The Unforgettable Day

The beach in September, when all the tourist have gone and school has resumed, is quiet. The hot, late afternoon sun seemed to make the waves breaking against the shore sound like something sizzling on a platter. There was not a cloud in the expanse of the bright blue sky that extended to where the earth began to curve on its horizon. There was the silhouette of a large island, offshore about 25 miles. As the months went by, the island’s place from where David sat would shift from north to south, seemingly gliding slowly back and forth from, depending on the season. Now, it sat in the middle of his sight, and looked much closer, as if he could swim to it, if he tried.

He had been to school that day, and afterwards worked out with the cross-country team. He had showered and changed back into his school clothes. Today, he was wearing soft, light corduroy pants, and a t-shirt. David sat, alone, at the end of a cove of his favorite beach. It had dark brown, weathered-pocked crags jutting out from a cliff, being splashed by swells, breaking against their crab crawled exteriors. He was often alone. Not that he was unfriendly; it was just that he was accustomed to being alone. Before his parents moved to this beach town on the California coast, David lived in a country hamlet, on Saddleback mountain, located 20 miles from the coast, and stretching across the eastern horizon of the county. Its name came from its crest having two large humps that looked like something a giant might use to ride a horse for his size. The elementary school David attended there had two rooms and an office. One classroom was for First grade through Third. The other for Fourth grade through Sixth. Much of David’s time in Silverado was spent exploring every hill, valley, creek, and cave he could. His imagination was ablaze with visions of cowboys, Indians, gold miners, and bank robbers, from the tales and history of his old frontier town.

The change from living on Saddleback Mountain versus Breakers Beach was significant. When his family moved, David was entering the Sixth grade. He came to his first day of school dressed just as he always had, in a white t-shirt with its sleeves rolled, blue jeans with cuffs at the bottom, white socks, and black tennis shoes that had white rubber margins all around for him to draw on with red and blue ink. David liked to draw red flames on his shoes because he ran so fast. David also liked to put lots of oil in his hair for making a wave raise from his forehead. David was considered handsome when he lived in the hills, and he had his pick of any girl in school — But that was not at all what beach kids and surfers dressed like. — No one had oil in their hair. No one wore tennis shoes with names of their girlfriends surrounded with red flames. No one rolled the sleeves of their t-shirts. And no one wore jeans with cuffs. The entire class was astonished speechlessly when he entered his new classroom and took his seat.

At recess, there were ten-times more kids on the playground than he had ever seen. And some of the boys were almost as large as his father. They came in a crowd and pushed David against a fence to let him know that they were the “bosses” of recess period. — Wrestling was one thing that David did almost every day in the hills. That is what the boys that in his grade did during recess in the hills. He considered accepting their challenge, despite his diminutive size.  But they were too many and too big, so he cowered, and let them walk away. After that, David stayed a loner. He made a few friends, here and there, once in a while. And he was in school plays, and on sports teams. But he was never a part of any group and was not invited to parties. 

It did not help him to be accepted by the boys at his school that the girls found David handsome.  He had broad shoulders, brown hair and clear and piercing eyes that made people think it was like being stared at by a hawk. He was not muscular, and thinner than average. But his countenance revealed his long and deep thoughts, beyond that of most of his peers.

He had begun reading the Bible, from start to finish, when he was 6. He completed it several times before entering high school. David also enjoyed reading American history, especially about its heroes. He was inspired by romanticized versions of men who were constant in their loyalty, courage, integrity, and had a life-long devotion to God. He read of faithful love for their families, and of the sacrifices they made, often with their own lives, protecting the innocent, and their valiant struggle for the enduring liberty of our country.

Growing up in Silverado, David’s imagination was endlessly playing out scenes from the books he had read. In a running creek, nearby his home, shaded by tall Sycamore trees and their broad, dusty leaves, David used sticks as guns, swords, and bows in imagined fights with bad men. He leapt from stone to stone, sometimes slipping amidst a ferocious battle, only to rise quickly and fight on, until absolute victory was solely his.

