Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Boat to Catalina's Island

One of my favorite places on this planet is Catalina Island. It's located just a few miles off the shore of S. California, but if you use just a smidgen' of your imagination you might find yourself in the middle of the sunny Mediterranean-perhaps a distressed artist of sorts trying to discover herself through a new love disguised as a very appreciative Italian. Ok, so maybe we won't get to star in "Under the Tuscan Sun," but one must never give up hope. Never.

The first time I walked off the dock's plank onto the streets of Avalon, I must've been only 21. My parents were with me, trying a last ditch attempt at saving their marriage. My sister was still as innocent as she could be-no years of musical boyfriends or baby drama quite yet. My brother was only as tall as my thigh, clutching onto the stuffed Big Bird he'd had since he was born in one hand and holding onto mine with the other. It was a winter day. It was the week of Christmas and my parents had thought a second trip to Disneyland would be a great way to celebrate in a place a little warmer than home. Don't get me wrong, Colorado is a great place for Christmas. I always made a point of flying back for the holidays during my Floridian stint. Somehow palm trees, pink flamingos and 85 degree weather never said "Tis the Season." But, I think my parents just wanted a change of scenery for awhile; an experiment in let's see if changing the environment will change what we no longer feel inside.

Yes, I felt the same peace in 1997 that I felt this year-that same calm feeling of unexplained complete comfort and serenity. I remember walking through the museum, up and down along the shore, through the tourist shops full of overpriced mementos, eating lunch outside at one of the restaurants overlooking the ocean, standing on the rocks looking up at the sunshine and knowing somewhere inside that I would be back someday. I also thought it would be a great place to film a few on-location scenes, if I ever decided to pursue that dream in the back of my mind. I remember the tension between my parents and me. My father, too old to keep up, putting on a face that said "I'm still in this game." My mother informally released from her marital obligations, already on the dating scene with several forty something playboys. Me, the intuitive, investigative one, somehow expected to be the glue to hold this together without speaking or acknowledging the truth. My younger siblings, of course, were oblivious to what was really happening. We almost fit a little too perfectly into our episode of the "The Real Orange County" that week. My parents were too scared to stay in Los Angeles-they wouldn't even fly into LAX, despite years of living in Chicago. And my mom wonders why I'm picky about where I live (and stay).

2010 was a lot better. No bad scenes. Well, once I got over my motion sickness and emerged from the bathroom 30 minutes later on the boat ride over. I guess you could say that was my introduction to the California diet. Then of course there was the sugar daddy tool that tried to strike a match by saying "How are you, pretty lady" as I walked by a portion of the shore. I'm beginning to think I sealed my karmic fate with that recently ended ten year relationship. Despite these two unfortunate, awkward moments, I still enjoyed myself. It's always nice to revisit a place your younger version fell in love with and find that its magic still exists.

2010 was better because it was my voyage. Alone. And I wasn't scared. No nagging voices in my head about practical concerns. Just my eyes, my thoughts, my feelings, and the small conversations with strangers. Just the feeling of this is somewhere I'd like to be.

The places in our hearts are like that. Islands sitting out there-some visited only once in awhile, some yet to be discovered, some returned to as if they're our only hope to survive. No matter how we get there or how many times we attempt to, it's always a solo journey over something that seems dangerous. Threatening enough to keep us from jumping from what we can see and touch. But it's the only way we come to know what we want, who we are, and what really exists.

Taking a leap of faith requires that you trust that you'll land on something invisible.

And the only way to find out is to actually jump.

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