Photo by Chookooloonks When I gazed out at the Pacific Ocean for the first time on my first day in Oregon, I admired the ocean in all its gray blanket beauty. I was with new friends on the first day, and as I moved self-consciously among the crowd, I felt the degree to which I was still a stranger to myself. I hope everyone likes me, I had emailed them all ahead of time. One of them said, Jen, you will fall in love with yourself, and it will be better than the approval of fifty women.
I was awake to watch the sunrise every morning through thick clouds, and instead of a glowing globe appearing there was simply a moment in which everything was illuminated, and the inhale and exhale of the waves was paired with the sight of white caps breaking across the waves like typewriter lines and moving down the page of the shore. I spent my moments and my hours and my days with twelve artful and soulful women. Their words and their eyes formed a magic mirror in which I could see my gifts, my strength, my place. It felt like fully stepping into myself in the areas in which I'd been hanging back. I was immersed in love.
On the last morning, I walked out to the water by myself. The sand was damp and firm high up the beach from the tide. Morning mist spread along the coast like a secret, the clouds hung low and thin like a lace hem over the mountain to my right, and a pink ribbon of sky wove between gray and blue sheets to herald the arrival of the sun. My feet left shoe-shaped stamps in the earth. The water captivated my gaze. In my own moment of illumination I realized that I love the ocean because it shows me who I am--expansive, elemental, a force to be reckoned with. It was another mirror, and to the appreciation of the ocean's beauty I now added the recognition of my own. Photo by Chookooloonks
I turned to walk back to the cabin, and followed my footprints back up the shore--the ones I had made moments earlier. This was how it would be to re-enter my life. The journey back looks familiar in reverse, but those prints I was following might as well have been those of another woman. I stepped now with a new gravity--as a woman whose entire presence had finally come home.