KONA — I waded into waves at a park near Magic Sands Beach. For the first time in 25 days, I felt calm.
The sun was setting in the Pacific, west of the Kona coastline. I pulled out my phone to shoot the sunset, being careful lest a wave of that clear, warm salt water knock me off balance.
I’m on the big island of Hawaii, taking that vacation we paid for before the layoff call came.
For 25 days before this, after I got the call, I couldn’t stop fretting. I need to find a job, I tell myself. I need to find leads for freelance work.
The waves washed in, over my feet. The waves washed out.
In those 25 days, I could hear a clock ticking in my head, counting down the minutes and hours until my severance package runs out. That will take weeks, for the money to run out, but it isn’t easy for 62-year-old lifelong newspaper writer to find a job, especially when he’s made a vow to never move from Wichita, and always be there for the granddaughters.
Every footprint I made in that coral-and-basalt sand was washed away immediately by waves that wash away all, given time.
In those last 25 days, I did what we’re supposed to do: I took mental breaks. We binge-watched Game of Thrones. bicycled between phone calls. I lifted weights. But every time
I did those things, every time I picked up a book or the iPad to read for pleasure, I felt like a goof-off.
Out in the water, 20 yards out from where I stood, a sea turtle popped up it’s head, glanced at me and popped back underwater. We stood watching, hoping to see it again — this was my first time seeing a sea turtle outside a zoo or aquarium.
For years now, whenever somebody else has a life crisis, I always give them good advice: When a shock comes, be sure to pace yourself.
I’d learned that lesson, or so I thought, when I lost people to sudden death, or when someone close to me has a serious illness and I need to pick up the pieces. Or when mistakes I’ve made have created crisis that require calm decision making.
“Pace yourself,” I tell people. “Take breaks, take days off, don’t fret so much. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
I hadn’t followed my own advice this time. When your job goes away, your lifelong career… well. Wow. Just…wow.
We stood and waited. The turtle popped up its head again, then disappeared. We waited some more, trading glances toward the setting sun and the turtle. My wife reminded me: watch that sunset going down over the rim of the Pacific horizon, because if we are lucky, there will be a green, incandescent flash of light just as the sun sinks.
Why would there be a flash of green in a sunset, I asked? Apparently it has to do with light spectrum, whatever that is.
I see the turtle again.
Light spectrum, I say to myself. I’ll have to Google green-flash-light-spectrum-sunset tonight, when we get back to the house.
I glance toward the sunset again.
Then I look for the turtle. And there he is again.
Then the sunset.
I won’t forget to look up the green flash, because I am not as distracted as usual. I can stand here for another hour or two, if I choose to do so. I can watch the waves wash away all my footprints showing I was here.
I have all the time in the world now, and not only because I am unemployed.
I look west again, just as the yellow sliver of the setting sun flashes green — and disappears.