ONE WEEK IN AUGUST ~ BY RONALD D. PHILLIPS, JR.
I recently returned from a trip to California and after having a few days to reflect, I decided to try to describe the impact the trip had on me. The purpose of the trip was to take a friend, adaptive surfer Jay Leisner, to surf Southern California, the mecca of modern surfing. Despite the noble purpose, the feelings the trip ultimately stirred in me were uniquely personal.
The trip took me back to a time when life was more innocent and less heavy. A time when I got to surf with my friends and tell stories around a bonfire, some true, some half true and some that lived only in the memory of the teller. A time when individual differences seemed to matter less and the bonds of friendship had nothing to do with politics, religion, economic status or any of the other things that seem to divide us today. A time to explore and experience whatever life had to offer in the company of friends and without the pressure of responsibility and obligations. It was “our time” and back then we thought our time would last forever. Just like my summers on the beach when I was young and warily looked forward to the coming of Labor Day, the only time that mattered on our trip was the time we had to leave and return to the “real world”.
It is perhaps fitting that the trip occurred in August. I remember August as a time where I would look back at the summer and try to hold on to the few remaining days I had left but knowing another summer would come in a few short months where I could do it again. We often do the same thing when we are in the August of life. The difference is as we get older, we understand that we can’t take these moments for granted. We realize that time only moves one way and “our time” will soon pass. As one of the older people on our trip, perhaps that reality was more evident for me than it was for some of the others. For that reason, the trip did not cause me to suffer through the melancholy nostalgia often brings but instead, it allowed me to embrace the moment and enjoy it for the unique experience it was.
Our time in the water was incredible. We had great waves and got to see some fantastic surfing. Our time out of the water was filled with road trips to Bird’s Surf Shed, surf shops, and taco joints. We were able to share meals together, sit around the fire and talk about the events of the day and plans for tomorrow, joke with each other, exchange hugs and talk life over some beers. It was truly the experience of a lifetime but it was more than just an experience to soon be relegated to the past.
I was able to meet new people I would never have had the opportunity to meet. Even if I never see them again, my life has been enriched by their presence, however fleeting. I was able to establish deeper relationships with friends and acquaintances because of the time we got to spend together and through shared experiences. Because a wide spectrum of the human condition was represented in the people I was with, I was able to gain a better appreciation for the unique differences each person brings and how those differences complete the portrait of our lives and make it more complete. Most importantly, I was able to cherish the moment, the people and most importantly the relationships.
I will look back on this time with Team Surfgimp and our sand family not with disappointment that it may not happen again but with joy that it actually happened. It is an experience that will happily live in my memory forever and I hope to take those memories forward and be able to reflect on them knowing that this too was “Our Time”.
Ron Phillips has been a lifeguard for 34 years and a surfer for 36. In his spare time, he moonlights as an attorney and is a partner in the law firm of Murray, Phillips & Gay. Email Ron.