When we left the mountains of California and the cults and communes I had always known, we launched a boat my stepfather had built and prepared to escape the state entirely. In preparation, we were anchored out in Santa Cruz, right in front of the beach and boardwalk. I was kept inside, out of sight, because I wasn’t in school and my father had people looking for me.
I have no idea how much time passed, but it was sheer torture for a kid. I had no books, no TV, no radio, nothing, but I could see the beach, the kids playing, the families having fun. I could see the amusement park, hear the delighted screams, and there I was on the outside looking in again, unable to touch it, unable to participate.
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”-Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
There was a buoy clanging away in the distance and I would dream about living on that buoy, a bit like Jonathan Livingston Seagull that I had recently read. I managed to “borrow” a lot of books as a child, anything I could get my hands on. (If you’re missing any books, that was probably me. Sorry about that.) My parents did not like me to read, so reading actually became an act of defiance and I embraced it as such. I could devour 4-5 books a week, easily. At this time however, we had just moved onto the boat and none of my books had come with me.
I don’t know how many days went by, but I eventually reached a point of complete despair. This was going to be my entire existence, kept in complete isolation with nothing to do, no contact with other people, nothing to keep my mind busy. One day began with the promise of sunshine, but was quickly snuffed out when a fog bank rolled in. There is nothing lonelier then the sound of fog horns and watching the mist hover over the waters until it eventually cuts the daylight off entirely.
“To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.” -Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
I challenged God with all the fury and despair of a child, “Some God you are,” I thought. “People are right about you, you’re mean and unfair, if you even exist at all.” In an instant and I do mean immediately, He was right there. I can’t explain it, there is a crackle in the air, an electricity, a sparkle, and I can feel His presence. “No,” He said. Just, no. Not mean, not unfair, not a figment of your imagination. “No.”
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
Within an hour of that “No,” this father with four kids from another boat, suddenly showed up and told my parents that the adults needed to dump the kids off at the boardwalk so the adults could do whatever it is adults do. This man somehow managed to convince my parents that nobody would recognize me if I just wore a hat. They said they had no money, he said he had plenty. Before I knew it, I was at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with a wad of cash in my hands. It was every child’s dream. We were completely unsupervised with what appeared to be unlimited funds, and we rode every ride dozens of times. We ate everything in sight, salt water taffy, cotton candy, and I was mesmerized by a mechanical fortune teller, Esmeralda, perhaps? Can’t remember, but
she would print out the most awesome cardboard affirmations. It was just magical.
I learned a lot that day, that God is real, that He loves each one of us deeply and personally, that we all have great value and worth to Him. I also learned that there is melancholy in fog banks and the lonely cry of seagulls, but there is hope there, too. Even in darkness when it feels as if the sun itself has been blotted out, there is hope. Your whole world can change in an instant.
To this day the sound of foghorns fill me with such a feeling of protection and love, they often make me cry.
You have to practice and see the real gull, the good in every one of them, and to help them see it in themselves. That’s what I mean by love.” -Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull