I remove my shoes, jump off the abandoned boardwalk and sink into the cool sand. The summer night is foggy, blurring the line between ocean and sky. Amid flattening waves, I wade through the terminal end of Aliso Creek, the skin-temperature water creeping up to my knees. I want to idolize this creek, but I know its partly poison–carrying the chemical runoff from dozens of cities. The water is still a living thing, swelling up from the creek side and pushing from the ocean side. Here, I stand on boundaries. Creek meeting ocean, land meeting water, sand meeting paved road. I rinse my feet in the ocean water, south of the creek’s release point, doubtful that the water here is much better.
In adolescence, we burned bonfires below cliffs in sandy nooks ignored by cops, and skinny-dipped in an endless dark expanse, our hearts pounding inside our bodies, suspended in the cold Pacific. We pushed the limits, and marveled at our own audacity as we straddled the uneven divide between being children, and being free. I did not know then that growing up is like a creek flowing to the ocean –toxicity mixed with goodness, beauty and destruction inextricably tied together, rushing toward the great expanse of a life.
Those places from my youth still exist – a collection of hidden coves and isolated places along the coast of northern San Diego County, understood best by surfers traveling along the beaches like some native mammal. Tonight, the world is damp and thick – a warm and watery womb, moving around me. I drink the air – its water and salt. Not far from here is my plastic-and-wood condo, where I take my vitamins and pay bills, the base camp next to the creeks in my life. It shuts out this liquid summer night, but I find that my days still run to these beaches, at the edge of everything. I am shocked to find that these shores are still my home. I still belong to them.