Sundays in Laguna - Watching For The Signs
August & September '05

August 14th...
Three hawks flew overhead as I was making my way to the ocean this morning, each one within a few minutes of the other. I had the top down on the car and it was quite wonderful looking up and seeing them flying so low directly above me. I figured something was up with that but wasn't sure what. In Indian Medicine hawk tells us to look for the signs that are coming to us, to be aware of what's being communicated. A little while after the hawks flew overhead I realized that I had totally forgotten the 8th anniversary of Les' death, which set in motion a whole cascade of thoughts and new emotions.

So yeh, the 8th anniversary of Les' passing came and went this year and it wasn't until this morning, two weeks after the fact, that it even crossed my mind. If it weren't for the fact that I was thinking about Auri's 24th birthday and what would have been Les' 54th, I might not have remembered it at all.

A day that has often been marked by melancholy in years past has now morphed into just another one of the many beautiful days of summer. I think the message the hawks were telling me to look out for is that things had changed.

September 4th...
So much has changed, both within me and around me since I moved back to California six years ago today and started going to the beach in Laguna for breakfast on Sunday mornings. For the first few years I was always alone there and for the past couple of years most often in the company of friends and family. I've watched the ocean build up the sand on the beach and then take it away. I've seen favorite businesses in Laguna come and go, older homes replaced by newer ones and familiar faces appear for a spell and then disappear altogether, all the while taking comfort in those few places that seem to have some permanency to them.

The Heidelberg Bistro seems to have an air of imperviousness to it, although I'm not naieve enough to believe that it could never change. Who knows if they make enough money there to survive the tripling and quadrupling of leases that's driving so many smaller businesses out? For now anyway it's there and it appears to be thriving as it's getting more and more challenging to find a table on the terrace even when it's cool and foggy outside. I guess I'm not the only person around who finds it comforting to be able to sit in the same place every Sunday morning sipping on a cappuccino and eating scrambled eggs.






















This morning I sat out on the terrace at the Heidelberg alone - the first time in a long time I've been there by myself. Since Auri and her boys moved here nine months ago they've joined me almost every Sunday morning for breakfast. But they're in Vancouver on vacation this week so I was there alone. The owner of the cafe` noticed me eating alone and commented that his girlfriend was in Europe for the summer and grinned when he said how much he was enjoying some time alone. I knew what he meant - it's not that you mind the company, it's just nice to be alone once in awhile.

When the kids moved here I started ordering mochas for breakfast instead of cappuccinos because Tristan loves dipping the whip cream and chocolate sprinkles off of it with a wooden stir stick. Grandpa loves his cappuccinos but he also loves the look on Tristan's face when the mocha royale makes it to the table. Several years ago I watched a little boy about Tristan's age running along the beach waving his arms in the air, laughing and shouting gleefully with the kind of unbridled enthusiasm that can only come from a child. I wrote about it in my Sundays in Laguna letter that day but never could have imagined how soon I'd be seeing my own little grandson running along the beach doing the exact same thing.

I've been so happy since Auri, Trent, Tristan and Aidan moved here almost a year ago. I've become a family man again, babysitting often and enjoying a lot of time being both dad and grandpa. I waited a long time to have Auri close at hand again and have been more than a little overjoyed at being able to squeeze her and hold her and kiss her soft cheeks several times a week instead of a few times a year. It took awhile to adjust to the fact that she and the boys were really here and that neither of us was just visiting. The adjustment has gone smoothly and I've created a wonderful new life with my kids at the heart of it all.

But the winds of change have begun blowing once again and Auri and Trent have now set their sights on Vancouver, Canada as their next home. There aren't even words in me to begin to describe how difficult the thoughts of them moving have been to deal with. I've wrestled with my emotions so much that I've almost worn myself out. I've tossed and turned at night, reminding myself how much I resented my own parent's intereference with my life's choices; wanting to stay the hell out of Auri & Trent's choices yet feeling so conflicted by them. If only they could know what I know about life...

