Yesterday, my sweetheart and I were in Ventura. In the late afternoon, after coffee and beignets from the little French cafe on Main Street, we walked down to the beach. If you're Facebook friends with anyone here in southern Cali, you probably saw postings about last night's sunset. All day the sky was gorgeous -- clear blue with titanium white streaks of strata clouds and little puffs of cumulus like freshly whipped cream. The air has been very warm lately from the Santa Anas that blew in last week, but in late afternoon, as the sun dipped behind the clouds, we zipped up hoodies and sat watching the 150-ish (we counted, then lost track) surfers bopping around in the waves.
"How would you describe that smell?" I asked.
"Salty, briny," my sweetheart replied.
"Ah, yes, briny. That's the word."
We shifted our gaze back to the sunset, the rosy-colored ocean, the tangerine clouds. Occasionally we twisted to take a peek at the purple mountains rising behind us. Holding hands, we kissed every now and then, cheeks, mouth, hands, and then turned back to watch the surfers and the sun.
"I always thought when I heard the phrase 'crashing waves' that people meant the physical act of the water falling, but now I understand it as sound -- booming, thundering, crashing," I said.
"Yes," my sweetheart replied.
"And the birds," I said. "So many sounds here at the ocean."
"Yes," my sweetheart replied, and kissed me again.
We watched three friends greet each other near the water’s edge, their whippets rushing in and away like kids on a playground. A lone sandpiper danced in and out with the tide. Two ducks flew south, intent on their destination. A man trained a telephoto lens on the horizon, and another couple kneeled in the sand with their cameras on the sun's glow and the silhouetting channel islands.
“Ah! Did you see that?” my sweetheart exclaimed. I’d missed it, but he told me how a surfer lifted up on a wave and spun in the air 360 degrees, and landed upright, still coasting on the edge till the wave died out in the shallows. A few minutes later he did it again, and that time I saw it.
The softness of our gaze outward, the calmness we felt as we bathed in the long moments, our relaxed bodies, these were contrasted by the pointy corners of the two boxes that I knew my sweetheart held in the pockets of his hoodie. We both knew they were there, had together chosen to take them from the navy blue bag with the rust-colored tissue and ribbon handles that we left in the trunk of the car. The boxes, I knew, were charcoal-colored, leather-bound with light grey stitches edging around the top, each enclosed in its own slightly larger black cardboard box. We had come to Ventura today – actually, had originally planned for a week ago, but there was the matter of a rescheduled rehearsal that was later canceled, but then it was too late to re-reschedule our appointment – for these boxes, but now, with our feet tucked into the sand and our faces glowing in the sunset, we pretended the boxes weren’t there, pretended that we had come here only for the most gorgeous of sunsets, that we had driven here to Ventura just to witness mother nature at the height of all her Technicolor glory.
Later, after we asked and said yes, yes, yes, my love, my sweet love, and asked to hear it again just one more time, and once more, laughing and teasing each other, and thank you, thank you a million times for sharing your life and letting me love you and be loved more than I have ever known, after the rings were on our fingers, mine in yellow gold with three diamonds and three little chips that Hugo added of his own artistic vision, and my sweetheart’s in white gold with seven small diamonds in chocolate, champagne, and yellow-green, after we held each other’s hands and reflected again on the perfect artistry of the hammered metals, the simple beauty of the stones, later, after the sun had gone and the clouds had disappeared into the dark night, we drove back down the freeway to Los Angeles for dinner and some wine, happy to keep and hold our joy just for ourselves for one more night, and to sleep in the soft flannel sheets of the house we already share, back door open to the night chill, the cat quietly tapping across the wood floors, our bodies and dreams wrapped together like a present that reveals more facets of its gift every new day that we awaken together.