By the time he got to 16 and in the 11th grade, David had a weekly column in  the Breaker Beach town newspaper.  His high school English teachers permitted David to write essays and expositions on various poets, instead of attending class. In History, instead of taking the tests, he wrote them for his teachers. And when the school held a talent show, David performed a poetry reading of his own work.  He did so with panache. He strutted, waved his arms, shouted , whispered at times, and even shed tears, as he read. Being dramatic was as natural to David when on stage, as it was for him to be a recluse, when he was not.

The sun was hot, as David sat in the white, warm, sand of the cove. A breeze coming from off the water, kept him comfortably cool, even in his school clothes. He looked out across the shallow  green waves, and then out to the blue water where the ledge of the shore drops off into deeper depths. Seagulls were sailing in the breeze above him. Seeking the strongest currents, and  stretching out their wings firmly, without any movement, like rigid sails, they streaked like small jets up into the sky and along the beach, until the current collapsed, and they winged their way back for another run. Occasionally, Pelican clans would also appear. With grace and ease, seeking the curl of the waves, in that moment just before their collapse, with the tips of their wings almost tickling the belly of the waves, ever so slightly, the pelicans peered into the thin curl of water, seeking fish.

The warm, calm, serene beauty of the day, seeped into him. He wasn’t afraid anymore. — David reached into his pocket and took out a small piece of tin foil. He opened it, and then put the small orange pill in his mouth and swallowed.

Now, he waited. His older sister’s boyfriend, a musician, had given David some LSD, a psychedelic drug, growing in popularity on college campuses.  Two Harvard professors, Timothy Leary and Richard Albert had created a class called “The Psilocybin Project.” They became ardent proponents of LSD as a tool for exploring new realms of human consciousness. Its popularity, especially among the 16 to 29 age group was spreading across the country. David was especially interested.

After several minutes, David felt different, relaxed and elated at the same time. Then he noticed the rows of his corduroy pants begin to undulate like ripples on water. He lay back and closed his eyes. Inside of his body, blasting up into his brain, he felt a powerful surge of energy. He began hearing the sound of this force as if it were a spinning tornado that was rapidly increasing in speed. The whirring got faster and faster and louder and louder. He was frightened. What was happening? At the same time, David knew that he had to stay calm. He had read how some people had gone insane after taking LSD because they got paranoid. They lost control of their minds. David fought the fear rising within him, accompanying the furious rushing of energy. He breathed deeply and relaxed his muscles. “Stay calm. Stay calm.” David repeated to himself. Then, like a towering and terrifying wave, the screaming surge within him broke… and was no more. In its place was a joy, and a peace, and a love, David had never known.

There was no one on the beach to see him, as David stripped off his clothes and ran like a laughing child into the welcoming water and waves.  He was accustomed to bodysurfing regularly. He had no fear of the ocean. David thought of the sea water as his friend. He even spoke to the water sometimes, as if it were his buddy with whom he played.  And the water, particularly on soft, warm days like this, was especially playful. The pupils of his eyes became dilatated by the drug. It turned the light refracting off the water into kaleidoscopic rainbows of colors. He heard the water singing as it caressed him. Sometimes he could not distinguish the separation between himself, the sand, sun, birds, and waves. He seemed to disappear into a oneness with them. And when he left the water, the palm trees lining the cliffs above him called down and sang their songs to him too. — Later in life, even in old age, this day was like a diamond shining brightly in the rough and troubled life that became his.

More than satisfied, David did not take any psychedelics afterwards. He had been to Paradise once. He was not so sure he would end up there again. Like a biblical Apostle, he had been translated, tasted the joy of heavenly bliss, and being wholly One with the universe. He considered himself fortunate and blessed. He returned to this world with a certainty of the next. This unforgettable day became a steady influence and a source of strength and hope, in the midst of the trials and tribulations that he and all humans endure, until David’s Self dissolved away, and he merged into the Sea of Eternity.

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