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  • Oh My God Blue

    Lolling and bobbing down the coast towards Stinson Beach, David and I are trolling for salmon and savoring a late summer morning. I inhale deeply — the air is a delicious cocktail of ocean vapor stirred with summer heat, with a whiff of beach grass around the edges.

    I did it! I escaped.

    The boat is on autopilot and there are two rods with sardine-baited lines trailing in our wake. David and I are lounging in reclining chairs, feet propped up on the engine cover like two vacationers on a cruise ship.

    In the half-dozen times David has taken me out, I’ve never caught a salmon, my favorite food to grill in the summer. Today doesn’t look like it’s going to be the exception; there are few boats out and little fish chatter on the radio. I could care less.

    It has been an insane summer: the daily carpet-bombing of pandemic and political news, record-setting heat waves, and most recently, hourly alerts about the wildfires ravaging California and getting closer to my home. For the past week, throat-burning smoke from fires to the north and west have blanketed my townhouse, and a smoldering patch of anxiety and despair began to burn inside me.

    On Friday, the smoke lifted a bit and I could almost see the sun. On a whim, I called David. The next morning, I was on my way to clearer skies.

    Basking in the fresh air and bright sun, I glance over the transom towards the open ocean to the north and notice a dark ragged shape stretching a third of the way across the horizon. It has the profile and solidity of a mountain range, and given what we’ve been going through, for a mind-boggling moment I question my whereabouts on the planet.

    David notices and tells me that we are looking at thick black smoke from a new wildfire which started yesterday. That’s all I need to hear. Damn! I can’t get far enough away.

    I tilt the recliner back, lifting my gaze from the grim horizon. And there, filling my view overhead, is the boldest, freshest, most superlative blue sky I’ve ever seen. “Oh my god!” I exclaim to myself. I rotate my head slowly from side to side, scooping greedy eyefulls from the holy blue firmament.

    I’ve never seen a sky like this before — an inverted bowl of sapphire glass. It rims the entire horizon around me, imbuing with a pure, azure beauty everything it touches — the ocean, the distant shoreline, David’s weathered face; even the cloud-line of smoke to the north is struck with the beauty by the light.

    It takes my breath away. It’s like I’m a lone witness to the rebirth of heaven.

    A lovely blush of feeling and sensation pour over me. I recognize the welcome feeling of gratitude. You forgot, George. Gratitude is always present. You just have to open your eyes to what’s in front of you to find her. She’s the one holding hands with hope, which I’m in desperate need of at the moment.

    There’s always something to be grateful for, if you take the time to look. Always a reason to carry on.

    Yet sometimes I forget, as we all do. In dark times like these, it’s easy be persuaded by the long shadows that fear casts on our days into believing that life is becoming pointless, the world empty of things worthy of hope and care. But where there’s gratitude there’s love, and where love abides, hope and purpose and wellbeing are always close at hand.

    I am the most fortunate person on the planet. I want to remember this moment, often.

    The moment passes and the feeling is beginning to ebb when a shrill screeching sound jolts me back into the scene on the boat. A fish has taken the bait; line is flying off one of the reels.

    It’s the rod on my side of the boat.

    “It’s yours!” says David. “Take it.”