essays by Shé

Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Essay #50: t(r)ooth

In Love on May 3, 2022 at 1:19 pm

I lost a tooth recently. Well, that’s not exactly true, I know where it is: off the coast of Kaua’i. I swam it out from Polihale State Park, past the breakers, and dropped it in the celadon water. Thank you!

53 years ago, give or take, I found a shark’s tooth on Myrtle Beach, way over on the east coast of mainland United States. Are we even now?

It was tooth 24 — mine, not the shark’s — right in front of the lower jaw. There was no trauma that I know of, it just slowly began to erupt, to rise up out of my crowded mouth. Although, as a pre-teen, I begged for braces on that bottom row. After the orthodontia was removed, my teeth slowly, over the years, moved back into place, the front ones a little more crooked, just as before. I’m guessing #24 finally got tired of living sideways and said, “I’m outta here.” Either that or the other teeth booted her out.

I don’t much care for crowds either, and try to avoid them. I park a fair distance from grocery stores, tend to surf or snorkel early, love to be out after dark. The stars! The quiet! The spaciousness! I remember walking down the middle of Santa Monica streets as a teenager, relaxed and free. High school was hard: noisy, crowded, scary. Who are all these people? I’d gone through a much smaller elementary and junior high with groups of familiar children, most of us in the same classes.

So why do I live in a tourist destination? The warm water and astonishing marine life. Yes, I have to travel through Stepford (aka Princeville) to get to the best snorkeling, biking past golf courses, manicured resorts, and construction crews. “Good morning!” I say, “On your left!” But once I’m in the Big Blue (actually green at Hideaways), I am home. “Good morning,” I say to the black and white polka-dotted fish. “Aloha,” I call to the sea turtles. “I see you,” I tell the flat, camouflaged sandfish on the bottom of the ocean. “Yikes!” I avoid the toothy hot-pink eel poking out of the reef. I hover nearby — out of biting range — and eventually she closes her mouth. I’m too big to chew.

They are family, more so than my own species. I hate to leave, so wear a shorty wetsuit and hood to prolong my stay. By the time I crawl out, my skin is pruned and my body cold, aiming for the sun. Sometimes I sit in the shallows, laughing. That rockfish! Perfectly still. “You don’t see me. I am a rock. Begone.”

When I am in the ocean, I do not miss my tooth. I have plenty. No one remarks on its absence. Actually, no one remarks on its absence on land either, but I’m more self-conscious. Maybe I need a boat, the better to spend even more time at sea. I hear the dolphins are friendly. Maybe they can spare a tooth.

OneBlueHeart, acrylic on canvas, 2020
OneBlueHeart, acrylic and glue on canvas, 2020

Essay #49: surfista

In Love on April 28, 2022 at 2:24 pm

Fat, old, ugly — that’s what the mirror said this morning, that bullshit trifecta familiar to many women. Women? Maybe it’s a human condition, not strictly personal, which doesn’t make me feel any better as I try to insert contact lenses so I can go surfing. Fuck. Who am I kidding? Surfing is a young man’s sport.

EXCUSE ME?! Rell Sunn, Lisa Anderson, Rochelle Ballard, Frieda Zamba, Bethany Hamilton, Keala Kennelly, Layne Beachley, Sarah Gerhardt, et al. Gidget, for crying out loud. Not to mention Anke, Rose, Keiko, Jamie, Heidi, Eve, Erin, Tami, Sophie, and countless other women whose names I don’t know because we’re too busy trying to catch waves.

I feel better once I’m astride the royal blue bike, board in rack, pedaling toward a nearby break. Yeah! I’m going surfing! Who cares if I’m old, fat, and/or ugly — it’s irrelevant. Besides, to whom is that mirror comparing me, Joan Allen or Alicia Witt from a recent (to me) movie? Would I trade places with them? No. I am pedaling to the ocean that surrounds Kaua’i. I do this often. I have spent HUGE amounts of time NOT doing this. And it made me very unhappy.

At Kane’s I grab a ride out the back on a rip current, a recently acquired skill. Then I watch the water a good long time, noting how and where and when the waves break. I have a highly sensitive nervous system, which means the bod takes in a lot of information that needs processing. So I go slow, acclimatize to the environment. I have been to this particular break before, so am a bit more relaxed. I’m able to catch a wave fairly quickly, and I’m up! balanced! and peeling down the line, riding energy along the face of the wave, almost to shore. Wow!

That may not sound like much to you, but I came to surfing late. 54, to be exact, almost five years ago. Every wave is different, every break is different, every board is different, every day is different. It’s not like riding a bike on a firm road, where, once you get the gist, you’re outta there — world here I come! No. Surfing takes patience, perseverance, strength, flexibility, endurance, and access, not all of which are available to me at any given time.

When I return home, thrilled with the session, I cover the mirror with a stylized print of sea turtles. No turtle has ever told me to lose twenty pounds, put on make-up, or lie about my age. The only communications I’ve gathered from them is, “Woo-hoo! The ocean!” (Florida hatchlings); “Who are you?” (Hawaiian juveniles); and “Gimme more lettuce.” (Mississippi gopher tortoise).

May you be well.

surfista shé, photo by Jimi Valentine
Surfista Shé, photo by Jimi Valentine
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