I’m scared of little; what I’d say if I ever met Mitch McConnell and he asked me about his record on fiscal responsibility, what I’ll do if the silly Texan at the table next to me “educating” his Chicano guests keeps on about Joe Biden hiring only Black people for his cabinet and staff along with veiled antisemitic inuendo about the “Israeli lobby” dictating policy (yeah, I need to leave this restaurant pretty soon, ’cause now an argument about who to support, I Ran or I Rack), and murder hornets–I mean 2020, did you really have to throw in murder hornets onto this giant pile of . . . apocalyptic . . .dookie?
[Note: The time at the restaurant described above was in an open patio by a resaca and a pleasant light breeze blowing with very few people and me at a corner sufficiently away from the “silly Texan” and his guests. As you can tell, I ate and left.]
I was scared today.
Boca Chica, An Idyllic Memory
Boca Chica is Spanish for “Small Mouth”, it is the U.S. portion of the beach alongside the mouth of the Rio Grande River spilling into the Gulf of Mexico and marks the border between Texas and Mexico. The beach entrance is about two and a half miles from the river where one side is the U.S and the other side, Mexico.
Boca Chica beach was for much of my childhood a favored day trip for my family because it was easily accessible by road, we could take picnic food and assorted blankets and poles to spread as a tent with our car as the anchor. Great times close to the Gulf and the river, sunburns, sand in all the wrong places, but hours in the water and a chance for an idyllic happy memory that likely obscures many things; like Dad trying to make nice with Mom, cousins with unhappy homelives getting a brief respite from the wars at home, the thousand little problems that the suspension of regular life at the beach can be a welcome distraction, if only for a lovely Sunday afternoon into evening.
You know, good ol’ times of the good ol’ days. . . .
And I am serious, they were the good times among the underlying struggle to be a family. It is only with the hindsight of reflection (likely a bit blurred by time) that much of what I feel I now know has become more clear. What I do remember well, are multiple Wonderbread bags of “baloney” and chicken salad sandwiches, a few large tupperware tubs of potato salad, splashing in the surf and contests for who could swim out to the farthest sand bars and stand upright (yeah, such things as undertow and sandsharks or “vejigas”–“balloon” jellyfish or Portuguese Man-o-Wars–weren’t really a thing to worry about).
Boca Chica was much different than going to South Padre Island. One, SPI required going onto a raised bridge in between letting shrimp boats and such pass by (no longer necessary because of a great Causeway crossing the Laguna Madre in between). There were also the many cabañas and rental cabins where we could stay on the Island. Everybody liked going to the Island, but it was more expensive and, so, a treat. Boca Chica was our cheaper date. SPI involved barbecueing burgers and hot dogs, overnght stays. Boca Chica was a way for us kids to work ourselves out for a day and sleep on the way home. Some people camped out. I don’t remember us doing it.
The thing is, two events seem to have mixed themselves into my mind; a fall from a bunk bed on SPI and the surprise you get when you arrive right on the beach, off the road, with the swelling, roiling water almost splashing you inside the car upon waking from a nap on the trip there.
That, and maybe a memory of my emerging from my mother’s womb.
The result is a recurring dream that has been a source of dread.
A Recurring Dream
First, about the dream, or at least the dream as a template for lots of dreams. In it, I find myself being pulled with unrelenting force into the surf, farther and farther from the shore and deeper and deeper water where I vainly try to feel for the welcome sandbar that I can then stand and get some rest. Sometimes, I get onto the sandbar, sometimes not quite ever. When I reach a sandbar, then my problem is, of course, returning to the beach. When I don’t, there is the desperate race against the current, time, and waning strength to reach the solid land. In time, I often “learn” the important solution to let the tide take me to the shore even if it doesn’t land me where I started. But not always. In the times when I fail to learn, I often wake as I’m drowning.
What is often different in this dream is the issue I am processing that may be represented. Determining this dream’s effect and the issue represented has been elusive. The sense of reaching safety, or failing, is what is usually left after the specifics. It seems straightforward that images are about being drawn from a place of relative safety, the hum of the road in the back seat of a car lulling me to sleep. And comfort. A time and space where both are suspended, no past to traumatize, no future yet to meet. . . . And then the abrupt chrashing of waves waking you into reality, the surf like claws dragging you into the challenge of an open sea where everything before you must be explored, the safety in a place, wthin the water, where you can stand and catch your bearings.
Or the realization that the sea is much too big to swim. That to find the shore at a different time and place is both possible and a chance to discover. Do you return from where you came? Walk further down the beach? Build a boat to take you out to sea?
It’s may be the vastness of the ocean that calls you, but its the reaching arms of the tides and surf like fingers that are pulling you; sometimes in fear. Well, mostly in fear.
And you then set to making choices. To let the fear leave you groundless, use your wits to bring you to place of bearing or your patience to allow the surf to take you where it is you go knowing that it’s your newfound place to start.
And just like every challenge you will ever have, you may not meet it. You may drown. I think that’s been my fear whenever I have had this dream. The likely chance that I may fail.
A Fear Unfaced; And ReSurFaced
A few years ago, I was here in this place of origin. A friend of mine had come with me and we decided to visit Boca Chica so that she could see the contrast between South Padre’s beach and Boca Chica’s. There was something new on the road, the new Tesla Spaceport–SpaceX Launch Facility–and the related University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley Technology Center, the “UTRGV Stargate”. . . .cool title, huh?
After beng suffiiciently awed by the spaceport and the “Stargate”, we drove up to Boca Chica beach. I don’t believe I let on to my friend, but the effect of reaching the end of the road with the waves and surf splashing and surging, struck me with a force that I thought I’d jumped. I do remember saying something like, “Whoa!” Believe me when I say what went on inside my mind and heart was like a crashing wave on a rough beach that hits you and briefly drowns you. My recurring dream was alive and I was awake, but its force nearly took my breath. In the span of a few seconds, I was transported into a dreamstate where I felt every fear of “losing”, “failing”, doubt, and desperation. And I felt myself being pulled right into the sea. I remember telling my friend that the beach reminded me of a recurring dream. But there were other things that we were dealing with at the time (another story for another time).
But that moment has stuck with me until now. It scared me and I simply filed the fear away clearly not being ready to address it. I think this dream “template” is like an archetype for me. One that leads me into a fear state when I find myself being pulled into a new test. . . .
Of course, I had to come back here.
A Beach Entrance as a Birth Canal
Most writings about the birth canal dream seem to talk about it as the springing of new life or the desire to “birth” something new. The feeling I get from my dream is one where I am spilling out, almost like out of a womb. Perhaps this kind of dream has served multiple purposes for me, about the inner fear of challenge, the recognition that in meeting changes don’t always take you where you intended to go. At this moment, it is as if the sea is pulling me out not so much against my will as it is done abruptly. Like it is time, but you are still surprised by the force of the “call” of the sea. And in a way that I am not sure I will really find my way with the very real chance that I may have to swim with an uncertain strength.
In these times, what has served me best has been my utter giving in to the waves and natural rhythms of the surf, knowing that a surf, while roiling and tugging underneath, inexorably is destined to reach the shore. To find a different place along the land you seek is a good result. To find the pull of waves upon different shores requires building new vessels that take you to another beach. One that may show you other promises.
The fear seems to lie in the determining what it is you really seek? And whether you can take the path to get there, especially when you cannot walk, but must swim. Not just lead. But follow.