Monday, August 19, 2013

Lessons of the Loon

     If you asked my friends about me, I think they'd concur on a couple of things.  A) I am a terrible bowler and B) I am, in general, a pretty positive person.  It's not that I don't complain about my job, my car, the baby disappointments, financial problems, etc.  I certainly do.  However, I can usually find some type of silver lining in the midst of a mess.

     Case in point: At the moment, Danielle and I have a little ant problem in our kitchen.  We have sprayed, bought ant traps, and cleaned out drawers and cabinets.  In the process, we ended up getting rid of a few kitchen gadgets while separating the remaining tools into neat little compartments.  So, when I open our now nicely organized drawers, I smile and say, "Thanks, ants!"  (Granted, this doesn't keep me from squashing the little buggers when I see them crawling on the counter, but I still think the anecdote is illustrative.)

     This is why it's such a shock to my system to experience a deep depression each time a baby try doesn't work.  Fortunately, the feeling lasts only 24-36 hours before life gets more or less back to normal.  But those hours can be a doozy.  Once, I went grocery shopping almost immediately after finding out I wasn't pregnant.  Big mistake.  I wandered the isles like a zombie and almost had a a meltdown because I honestly couldn't remember where to find the chips.  (Psst!  They have a whole isle for that.)  My thought bubble was something along the lines of "I still don't (sniff) have a baby, and NOW... I ...CAN'T... FIND... THE... FRITOS!  WAAAAAH!"  Ridiculous.  I also wavered between being numb-but-calm and on the verge of an ugly cry.  It's a wonder no one found me wailing and drooling and dripping copious amounts of salty goo from my nose next to the cool refrigeration of the organic vegetables.  I was not, shall we say, at my best.

     Sadly, we had yet another failed pregnancy attempt.  (That was try # 13 for anyone keeping count.)  We found out the "blessed" news while vacationing at the beach and visiting my aunt and uncle.  I had thought that the distraction of the beach might offset the usual blues, that the reliable sound of crashing waves might be of some comfort.  That standing of the edge of the world and looking out into all that vastness might make my problems seem smaller.

     What I hadn't counted on was bad weather. During our week long stay in Pensacola, Florida, we had exactly 6 days of pouring rain.  We're talking non-stop, torrential rains, dangerously flooded streets- the works.  On our second-to-last day of vacation, we'd planned to have a day at the beach and then get together for dinner with some friends who were vacationing nearby.  This get-together fell right within my 24-hour depression window, so I was looking forward to a bit of daytime sea salt therapy before putting on a happy face for my friends at dinner.  That morning, Danielle and I set out on a rainy drive toward the coast.  The weather, we figured, might clear up by the time we arrived.

     To be fair, it was not raining when we first arrived at the beach.  It was cloudy, extremely windy, and chilly, but there was no precipitation.  We couldn't engage in our favorite beach activity- lying out and reading- because the wind would've made it impossible to keep the pages of our hardbacks stationary.  Therefore, we began a somewhat grumpy walk along the beach.

     Within 10 minutes, even the luxury of this activity was rendered impossible as the rain cranked back up.  Instead of spending additional time at the beach, we decided to have a leisurely lunch date and then head on to see our friends.  Using the GPS, we quickly located one recommended restaurant, only to balk at its prices and cuisine.  (Sorry, but I don't go to the beach to eat French food.)  Still determined, we entered the address of another restaurant into the GPS.  This time, we were not as lucky and were incorrectly sent away from town and access to restaurants.  When we turned around to head back toward civilization, we found ourselves in heavy traffic.  Between beach goers and cautious rainy-day drivers, the cars just inched along like run-on sentences punctuated periodically by red lights.  If driving in traffic is like reading, this experience was War and Peace.

     At this point, I just wanted to go home.  I wanted to be off the road and in my own bed.  I was in a constant state of either crying or being on the verge of tears, and the rain was, let's just say, not helping.  Worse, I could see that my mood was bringing Danielle's down.  I felt guilty for ruining our beach day.  It was in this pouty, weepy state that I texted my friends to let them know we were grabbing a quick bite to eat before driving to their condo.  Their text back did nothing to improve my state of mind.  While Danielle does the most accurate and hilarious impression of my reaction to their text, I'll try to replicate it in writing.

     "They said (gasping sob) there's a tornado warning (bigger sob) for Fort Walton Beach (gasping sob) and that we (gasping sob) should just come on over and have sandwiches.  (Bawling ensues.)  I'm okay (gasping sob), I'm okay......"

    Ladies and gentlemen, meet the low point of our trip.

     About an hour later, we finished traveling the mere eight miles to our friends' condo.  What a comfort it was to see familiar faces!  Turns out, they, too, were pretty bummed about the gray week of rain.  We swapped crying stories and laughed at our pouty moments.  Rain on vacation?  A total First World problem.

     Our superhero friends swooped in with snacks and mimosas (Which I, not being pregnant, could now enjoy.), let us borrow cozy sweaters and warm socks, and put on a movie.  Eventually, there was a lull in the rain, so we all went out for a walk on the beach.  Sure, it was cold and gray, but it was also beautiful.  The water was this earthy green-brown color.  I'd never seen the beach this way.  We collected a large cup full of intact and unique shells.  We slowed down.  We looked around.  We noticed beauty.  We leaned on friends.  We breathed deeply.  It was wonderful.

     As we walked near a jetty, we noticed a bird that seemed to be injured.  Our friends told us that the strong waves brought on by the heavy rains had washed the bird onto the rocks that morning.  A good Samaritan had freed the bird from the rocks, but it just sat on the sand as if nesting. Small crowds huddled around the bird from time to time, but no one seemed to have a solution to the bird's predicament.  Eventually, our friend called Fish and Wildlife and described the problem over the phone.  It was determined that the bird (possibly a loon) was not used to being on land and would move best in water.  With the help of a kind stranger, our friend carried the bird to the shoreline and set it on the sand a few feet from the water.

     As if driven by an ancient instinct, the loon began to pull itself across the sand by its wings, its impotent legs dragging behind its body.  At last, the bird entered the water and began to swim.  Instantly, it looked healthy, safe, and at home.  In that moment, big concepts like Grace and Redemption took on feathers and a beak.  And I got to witness the whole thing.

     As you might imagine, the rest of our vacation was marvelous.  We shared a big, messy, delicious meal with our friends.  We spent the night on their pullout couch in order to avoid driving in the rain after dark.  We swam in a pool, performed fake synchronized swimming routines, and took one last walk on the beach.  We devoured homemade peach ice cream that tasted like summer and childhood and happiness.  The next morning, Danielle and I had a delicious breakfast date at a diner our friends recommended. 

     Though the getting there had been difficult, the trip was well, well worth it.  Pouty self, take note: there's a lesson here.

     As I write this, my mind keeps returning to that poor loon stranded on the sand.  Each time we find out we've had another failed pregnancy attempt, I am not unlike that bewildered bird: immobile, scared, and entirely out of my element.  But, even though I look injured, I'm really going to be okay.  After all, I have friends and loved ones to pick me up, flailing wings and all, and carry me back home.  Eventually, instinct kicks in and I remember to laugh and hope, dive and float.  It might take cajoling, mimosas, or comfort food, but I will come around.

     By the grace of God, sea salt, and love, it happens every time.