Cripple Cove

July 6, 2009
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The eddying current of the Pacific Ocean sends the soft, pale, sky-blue waves lapping peacefully back-and-forth, up-and-down the long, slanted, black sand beach. The locals call it “Cripple Cove” because of the hidden reefs at its mouth, but to me, it will always be known as “Midnight Beach.” The cove in which the beach lies is hidden by dark cliffs that overhang it. The only access is by boat, and as a result, visitors rarely frequent the cove. I visit this beach every weekend. The soft black sand and the deep blue sea always seem to calm me. Every Friday, I pack some food, a tent, a sleeping bag, clothes, and a good amount of firewood into my small, single-engine boat. As I turn the key in the ignition, the outboard motor is reluctant to respond, but with a snick-click the engine catches and roars to life. If I am lucky, by sunset I am drifting into my secret paradise.
The cove is U-shaped, and the points curve in as though trying to complete a circle. The northern end of the cove is where I set up camp, for it is the most sheltered from the wind and currents. My camp is, in effect, nothing but a small, nylon, two-person tent where I seclude myself far up the beach from the high tide mark in a cave I found last summer. After erecting my tent and unpacking my meager gear, I build a nice, warm fire. It will be my only companion for the rest of the evening.
The following day starts with the sunrise as I am eager to spend as much time as possible in my carefree paradise. The first task I set for myself is to catch some fish, because I have only brought enough provisions for one day. As the sun rises, so do my spirits. In no time, I catch a 10-inch, sand-colored flounder, which I immediately set to roast over a newly-lit fire. I know – unlike the boys in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer – that freshly caught fish always taste the best.
I spend the rest of my day nimbly climbing the sheer rock cliffs, swimming in the cool depths of the cove, or relaxing, feeling at peace with the world on the warm, black sand. As the tide recedes that evening, I follow in her wake and scour the tidepools, collecting a dozen or so oysters and clams, which I take to my camp to cook for dinner. The rest of the evening passes uneventfully. With the waning of the light, I fall asleep.
A full moon rises late that night, and it is still above me as I wake before the sun. I eat a hasty breakfast of leftover fish and clams, and then set out for the southern end of the cove, which I rarely visit. I walk for a good thirty minutes before the sun dares to show itself over the peaks of the far-off mountains. After an hour or so of walking, the ebbing tide, lower than I have ever seen it before, begins to expose an oddly-patterned rock formation. Upon closer inspection, I find that the whole southern half of the cove’s floor is made up of an intricate, multi-colored coral reef.
The farther south I walk along the beach, the rockier the beach becomes and the better the waves appear to be. The beach is petering out, and finally I am forced to turn around. I walk back toward my camp for about ten minutes, scouring the beach for shells and beach glass. Then, suddenly, something inside urges me to stop, sit down, and just watch the ocean – and so I do.
I watch as perfect wave after perfect wave roll in. I watch as the tide, which had been abating, turns and starts rushing toward me. I watch as the sun rises higher in the sky, its heat permeating the sand below my feet. And then something in my brain clicks. Out from the desk of my mind drifts, like a feather in the wind, one single word – Surfing!
I quickly grab two decayed pieces of driftwood and bind them together with a piece of seaweed forming a shape that somewhat resembles a cross. I hang it on a rock along the cliff face. My heart is beating faster than the drums in the Safari’s song, “Wipeout,” as I race back up the beach to my camp. I clamber onto my boat and lift a hatch to reveal a shortboard, until now, long-forgotten. With my board in one hand, and a bar of wax in the other, I sprint back to my crude “X” marks the spot. Flinging my wax onto the pebbly beach, I paddle out into the head-high swells. The waves are perfect, plus the swell’s direction is causing the waves to follow the curving coast, which produces a perfect three- to four-minute ride.
I spend most of the day surfing, but by late afternoon I am too tired to paddle anymore, so I ride one final wave into shore. I walk, enjoying the warm sand on my feet, back to my camp. Tearing it down takes all of 15 minutes. I load my gear into my boat and go for one last swim. Then I motor out of the cove just as the sun’s golden rays fall below the horizon. The perfect end to a perfect weekend!
“Time to go, son. It’s getting late.” Reality hit me like a wave crashing upon the black sand of my beach, my paradise, my freedom. And, for a second, I wished that when I opened my eyes I would still be on my boat with the setting sun outlining me against the deep blue ocean. As I open my eyes, all my fantasies vanish and I am back in my wheelchair, as crippled as ever, staring across a dark-clouded ocean. I hear the snick-click of the wheelchair’s brakes, as they are released, and then we are heading back up the cracked, twisting sidewalk to my foreboding prison, Santa Monica’s Holy Cross Hospital.





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dolkio said...
May 31, 2010 at 8:33 pm
its awesome! i like how you described the place. it was like i was really there.
 
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