The Sea, the Self and Scones
I’ve had no time to write. Instead, I’ve been playing with my nephew and nieces, I’ve had tea with my mother, I’ve gone on walks with my sister and her dog and I’ve been to the beach all by myself where I sat and stared at that huge expanse of water, allowing the rhythm of the shhhhhh and roar to alternate and resonate inside me. The ocean has always been my spiritual home.
I grew up outside of Malibu. I remember hopping in my blue Mazda GLC in my teens, and swiveling my way through Topanga canyon listening to my eight-track tape player until the mountains dumped me out on Pacific Coast Highway. I’d park my car and walk to the unremarkable beach (which Malibu is) and sit on a rock watching the waves roll in and out. In college, when I attended UCLA and my world became cluttered with failed crushes on boys and parents going through a divorce and roommate conflicts, I’d hop in that same little car and zip up PCH back to Malibu. I’d park at the health food store across the highway, purchase a container of plain yogurt and some bulk granola. With a plastic spoon, I’d cross PCH to the same spot I visited in high school.
Stirring the yogurt became a ritual. I’d sit and stir to the rhythm of the waves. I’d allow the inner tension and turmoil to drain while I sucked the yogurt off the little spoon. I can’t remember what it tasted like. I only remember how slow-moving life felt on the rock on the beach. I could become transfixed by one glint of light on a wave, or by the way the surfers would stroke, stroke, stroke and then pop up and stand and glide and carve, until they plunged back into the water at the shore only to start again.
Yesterday, I borrowed my mom’s old stick shift. With the liberating power of a GPS, I punched in the address of the beach and drove there effortlessly to old 1970’s rock tunes. “Freebird” played and I laughed about that. I parked the car on the lot above the beach. We had cold, wet, grey weather yesterday which suited me fine. I worked my way down a slippery ramp to the beach itself. Sand piper babies and their vigilant mothers scattered across the sand in front of me. I walked until I found an old driftwood log.
I sat on it.
I watched the scene I remembered from high school, from college. Waves, surfers, gulls. This time, I sat on another part of the California coastline, this time with blooming iceplant behind me.
It’s interesting what comes up when you sit still long enough. Old feelings, thoughts, wishes surfaced and I had time to paw through them. I took them out one at a time, shook the dust off, looked at them front and back. I sorted them according to type, size, feeling, urgency, sentiment. The ocean gave me a rhythm to follow and over the course of the next hour (between sitting and walking), I found myself less troubled by the set of ordinary issues that I “never can get to.” I felt renewed energy for some of the tasks ahead.
After an hour and a half of quiet bliss, it began to rain and I worked my way back to my car. I reset my GPS for my return trip, stopped at Starbucks to drink a vanilla latte and then returned to my mom’s home, ready to be with my family again. This afternoon, I’m conducting a teatime with my nieces and nephew. We’ll be making lemon scones.
I thought you might like the recipe (from Family Fun magazine) so I’m sharing it here.
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 cup heavy whipping cream, plus a little for brushing
1 egg yolk, beaten slightly
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream
1. Heat oven to 400. Grease large baking sheet (preferably not a dark one).
2. Sift flour, sugar, b.p., and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest and toss mixture with your hands.
3. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles fine crumbs.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the cream, the yolk, and the vanilla extract. Use a fork to blend the liquids within the well. Then use a wooden spoon to combine all ingredients, just until they hold together. Don’t over stir.
5. Scrape dough onto a flour-dusted surface and using floured hands, knead gently three or four times to form a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk about 3/4 inch thick, then cut it as you would a pie into 8 wedges. Transfer to baking sheet leaving 1/4 inch between them. Brush tops lightly with whipping cream.
6. Bake the scones in center of oven until golden brown for 16-18 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet then transfer to wire rack.
7. While scones continue to cool, make the glaze. Combine all ingredients in small whisking bowl and whisk until mixture is smooth. You can thin with a tiny bit of water if needed, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. When scones are colled, drizzle glaze on each one.
I’m envious (in a good way) of your time on the beach. I grew up in the central valley of California, but went to college in San Luis Obispo on the central coast. Love the ocean – and just sitting at the ocean soaking it all in. The power of the waves, the soothing calm of the surf, the rhythmic sound of the waves breaking – I came to cherish all of that in contrast to the rigor of an engineering curriculum at Cal Poly. Even thinking of it now as I sit in Tennessee on a rainy afternoon makes me smile.
Thanks for sharing – and allowing me to share vicariously – your time at the beach. Enjoy the rest of your time with family.
P.S. Are you familiar with the music of David Wilcox? Your comment about Freebird made me think of him. He’s kind of a folk singer – a bit James Taylorish in sound. While I love the tone of his voice, and the tunes of his music – what I love most is the stories he tells through song.
Well if that is what comes out when you “don’t have time to write”, I can’t wait for the book 🙂 What a lovely description. I’m glad you are enjoying your trip, and finding a peaceful way to recharge before reconnecting with your family.
I don’t know David Wilcox but now you’ve got me intrigued! I’ll check him out on iTunes.
JoVE, thanks. 🙂