But it's not my life and they're not my choices to make. They need to be as free as I needed to be, to go and do and be and explore the possibilities in life. It's hard to say "this is my home" until you've lived enough places to know what home really means to you. When Auri was a year old her mother and I sold our home in the avenues in Salt Lake, packed our bags and much to the dismay of our families, moved to Italy for a year. At the time we had planned on staying there indefinitely, so it's easy to look back now and see why our families were so distraught with our choice. But teams of wild horses could not have stopped me from moving to Italy and I'm guessing the same is true with Auri & Trent when it comes to Vancouver.

Auri is cut from the same cloth I am, although beautifully tempered by her mother's level-headed, balanced ways. I'm the wild card, the risk taker and the adventurer, and it's obvious that some of that part of me is alive and well in Auri. I've always taught her since she was little to follow her heart - and now she is. All that remains for me is to make peace with her choices, which is a whole lot tidier in theory than it is in practice.

Change seems to be a recurring theme in my Sundays in Laguna writings. Perhaps because I wrestle so much with the changes that always surround me, it's what's on my mind alot when I go to the beach and have some quiet time alone to think. I guess that's where I work things out. In the past many years I've stuggled to make peace with the changes that seem to be constantly going on around me and just when I thought I'd gotten really good at it a storm blows in and reminds me that when it comes to the big stuff I still struggle just as much as anybody else. I can watch the businesses and homes in Laguna change, I can marvel at the way the sand builds up and then disappears. I can make radical changes to my body by virtue of the tattoos and deal just fine with a world of computering that constantly challenges me to change and grow.

But when it comes to the affairs of the heart I'm still so fragile and vulnerable that I sometimes wonder if anything's changed at all. I want to say that it's OK for Auri and her boys to follow their hearts and move to Canada, but the words, written or spoken, would only betray what's really going on inside of me. Auri cautioned me to stay in the moment: "We're here now dad. Let's just go with that." So that's what I'm doing - I'm taking Auri's sage advice and doing my best to stay in the moment and enjoy my kids while I've got them here close at hand.

Some have called me wise, but I'm not. I'm just a chatterer who's willing to talk about what's going on in his heart and in his head. That some may find words of wisdom in the chatter, well that's more about serendipity than it is about being a sage. The layers and layers of protection that most of us surround ourselves with have been stifling to me, so much so that I've thrown them off and let myself be mostly naked and exposed. After awhile you get used to being so naked around others that it doesn't much affect you anymore. However, an older gentleman in line behind me at the Heidelberg this morning was staring so intently for so long at the tattoos on my leg that I almost didn't know how to handle it. He was standing so close I could almost feel his breath on my neck. I started to feel really exposed and looked down at my boardshorts to make sure my fly wasn't open. My fly was fine - should I say something to him about the tatts, should I engage him in conversation?

No, it was my choice to adorn my leg with what I knew would be highly visible artwork. And it was my choice to wear shorts this morning, knowing that people would see the tattoos and stare. When I sit down on Sunday afternoons to write these occasional letters about my adventures in Laguna Beach I'm making a conscious choice to open myself up and let people see what's going on in my inner sanctum. I know it's risky to be this exposed - but it's a choice I make on an ongoing basis because it helps me make some sense of this constantly changing world around me.

It seems to me anyway, that the choice to be so exposed also carries with it the inherent responsibility of gracefulness when the attention I've sought is turned my direction.

When Auri and I first talked about her moving to Canada she suggested I move with them. But I knew as she was saying it that it wasn't something I could do. I've moved enough to know, finally, where my home is. It's here at the water's edge in Laguna. It may be true that home is where the heart is, but home is also a place where my body has to live. The ocean breezes that blow in through my bedroom window and out through my living room window calm me and leave me smiling. Feeling the sand between my toes as I walk on the beach somehow restores me. Sitting with the rocks at my back and the warm sun on my face I look out past the surfers and into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and I know I'm home. Every time I come up over the crest of the hill in Laguna and see the ocean shimmering out there before me I say, Hola` Pacifico!  And somedays I swear I know I've heard her say Hola` Tomas back to me.

I think she knows as I do, that this is my home. With or without anybody else here to share it with, this is where I've found my serenity. Perhaps after a lifetime of taking risks I'm willing to let this one go - this one that would require my starting a new life over someplace else. What's become clear to me as I've sat here working on this letter for a couple of weeks now, is that part of making peace with change is also knowing when not to change what is.

From the water's edge as always,
Tom
Pussy Cap