One Summer Story


Ode to Yield

Rita Robinson

When I was 17, I went to Newport Beach on a hot summer’s day with my brother.  I threw down my towel, ran straight into the ocean, dove through the surf and started to swim out. I left my brother standing on the sand, feeling a little cocky, like I was showing off.  When I got out a ways, I looked around and noticed nobody else was out there. No one was out in the water.  Uh oh, not a good sign.

I looked at the lifeguard stand and there it was, the yellow flag with a big, black ball in the middle of it.  The water was black-balled, which meant to keep out due to dangerous conditions.  Yikes.  I looked behind me and a wall of water, I later learned 12 to 15-feet high, was starting to swell up and tower over me.  Sh#@*…oh man.  A feeling of dread began to well up from my own dark depths.

I started to swim out to meet the liquid wall of oceanic concert before it crested and broke right on top of me.  This went on for a while because it was a big set.  I kept swimming out farther and diving under the waves; the break was so strong it pushed me to the bottom where I got tumbled around and scraped up.  I tried to find my bearings underwater and push off the ocean floor as best as I could, desperate to reach the top for air before I dived under another massive water wall and got tossed around again.  I was running out of steam, not to mention air.

Where was the lifeguard?  Where was my brother?  I saw him standing on the shore, looking, and I waved at him for help.  He waved back.  How much time had passed?  Man, I was working hard and digging a big hole of nowhere.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  I already thought I was going to die but now I knew it.  I was going limp.  I couldn’t fight the ocean.  It was way too big for me.  I was being shoved to the bottom again.  Sinking, arms up, thought, “I give up.”…and I was spit out.

I stopped fighting and yielded to the greater force and those same waves that pushed me down were now pushing me right out, nudging me to the shoreline after, I must say, a good lickin’. 

I could feel my brother’s hand reach around my arm but I slipped out of his grip with the outgoing wave. Then he grabbed my arm tighter.  I came up, feeling sick and throwing up salt water.  The lifeguard ran over with his buoy (did he think I was already a goner and didn’t want to risk it for himself?  I never asked.  I felt pretty stupid already).  He helped me to my towel, where I slipped into a big puddle of deep sleep for a long time.  I knew something big had happened, besides nearly drowning.  It was my first experience with nature’s power of yield.  And the initiation of an answer that would return throughout my life.  It took me a few more “drownings” until its importance finally sank in.  Yielding has its own strength.

Rita Robinson covers City Hall for the Indy.

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