24 December 2013

Merry Solstice!

Lots of holiday spirit in the lineup today. There was a woman surfing in a Santa hat, and longboarders offering to share waves with shortboarders. "Go ahead and drop in on me. It's Christmastime!"
Surfing Santa lady
Hope you enjoy this seasonal story I wrote (also posted on Medium), and wish you all the best in the new year!
~ ~ ~
Dear friends, family and others,

Happy Holidays! Wow, it has been a year for the record books for us. First was the big move in January. Our little place in the city was feeling a big too snug after my T.L. got creative with last year's Christmas gifts, and then there was that unfortunate business with the city zoning board. (Nosey neighbors are so tiresome, am I right?!) We found a lovely place in the country, with a huge house (the servant's quarters have their own entrance!), a big red barn (birds in the loft, cows below), a pond (great for swimming), and best of all, acres and acres of room to roam!

I can't say the move went off without a hitch (now I know how a general coordinating troop movements feels, ha ha!) but after approximately 11 billion U-haul trips we got everything and everybody over to the new place. The hardest thing to move had to be the Pear Tree. First, because the Partridge refused to budge out of it. We tried tempting her with her favorite weeds and even dandelions to no avail, but then my T.L. had the bright idea to ask one of the Lords to leap up and grab her. Success! Then the Tree itself was just so darn heavy! Good thing the whole band was willing to pitch in to heave it onto the truck. Everyone was so gosh darn helpful - even the Ladies chanced tearing their fine dresses while herding all the birds into their crates for the ride over to the new digs.

Enough about January! We're almost through the year now and all settled in. Well, there are still a few boxes to unpack, I admit. Maybe more than a few. My T.L. is doing his part but really you can't blame us for being a bit behind, can you? I mean, just try to imagine how much time it takes every single day to manage a staff of 50 and care for 8 cows and 23 birds. Which reminds me, does anyone need eggs? We've got eggs out the wazoo. The Geese are popping them out like it's their job, and the French Hens try to keep up with half the staff. My T.L.'s been making me eggs for breakfast for the last 360+ days, bless his heart, but pancakes (blueberry, not pear) would be nice once in a while. So please drop by anytime (call first) to pick up a carton or ten of delicious farm-fresh eggs. We'll throw in a basket of pears too.

Summer was lovely on the farm although the Maids went on strike for two weeks, demanding nicer stools. One of the Lords is a labor lawyer (inactive since my T.L. hired him to leap) and he handled the negotiations. When we got things worked out, the whole crew came together for a Summer Solstice party. The Drummers were drumming, the Pipers were piping, the Lords were a-leaping and oh! you should've seen those Ladies dancing under the Pear Tree - it was just like the old times at Christmas, only much, much warmer. The Colly Birds and Turtle Doves were flying around and fanning everyone with their wings, which helped a bit, but after perhaps a little too much mead, most of us went for a refreshing dip in the pond. Some were even bold enough to skinny dip but not me (perhaps not enough mead). The Swans didn't take kindly to the night-time intrusion, and I'll never forget the sight of a dripping Piper without his pants being chased from the water by a squawking Swan!

I had a bit of a scare in October when one of the Gold Rings slipped off my hand and fell into the sink in the 3rd floor powder room in the west wing and swirled down the drain. I know I have four rings just like it, but they're all precious because my T.L. gave them to me, you know? It just so happens that one of our Drummers used to be a plumber, and he fetched his tool box and got it out of there in a jiffy. Yay!

Well, those are some of the highlights of this year, although I have many other stories to tell. When you come by for the eggs and pears, maybe you'll let me bend your ear. And if it's after Christmas, I can let you know what my T.L. got me this time! I asked him to please take it down a notch this year, and so far I see only one medium-sized box with my name on it under the tree. I'm hoping it's a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones.

Cheers from us all!

17 December 2013


I'm sure every surfer experiences the silent inner conflict at some point. The injured body, painfully expressing a deficiency that renders it less than optimal, less than capable, potentially ready to fail. The inner child, the heart and soul that loves riding waves more than any other activity under the sun, clamoring to go: "The waves are good! Wanna surf! Wanna surf! Waaaa-naaaa!" And the logical mind, urging restraint: "Listen to the body. Give it a rest and recover to surf another day. If you go, you could end up in worse shape and have to sit out even longer."

It's like a devil on one shoulder, and an angel on the other. But hard to tell which is which.

Last Friday, after more than seven years of back pain from a surfing injury and countless less invasive but largely ineffectural measures, I let a doctor inject cortisone into the facet joints along my lumbar spine. He said it would almost certainly lessen the pain within a few days. He said there would be no restrictions on my activities, including surfing, aside from avoiding submersion for a day. He lied.
Yesterday was the first real swell Southern California's seen since I brought home my new surfboard at the end of July, a wave drought that was truly the worst new board curse in the history of surfing. I was eager to test my 5'4" Firewire Spitfire in surf over shoulder high, but I sat out the first day because my back has been hurting more than before I went under the needles. Worse, even in smaller waves on the weekend, it felt weak, and I'd surfed badly.

Today, however, I was going to surf, and surf well, I told myself. It didn't hurt that bad anymore; maybe I was on the way to the pain-free normality I'd been promised, as much as doctors ever promise anything.

A few friends joined me for a surf at my favorite reef break, one that I hadn't been able to surf for lack of swell for far, far too long. The tide was high enough that we had to jump off the rocks to enter, and as I landed, a painful tweak pierced my back. I tried to ignore it as I made the long paddle to the peak. Overhead waves loomed, and I didn't feel up to taking on any of them, not in a crowd, not in my condition. My friends swooped by several times, grinning as they rode. I caught a few waves on the inside as broken peaks passed, feeling weak and slow on the pop-up but taking transient joy before they moved over deeper water and dissipated. The pain in my back grew to the point of almost-tears; I don't know how that ranks on the 1-10 pain scale, but I count it as a 6.

When the tide had dropped enough to render the exit not too hairy, I strung together a couple whitewater rides to shorten the paddle back to the stairs and climbed out, defeated. "Tomorrow!" the inner child piped cheerily. "It will be smaller tomorrow, and less crowded! Surf better then!" The head was not so sure. "Hmm, might be a good idea to rest for a few more days." And the body: "Just, oww! OK? It friggin' HURTS!"

I'm not sure how other surfers resolve this debate. Me? I write. I turn the scattered thoughts in my head into pixels on a screen, typing them down for the first time in a long while for all the internet to see, hoping they coalesce into an answer. Because soon I will change my life in a dramatic way, turning my avocation into my occupation, and it's time to write again for writing's sake, and my own.

The inner child is whimpering now. "Maybe we could decide in the morning? Maybe it will all be better in the morning. Or at least OK. Don't say no... please?"

Hush, child. Here's the Surfline forecast, and it's only poor-fair. But this weekend....