Growing up in a small beach community in southern California, my mornings smelled like fog and tasted of sea salt. The ocean, while not visible from my house, was only a handful of blocks away. At ten, we’d ride our bikes to the bluffs and spend the day climbing through sandy cliffs all the while looking out toward the mighty Pacific. In elementary school, I could see the ocean from the playground and in middle and high schools we rode alongside it on the way to and from school. Each and every time I’ve looked out at the sea, I’ve searched for whales, dolphins, or seals.
When I wasn’t looking at the ocean, I was thinking about it. Nights I spent dreaming that I swam with whales and surfed beside the dolphins. By the time I got to high school, I knew that if I spotted the Palisades dolphins, something good would happen, it was going to be a good day. Marine animals became my totem, my good luck charm, my secret bit of fortune.
This morning, when I awoke to read and watch all the heartbreaking news from Boston, my chest constricted, my mind reeled. Scrolling through the news articles and Facebook feed, I read about friends at the marathon, friends nearby, and also reactions from those afar, filled with anger and grief and a questioning as deep and conflicted as my own thoughts.
Outside our kitchen window, I could see the ocean, the smooth dark blue water of our fjord, and a cloudless blue sky. I knew I had to clear my head and, rather than head to the gym, I put on my running shoes. Within minutes, I was on the trail that wraps around our fjord my mind working overtime. An old friend, and Iraqi war veteran, had posted on Facebook in anger that his reaction to these terrorists is that he wants to pour his money and might into military retaliation.
Running along the sea, all I could think was the opposite. I’m still grieving from the recent death of a young Foreign Service officer and I’m so deeply disappointed in society that we’ve come to this. I want to find a way to make cities and countries where mass acts of violence are not acceptable. There is nothing I want to do more than teach compassion. Rather than react with violence, I want to build inclusive communities. I want to sideline violence and give my babies a world where we prioritize kindness and safety. I want them to know a world, a school, a neighborhood that thrives on calm and joy and where fear and knowledge of heinous terrorists acts are sidelined, marginalized. I want to show children that this universe won’t accept a place so full of violence and hatred. We, as a community—small or big—must find a way to minimize the number of individuals that foster such hate. And I want to figure out how can we identify early on and assist those so bitter and hurt by whatever it is that caused their rage. I want to find a way to reach out and eradicate the masses that turn to terrorist acts to get attention or make a statement.
But is this impossible? Insurmountable? All I could do this morning is put one foot in front of the other and run along the sea. For the first time in ages, a warm and gloriously white sun shone over Reykjavik. I knew I had to be grateful for all the other things the universe gives us. Between thoughts of the little amazing life details—the bright blue water beside me, B’s missing two front teeth, M’s kissable cheeks, Mr. G’s calm soul—I wished a compassionate approach to these problems could become something realistic, attainable.
That’s when I squinted and saw the black shiny head emerge from the glassy water. For the first time in the nearly two years we’ve lived here, I spotted a seal in our fjord. He raised his head out of the water and for a few minutes, he swam beside me.
I have to believe this is my secrete bit of fortune. Despite the dull pain in my chest, I must still hope.