August 3, 2008

A Small Space

This morning my oldest daughter left for summer camp. Gone for two weeks, she confessed she might miss her family "a little bit". But as she boarded the bus, I noticed the tears as we waved goodbye. It was then I knew, as Washington Irving once said, that there is a 'sacredness' in tears. And tears are not the mark of weakness, but of power.

Last week she completed her first year of Junior Lifeguards, a program for kids that mixes ocean safety and a little run/swim competition. On her last day she competed in the vaunted Monster Mile Race. Here kids must run a mile on the sand and then swim a mile in the Pacific Ocean.

Friends on first day of Junior Lifeguards
I don't think I've ever swam a mile in my life, let alone in the ocean, and certainly didn't at nine years old. It’s a big event for the kids, and many dress up in costumes for pre-race reverie. As race day approached I knew she and her friends were getting anxious.

Waiting to Start the Monster Mile

When the whistle blew, she kept with her plan and stayed in the middle of the pack. But as she neared the finish of the run portion of race, she found herself, surprisingly, in the first group. Right next to the faster runners! Since swimming is her strength, she told me later that as she approached the swim leg of the race, she thought she had a shot at a strong finish. Clutching her swim fins she hurried toward the beckoning sea. Then, like fires that rise from dry forests, the waves rose from the darkened sea. Pushed by winds blowing thousands of miles away, the surf had grown so high that the lifeguards wouldn't let the kids in her age group enter the water.

As she stood seaside waiting for the waves to subside, my daughter listened to the instructor explain to her that they would have to cancel the rest of the race. It was just too dangerous with the big waves. It couldn't be, she thought. So much work. So much anticipation. At that moment a tear emerged from her eye. As it rolled down her cheek, she knew she had done her best to prepare for this great race. And as that tear fell from her cheek, it traveled through a small space. A space where dreams grow from hard work, but occasionally give way to greater forces. A space where you can hold the cup of success in your hands, but you just can't drink from it.
Just then, she looked down and she saw her tear, falling. As it touched the ground she felt its power, and then she understood what it meant to be there.

Welcome to this small space, little one. It's not so bad there. I love you.


Greg said...

wow, Will, what an awesome post. Totally cool, and totally real.

Frayed Laces said...

aww too cute. Did you share with her that was how you felt when WS was cancelled?

runningkbomb said...

wow - I have tears.. what an angel. I wish everyone who has lost their real reasons for racing could go back in time, and remember the raw honest excitement of what it really means to be there - great post

party said...

It's very brave of the 9 yr olds to do a 2 mile race, run and swim. Hope some of them turn out to be future athletes. Nevertheless they would all turn out be sportsmen in their life in whatever they do. That is very important. Good parenting!

ladbrokes deal or no deal said...

There must be a lot of training for these 9 year olds to accomplish this task. good wrok!

JOhn said...

very touching! hope these kids are able to teach something to the adults.