You learn a lot about yourself living the Foreign Service lifestyle. There’s nothing like moving every 1-3 years, finding yourself constantly dropped in new situations and new countries, to speed the process of learning who you are (good and bad).
I, for example, have learned this: though I love me an adventure, I’m a rooted person at heart. Living in China and Suriname were irreplaceable experiences… but when all is said and done, I could be happy settling in my hometown, among the family and friends of my childhood. I’ve been to beaches in Hawaii, Mexico, Thailand, Ireland, Curaçao, Aruba, and Costa Rica. Every one of those places has stunningly beautiful coastlines, and I feel so blessed to have been able to visit.
But my favorite beach is still the slice of the Gulf of Mexico I call home.
Luckily, I have a husband who takes/sends me home whenever he can. And my recent Texas adventures didn’t disappoint. Of my 11 days back, I made it oceanside on 8 of them. That tallied up to:
6 surf sessions with my dad and/or brothers.
1 offshore boat trip to snorkel around an oil rig reef
1 line-caught fish (though it was just a feisty hardhead we were happy to send back to the sea)
1 jellyfish sting across the mouth (weirdest.sensation.ever.)
1 stalking of a sea turtle through the waves
1 very satisfying bout of “ocean-gazing”
Perhaps only my fellow ocean-lovers will get this, but for me, the sea truly is a balm for my soul. That’s where I’m my happiest, most whole self.
One of my favorite things in the whole, wide world is surfing. My skills are nowhere near that of my dad (who’s literally been surfing for decades) or my brother Hunter. But very few things make my heart as thoroughly, joyfully content as getting out in the waves. It’s therapeutic for my soul, in a way not even writing can touch.
And the fact that surfing’s a family affair is the very sweet cherry atop my wave-catching sundae.
During this trip home to Texas, the weather on the Gulf Coast was consistently misty, adding a cool, eerie cast to my dad and my cold-water surf sessions.
The low visibility certainly didn’t keep us from saddling up and riding out to catch some waves with the last slivers of “daylight.”
Now that’s what I call a good family portrait: me, my dad, our boards, and even my dad’s indestructible-beach-and-hunting-lease-tacklin’-carry-it-all van. The only thing missing was Hunter, who’s busy kickin’ butt at college.
Warning sign on Texas highway. Corpus Christi, Tx. (Driven this road dozens of times to go surfing with my dad and brother.)
Rain and palm trees. Corpus Christi, Tx.
Truck outside hospital. Corpus Christi, Tx.
Flooded highway. Houston, Tx. (This was right before the turn-off for our house when my husband and I lived in Houston.)
Stranded cars. Houston, Tx.
NASA satellite image of Harvey.
Radar image of Harvey.
Collapsed house and flood waters. Rockport, Tx.
Submerged boat. Rockport, Tx.
Overturned airplane. Rockport, Tx.
Collapsed building. Rockport, Tx.
Downed utility poles. Taft, Tx.
Damaged but proudly enduring Texas flag. Houston, Tx.
As I’ve mentioned a time or two, I’m a Texan, born and bred on the Gulf Coast. In Corpus Christi, to be specific. A huge hunk of my heart is still there, tied to both the place and the people (all my immediate family, and many treasured friends and their families).
As those of you following the weather can imagine, the latter half of this week has been a surreal, tempestuous time. Harvey, a weather formation that began as a mere tropical storm (life-long Gulf Coasters tend to shrug at these) morphed into a monster storm almost overnight. Almost out of nowhere, a category 3 hurricane was barreling down–predicted to make landfall–on almost everything dearest to me.
Thousands of miles away in South America, I was obviously well out of danger. But it was sickening being so far away. I desperately wanted to be there to help my family prepare and evacuate–buy water and generators, board up windows, gather precious photos and important documents, offer a positive word, a hug, a hand on the shoulder and a prayer.