D.H. Lawrence wrote, “Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes it water. And nobody knows what it is.”
It was 75 degrees at 4:30 P.M. at the beach. I’d just dropped my eldest daughter off at ballet class and was heading home to start dinner and coax Joaquin, my 7 year-old son, to finish his homework. The bright blue sky and warm air persuaded me to take a detour.
“Who wants to go to the beach?” I asked.
My daughter, Estrella cheered, and Joaquin moaned. Rarely a unanimous decision with kids. My vote made two against one in favor of the beach; the car headed west.
I needed to see the ocean water, smell the salt, and hear the slap of waves on sand. It had been a tough week (and it was only Tuesday). I’ve had too many arguments about division with my ten-year old daughter. And my frustration level with teachers assigning too much homework was at its peak.
Water has a calming effect over us. Neurologist gathered in a first ever conference of its kind in San Francisco last year to brainstorm why. One possibility was the similarity in chemical composition of the brain, body, water and seawater. Science recognizes what we intuitively know, the water coursing in our body and swimming on the earth’s surface are the same. Only skin separates us.
Joaquin, Estrella and I hiked to a narrow sand bar between the ocean and the river.
“This is an estuary,” I told my kids. “The water is not freshwater, nor saltwater, it is brackish water, a mixture of both.”
“I want to stay here forever,” said Estrella as she approached the smooth water that held the reflection of the sky. She proceeded to toss sand into the water.
“Why are you throwing sand?” I asked.
“I like the way it sounds,” she answered. I stood and listened with her. The sound was fine, like the sand itself.
Joaquin and I moved slowly towards a herd of pelicans. We crossed an imaginary line in the sand. They took to the sky. They left behind indentations of their webbed feet for me to marvel. The sand bar was covered with bird prints. The artistry of nature at work.
It was time to return to the car. The air still warm but the obligations of the evening pressed against me.
“Do you hear that sound?” Joaquin asked on our hike back to the car along the shore.
“The sound of the waves crashing?” I asked.
“No, the sound between the waves.” We both listened.
“It is quiet between the waves. I like that sound,” Joaquin said.
“It’s the sound of peace,” I said.
Joaquin was quiet, then he said, “Maybe, I’ll be a peacemaker someday.”
“Joaquin Paz Rodriguez, you already are,” I answered him. He smiled and joined his sister to chase sandpipers. The sandpipers ran briskly before launching into the air.
I can’t name “the third thing” that makes water. But it is infinite and full of possibilities, like the space between the crashing waves.