Philosophy (and Surf Route) 101

The Contrast, Yin and Yang, Karma, and Lost Keys
“Maybe that was easier for you.” This was the comment, just sort of hanging in the air, from Carol Toyne, the retired art teacher living next to the Port Townsend house I was painting. She had a smirky/almost-condescending/quite-satisfied expression when she realized, both of us now smiling and nodding, that she had said something (else) that I had taken as clever and wise.
And I had.
Her assessment was one of many responses during a rambling conversation, as I, for forty bucks, cash (using her paint), brushed-out the siding on the purple-ish wall that formed one side of my client’s yard, though not the puke green eves. Carol, who is about my age (her daughter and my older son attended pre-pre-school together) was cleaning her VW camper van, getting ready for a week long retreat in the woods, an event that would, no doubt, include drum circles and sophisticated conversations… well, it was interesting she wasn’t taking her Prius.
“I took art,” I had said, in between telling of my latest surf trip and how I’d ripped, shredded, wailed, or, backing off a bit to not seem to be bragging quite so obviously, how I had been quite pleased with my surfing, the near-euphoria then tempered (not quite ruined) by Archie feeling sick (no doubt connected to his business trip to L.A. with side/surf sessions at Malaga Point and Malibu, AND some surfing the evening before)   and sitting out the last hour of the session, sleeping in his newly-customized surf rig; and further tempered when, back at Archie’s house, I realized I’d lost my own car key back at the left and right-breaking (we’d sampled both as the tide changed) spot out on the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Yeah, the rights were working, fast and tubing, when we got there at 7am.
The key, and the surfboard-shaped combination key ring/bottle cap remover that Trish bought for me when she went to Kauai, probably fell from my pants as I got dressed just beyond the fence that marks the end of the parking area. Yes, it’s the fence that, reaching it on a left or a right, while surfing, marks a particularly long ride; as in, “I made it past the fence!”
“Oh,” a surfer might say, knowingly.
“Oh,” Carol had said, then explaining, in art terms, yin and yang, an expression I’d tried to use, then admitted I didn’t really understand it.
“Something about balance,” I had said.
“Well,” she said, in sort of the same way French people respond when you attempt any word in their language. She then made circles with the fingers and thumbs of both her hands. “You have a black dot and a white dot. You can’t see one without the other.”
“Oh, so it’s, maybe,  more about, um, contrast?” “Sure.”
“It’s all a bit abstract to me,” I then said, returning to my story of how I took all the art classes I could at Palomar Junior (I always add the ‘junior’) College back in 1969, and, when we were tasked to draw a still life, one of the students, rather than try to enhance his skills at rendering, did some sort of abstraction, and, when I asked him why, he said, “because it’s easier.”
“Uh huh,” Carol said, carefully arranging a couple of Native American-inspired blankets.
“Yeah, and when I ran into him, later, at the beach (Stone Steps, for those keeping score), I found out he- he wasn’t that good (as in I was notably better) but he made it to class, like, every day- and, anyway, while I got a ‘C,’ he got a ‘B.’ I was so busy, working, surfing; I had a girlfriend and…”
“Well,” she said, adding a slight pause, “maybe that was easier for you.”
Fill in the longer pause here. Her money in my wallet, I went back to finish my real job.
But, thanks, Carol; now I’m rethinking my entire life in terms of when I’ve chosen paths, jobs, relationships, whatever, because that route is easier. None of it’s been easy, really.  And I’m thinking of Karma. And I’m thinking of Love, and Philosophy (Surf Route 101), and Art, and what we deserve, or don’t, and now I’m thinking about… contrast; how we see what we see. Meanwhile, I have to go to work; another job, another story. Most of the job talk will be about the mundane, paint color and rain, and, every once in a while, I might contemplate the big old abstract picture of Life, how we’re dropping and rising, slipping and turning and, maybe, once in a while, sliding a hand across the image to see what’s real.
Oh, and if we write our own lives through our choices, as Carol had suggested, and if our wishes and dreams and our will can, in any way, influence anything in the Universe, the next time I’m up at my favorite spot, when the swell direction and size, and the tide and the wind all align, maybe the stars (not too hip on influence from the stars) perhaps I’ll find a Toyota key on a surfboard key ring hanging on the fence that marks a really long ride.  “Oh,” I’ll, no doubt, say.

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