This past February I posted the following,
I lived at the beach for the summer with one of my best friends in the world. There aren’t enough words to express how the time, the feelings, the experiences and the memories have changed my life. Yesterday I made a video journal with a few of the highlights documenting that time…

The feedback was overwhelming…I received several emails and messages about the video. Some asking the story behind it, others simply letting me know it had touched a part of their heart. I responded via email, doing my best to explain what it means to me. One of the responses I recently received suggested I share this story with the video. The story, however continues, as I have made some great new friends because of it!

Putting it in perspective…
One of the reasons I chose to do a video journal vs writing about my summer in Ventura, is I often found myself using the word indescribable when referring to it. It will be challenging for me to put into words…but I will do my best.

There is nothing in this world to me more hypnotic than the ocean…the sight, the sound, the smell, the life that exists within it. The ocean is plenty and I could go many places, but the peacefulness I experience in Ventura is like something I’ve never experienced before. Indescribable. It is a place I have always found a sense of peace. It was there I took my wig and scarves off, and for the first time was able to go out in public and hold my head high. That peace, however would somehow slowly diminish once I returned to reality, home. I was complacent in a world, where hindsight, I merely existed.

Last April I lost an aunt that I was extremely close to. Knowing it had been a significant source of comfort for me in the past, my mom encouraged me to plan a trip to Ventura after the funeral. My aunts ashes were to be scattered the day after I had arrived there. With that in mind I woke the following morning with a sense of guilt and of course, strong emotions. I walked aimlessly along the beach seeking the strength I needed to carry me through the day, I drove around, I walked along the pier, it was one of the hardest days of my life. As I walked from the pier back to my car, I stopped and sat on a bench to take a few pictures, it wasn’t until I was walking away did I notice a plaque that read “Strength” mounted on the bench I had been sitting on. I had, in a sense, found that strength.

I spoke to my mom on the way back to the beach, my aunt’s ashes had been spread, and final goodbyes had been spoken. As I situated myself and my camera on the beach, I realized there wasn’t another person in sight which was both eerie and refreshing. It was a safe place for me to say my final goodbyes, alone. I had sat with her alone for a few hours just before she passed away and I was now recounting what I did and did not say to her. What she may of heard and what she didn’t. I wondered if she knew what an inspiration she was to me…how thankful I was to have her in my life. Did I thank her enough for being one of the only people in the world who stood by my side and loved me unconditionally during these years I’ve struggled? In so many ways she gave me the hope and the courage I needed when I couldn’t find it within myself.

“If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing, it’s the time I spend alone, sailing on the cool and bright clear waters. It’s kind of a special feeling when you’re out on the sea alone…”

As I sat there, I noticed 4 dolphins down the beach a ways heading north. It was about that time of day, which usually meant there would be more following not far behind. I grabbed my camera, sat and waited for them to get closer. As they approached the 1st of the 2 jetties I was sitting between, they changed their direction heading towards the shore. For the next 30 minutes I sat, watched and photographed one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen. They jumped, twirled, swam on their back, splashing their tail fins about as they dove under water. Still alone on the beach, I had never felt so “at one” with nature, I had a calmness I forgot existed. Instinctively I called my aunt to share what had just witnessed, her voice mail picked up. The first thing that came to mind was, ‘she already knows.’ I call those pictures, Angels in Flight.

“Now that my life is so pre-arranged, I know that it’s time for a cool change.”

As reality set back in, I had what I would best describe as an “Ah-ha” moment. It reiterated to me, there is life beyond pain. Beauty beyond darkness. Hope beyond despair. I had sought out strength and peace to get me through the day. In a sense I had found them both…and so much more. I was alone on the beach…I was alone. I was in complete control…I was in control. It was a thought, feeling, a concept, emotion, a vision that was so freeing and so refreshing. Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living. It was time for me to get back up, to start living, and nobody was going to stop me.

It’s ironic you say “knowing what I know life’s experience for you has many colors.” I had not thought of it that way until recently. I think that holds true for all, however the shades and quantity of those color vary. For years, my life seemed monotonous, the colors, monotone. With each passing day and experience in Ventura, the colors became more vibrant, more abundant. My eyes had opened to a whole new world, beyond four walls and beyond my illness. As much as I embrace it, I don’t believe my appreciation would be as great had I not started with a monotone palette. A lot  of the pictures in the video simply represent the beauty I was not only seeing, but feeling.

Without black, no color has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there’s shadow – no, not just shadow, but fullness. You’ve got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that’s real. ~Amy Grant

“I know it may sound selfish, but let me breathe the air”

There is a picture of me in the video at about 3:05. I was walking along the beach taking pictures and an elderly man walked up to me. He reached out for my camera and said, “Do you mind? You look so happy and so at peace, I would love to capture it, for you.” He took the picture and walked away. I posted it on Facebook that day. Comments ranged from my mom, ‘Is this my daughter? You look so happy’ to ‘It’s so good to see you smile…really smile again.’ Another one, ‘Don’t ever come back, I love seeing you so happy.’  It made me cry. It made me smile. It made me more determined…to focus on me. I spent the following 3 months doing just that.

Each new day welcomed me with something new. An adventure, a sight, a person, a feeling, a once in a lifetime experience. My childhood dream was to be a Marine Biologist. Having the opportunity to interact with Sea Lions this trip gave me a piece of that dream. Sitting alone in the water for 4 hours in the middle the night while holding and comforting a dying Sea Lion gave me a sense of purpose, of worthiness. Something I had not felt in a long time. Taking on the commitment of watching over beached Sea Lions as they rested and healed…for up to 5 days, and keeping that commitment gave me a sense of responsibility. Being asked to photograph a man and his dying dog as a keepsake for him gave me a sense of pride. Sitting around a bonfire and talking with 2 drifters about “life” gave me a sense of appreciation. Laughing endlessly and having heart to heart talks with a friend I’ve cherished for over 20 years gave me a sense of joy, a sense of belonging. Taking a stand and doing what I needed to do for ME, gave me a sense of confidence. Going off all my medications, on my own, gave me a sense of control….

What started out as a much needed weeks get away, turned into a 3+ months journey. The simplicity, the beauty, the freedom, the calmness, the experiences…they touched my life, they changed my life. I had wanted to do a video journal for months but there wasn’t a single song I could think of that could even begin to convey the feeling behind the pictures until I remembered “Cool Change.” It somehow, in my mind put in all in perspective.

“Well I was born in the sign of water and it’s there that I feel my best. The albatross and the whales they are my brothers. It’s kind of a special feeling, when you’re out on the sea alone…starin’ at the full moon like a lover”

Like I said, one of the reasons I chose to do a video journal vs writing about my summer in Ventura, is I often found myself using the word indescribable when referring to it…it is challenging for me to put into words