is rising from the depths of madness.
After such a memorable spectacle, the wind is barely rolling over the water and the fluffy colorful silhouettes above are moving away. The night is taking hold and bringing along all it possesses. Venus, Jupiter, Vega, Arcturus, and Regulus are the first to appear in the sky. In another hour, this black ceiling will be packed with billions of white dots.
I lay on the beach, let the world sink in and my thoughts disappear. The silence takes over and I stare at the night sky and know, just as I witnessed earlier when I saw only a sliver of the sea, that I am viewing only a tiny fragment of the universe.
There is so much out there. How is it possible to think so highly of ourselves when faced with such inexplicable beauty and mystery? Why do we feel insecure about our evolutionary identity? Why is it a challenge to find comfort in the knowledge and humility that there are things bigger than us? Having no significant importance in the larger scheme of the universe doesnít mean we have no meaning in life. It means that ultimately we matter for a moment, for the ones around us. It is important, but in the end, the atoms we borrowed are returned and the only things left are memories and legacies. It is unfortunate for the ones who have passed, but it is to the benefit of the ones who will come. Even they will fade away with time and make space for the future to bloom.
“It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky… a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.” Victor Hugo
The chaos of life is necessary. The frenzy of our culture indeed has a creative purpose, a certain value, but clarity and perspective are also important. They happen when silence and solitude are present, and these concepts can happily exist together, with balance as the ultimate goal.
In our multi-tasking culture, every waking hour can be filled with endless distractions. We can find ourselves relentlessly connected to our technological devices. Alone times are becoming rarer, leaving us without the capacity to delve and think deeper, so we remain mired in the shallowness of 140 characters. More than ever, we must find the time to STOP. BREATHE. RELAX. LISTEN.
S2 = C + P (Solitude & Silence = Clarity + Perspective)
“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” Mahatma Gandhi