Today is my last day here and I’m sure at some point there will be tears; my heart is very full at the thought of leaving. The day rose cloudy but now it’s sunny, even though the wind the region is known for is kicking up some serious dust.
It’s also kicking up some big waves, which means I barely got any surfing in. I went in for about 10 minutes at Arrifana but couldn’t even get past the first break, the waves were so big. I did manage to stand up and ride some whitewater in, so at least I got a ride in my last day here.
It was a different scene last night at that same beach, my favorite one in the region for surfing (I’m not alone; it’s very popular, almost too much so on the weekends). I took a chance and went out right after work, with about two hours or so of light left. I’ve been wanting all trip to have a sunset surf, and last night was as good as night as any for it. I was hoping the waves had picked up enough to surf; they were small there all week, nothing like the monster that the ocean there is today.
I was in luck; the waves last night, while small, were big enough to ride — probably about six feet high at their peak, rolling in in predictable green sets. The best part about the surf was that between sets the water was nearly smooth as glass and there was hardly any wind, so it was easy to paddle out to even where the “real” surfers were, the first time I’ve really done that. Usually I sit “in front” and catch whitewater, but I set a goal for my trip to ride in the back and learn how to really drop into a wave — what I feel is really surfing, — and last night were the perfect conditions for that.
I tried to stay out of the way of the four Portuguese guys who were having a laugh in the waves by riding the waves as they broke far to their left, so by the time the wave got to me they likely weren’t on it unless they were having a particularly good ride or decided not to be mindful of me.
At one point they took the piss out of me, with three of them getting on a wave heading in my direction, passing by so close I thought I was going to get conked with a board. They were really good surfers, though, so they knew what they were doing and I wasn’t really in any danger; we had a laugh after my initial fear as they rode past.
I also ran into this guy Tim from the U.K. who I’d seen at Amoreira the previous night when the waves were too messy to ride. We started talking and before I knew it I had paddled out with him to the back, my fear of being there suddenly gone and I was ready to catch real waves as they were rolling in.
It was a pretty awesome scene, and when I say awesome I mean I was really “in awe.” The sun was setting, about to dip behind the rock at the north end of the beach, the water was smooth between sets, and we were just floating there waiting for the next set to roll in.
I had already dropped in on two waves before Tim paddled out so I was feeling stoked already and in great spirits. When the next one came in, he let me have it, even letting me know it was coming. I managed to catch it but wiped out immediately after, but it didn’t matter; it was a big wave for me and catching it at the time was enough.
I realized then truly why people go surfing, aside from the obvious fun and athletic factors. When you’re surfing, you’re constantly reminded of something bigger than you, something so huge you really become aware of just how small and insignificant you are. But at the same time in your smallness and insignificance, you are a part of this amazing whole. I know this all sounds really corny, but it’s how I felt out there drifting on my board, the orange sky reflecting of the green water and the ocean — this tangible,massive living thing that is the lifeblood of our world — nearly still under my board
I’m not super-religious, but if I had to say I’d call myself a Buddhist — but not a perfect one, because sometimes I kill bugs. But mostly I truly believe in do no harm and in taking personal responsibility as much as one can for everyone, starting with yourself first.
I also believe that god really is in all of us and everywhere, that we are all part of one incredible energy that subsumes everything and for which we should be grateful. I don’t go on about it all the time, of course — that would make me quite a bore, and no one would want to hang out with me ever.
But I’m saying all this now because last night and during this trip in general, I have actually felt what it means to believe what I believe. Sometimes it’s really hard, especially in a world constructed of Western values, to get in touch with this part of oneself — the spiritual part, the part that truly does want to see beauty in everything and really is grateful for being put on this earth in this manifestation, this tragically, beautifully flawed human form. The part that really does see life as a gift and feels a connectedness to everything living in this world.
In the middle of the banal day-to-day things we all have to do just to have a place to live and food to eat, in the middle of the great heartbreak it is most of the time to be human, it’s really hard to see the bigger picture. Last night’s session and this trip have given me a glimpse of it — no, not a glimpse, but a good, long view. I know I can’t explain it right how full inside I feel with gratitude right now to have been given this gift.
I know I will go back to New York and get sucked right back into the everyday irritations, insecurities, missed connections and all the rest of the mire. I know there will be days when I will hate myself, hate my life, hate my job, wish I had so many more things than I have. I know I will get frustrated and angry and sad and despairing, and think that there has got to be a better life than this.
But I hope that I can hold deep within me this satiation that I have today that knowing everything really is in its right place, that the world really is full of beauty, that my life here on this earth is truly amazing, and that the god in me and in this world and in everything I see really is great.
So now my tears truly threaten to fall as I say goodbye to this adventure. I wear a necklace every day with one word on a silver pendant: “Hope.” It’s a word I have always loved, a word that I use far too often, but always with sincerity. I really do have hope; I really do hope that I will keep this beauty and recognition of the god in all of us close to my heart when I return; I really do hope for the best for everyone that I love. I lose sight of this more often than I’d like to, but I have the best intentions.
And it is with this that I will leave tomorrow and return to the place I call home in name only. Because on this trip I have found my home, and realize it isn’t a place, or another person, or a dwelling where all of my stuff is. It’s not even Portugal, this beautiful and imperfect country in which I have found such great serenity and happiness.
Home is nowhere to be found in any of these places. It has, in fact, always been in the same place; it hasn’t ever moved an inch, no matter how many times I’ve packed up my stuff and put new walls around me. What I know now is that home is inside of me, and I will always, no matter how difficult things may seem, be in the place where I belong.