I awoke this morning with a start at 3AM, my crusty eyes audibly snapping as they opened. Ordinarily I sleep like a sunken ship in calm waters, but for some reason it was immediately apparent that sleep had become my adversary. Maybe it had something to do with the cold white light of the full moon that was streaming through the window, or maybe it was because lately my life has been a bit uncertain in a few areas, but the battle between sleep and I had unquestionably been joined. I flipped the pillow to the cool side and rolled over in an attempt to subdue it but it struggled mightily then ran back to the other side of the bed. I hate it when sleep is elusive.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at wrestling it I gave up fighting and decided to play coy and wait for it to come back to me. Groggily alternating between staring at the ceiling and at our cat Minnie (who was for some reason sitting across the room staring back at me with her tail tucked serenely around her body in that statuesque pose that only cats can pull off), I played hard to get with the sleepmonster and waited for it to come running back to me with open arms. After an hour of playing this game it became readily apparent that I was not gonna get this girl so I gave up and rolled out of bed, in the process sending Minnie running wildly into the darkness. She ran off to find whatever it is that cats hunt in the wee hours of the morning, and I headed out to find mine. Half-awake and stumbling, I said goodbye to my wife then headed out to gather together my bike gear. If I can’t sleep I might as well bike, right? At least it would clear my head.
Soon I was riding down the beach at San Onofre State Park into the fullest of setting moons to the accompaniment of surf crashing upon the rising tide. Salt spray filled the air as the waves surged far up the shore forcing me toward the high end of the beach near the bluffs, caught between two worlds. I was also headed directly toward a nuclear power plant (the source of that orange glow in the sky… from the illumination, not the radiation I hope), but chose not to let that spoil the night. No need to let the things I can’t control rule my world.
With the Dead Kennedys’ “Moon Over Marin” playing in my head I continued rolling on down my beach at night, stopping only occasionally to push through spots of deep sand. The moon and the stars overhead competed with the sodium vapor lamps of the power plant for dominion of the sky like some passion play of the modern condition while Jello Biafra extolled the virtues of exploring moonlit beaches while wearing a gas mask. My bike and I communed with the driftwood and kelp and went along with the flow, the stones chuckling beneath each receding wave.
Eventually the hope of day began to blush the eastern sky and I turned inland to face it. I rode a bit further to an area known as the San Clemente Singletracks and did a short loop as day began to break, a quick spin around the dream world between night and day. There’s nothing like a bike ride to clear your head of worries and I hadn’t ridden these trails in a while so it was fun to slalom through the brush before turning around, letting instinct and intuition guide me through the maze. Heading back along the beach the world momentarily hung in the balance, then began to sway slowly into day. For the briefest of time dawn broke in a display that only the lyrics of dreams can begin to fully describe. Thank god for cameras as I sure as hell can’t sing.
Chasing the light like a racehorse being given the crop I headed back down the beach and tried to snap a few photos before the light faded. As Jim Morrison once wrote: “poise, delicate, pause, consent. In mute nostril agony, carefully refined and sealed over”. Gone in an instant like a horse jettisoned from a ship, dawn had passed. I dripped sweat onto the floor of day and caught my breath. Meanwhile waves washed over the shore and pelicans cruised along the swells with their wingtips lightly touching the water as if checking to see if this all wasn’t some cruel joke of a dream.
Looking back at these photos I also now wonder if it might’ve been just some crazy dream. For some reason I also can’t recall exactly what it was that prevented me from going back to sleep this morning – funny how that works. Maybe I just needed a bike ride. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.
“To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause” – William Shakespeare