How to Become a Grouper

I am not a fish. And by the size of one, I don’t think I’d want to be. However, this story begins because of a couple of fish that belong to me. They are not groupers. They are wind-catchers.

The story of my fish, Rhonda and Wanda, began long ago in Bodega Bay, California. George and I happened to be camping along the bay in a spot managed by a man with several fish, beautiful ones, that floated upon the whims of the winds in the harbor. Each was a colorful and sturdy fabric fish designed to be realistic in nature after their particular variety. They hung suspended from an almost invisible wire brace that allowed them to turn and twist in the wind. They were all about the same size and height once erected. The amazing thing about his school of fish was, like all schools of fish, that they followed the pattern of the wind together as real fish follow the turbulence of a tide or current. As one fish would turn so then would the others in perfect harmony, always facing their adversary not with challenge but with grace and stamina. Why am I spending so much time explaining in detail a school fish in a campground? There are several reasons, but for starters, the simple fascination that I developed for this group of fish from afar in the campground where we were situated had me mesmerized from the first time I had ever seen them. And wouldn’t you know it? As we drove into town to pick up groceries for dinner there was a shop that was selling these swimming aquarians in front. That was a definite reason to put on the brakes and take a look-see! Thank God George was good natured about my captivation with these wind acclimated characters because he ended up buying two of them for me (you can’t have a school of fish with just one fish, right?)! I’d say I was then happy as a clam but that would be corny and yet another story.

These fish do lend cadence to many adventures that have followed as we always fly our fin-feathered friends every time we go camping outside our fifth wheel. Our latest experience was in Jalama Beach, California, when Rhonda and Wanda unexpectedly brought a rapping at our door one evening. We opened our door and there stood a friendly couple who we later learned were Stephanie and Max. They wanted to know where they could catch their own wallowing wonders of the sea. I told them our story but ended somewhat quickly with the advice to go online and they would find them there. I loved that they found them as charismatic as I did years ago. We bid goodnight to them and had to chuckle at the thought of meeting strangers at our door because of our sweet fish.

The followingt day we took our dog Karma for an off-leash walk on the beach. There we met Erik and his partner Richard with cute little black and white-something-dogs in tow. We spoke with them about the king tide that was occurring and possibly preventing us from reaching the point, and if it didn’t, it might prevent us from returning for about three hours! We were expecting my friend Sharon to arrive for a few days in the late morning and we needed to get back to our camp.

The next day, Sharon needed to call her husband on a payphone in the beach park (no wifi/phone service in this remote park) just to let him know she had arrived safely. As soon as she connected with him, I walked away to give her privacy, but who should walk up and sit next to her? Erik! He was curious about how to use this odd contraption called a payphone. Unbeknownst to me, Erik and Sharon had a great discussion about all sorts of things!

Finally, Sharon and I took a walk on the beach with Karma and George. After, by the time we arrived at the top of the cliffs where we were camped (huffing and puffing) we ran into Erik. I started to introduce Sharon, but it was obvious they knew each other already. Enter Stephanie and Max on their way down to the sea. And then Richard caught up with us with the black and white somethings! The five of us started up a conversation that led to international mistrust of chocolate ingredients world-wide (we all agreed there’s paraffin in that stuff) because Max was English and knew a good chocolate when he ate one! From there we reminisced about our favorite childhood cookies and the Hydrox/Oreo discrimination dilemma until Stephanie ended it all with “Do you remember those funny looking snowball puffy-looking things? I used to eat both at once!”

Well. That did it. We each returned to our temporary residences to sniff out any kind of disgusting sugar-laden treat we could put our hands on.

The next day carried with it a beautiful afternoon “on the deck” of the cliffs outside our rig. Who should arrive but Stephanie with a Trader Joe’s chocolate bar for us to share, saying she and Max carry these particular bars on all their trips “for health issues” (72% cocoa). It wasn’t long before we had each divulged our personal histories and favorite authors, countries of origin and toys that cost us more than we needed to spend but we sure had fun with them!

Yet again, that evening Sharon suggested I relinquish one of two bags of God’s answer to all complaints, Ge-dunk, a concoction of popcorn, nuts and everything wonderful that she makes and shares with just about anybody she takes a liking to. Grudgingly, I acquiesced, knowing it alone would cement our friendship with Stephanie and Max forever. We went to Stephanie’s rig and knocked on their door this time. She handed the Ge-Dunk to her as I warned Stephanie of its ability to become addictive and possibly a reason she and Max might divorce if she didn’t share it accordingly.

Almost as predicted, Stephanie arrived at our door in the morn with a chocolate bar just for Sharon’s pleasure, thanking her for an addiction she couldn’t avoid and was stuck for life with. Again we were off and running with books we had read and wanted to share but couldn’t because that would spoil the reading of them. It turned out Stephanie and Max live in the next community to us and were very familiar with the town in which Sharon and I had grown up.

Did I mention there were several reasons I spoke of Wanda and Rhonda? There surely are, but the only thought left mentioning is that they bring to mind that there are schools of fish… and then there are schools of thought… which Stephanie, Max, Erik, Richard, George, Sharon and I definitely covered in three days of dogma (fishma?) with so much ado about … well, just about everything.

Return to Duty (with Kindness)

Diane Kopylow October, 2015

George and I love the ocean as much as we love the mountains, the desert, and the surrounding beaches marking our separation in existence. For this reason, we frequent all of those places as much as possible. Our favorite beach is one called Jalama, perhaps you have read about it before in several of my posts.

This particular trip to Jalama was unusual in that it wasn’t so much the kindness from others that impressed us. It actually was the kindness that George gave to another this time. I am learning kindness can be a very universal concept given the opportunity to rear its beautiful head.

Sunset was beginning sweep us into evening. George decided he would take our dog, Toby, for one last walk around the RV Park before total darkness would make it a more challenging event. I was getting ready to start dinner, sipping wine to the play of the waves. We were on the highest tier of the campground, so from our window I had a beautiful view of the water, beach and other campers lighting their campfires, preparing their dinners and enjoying each other.

Much later, George was gone for an unusual amount of time for a simple dog walk. I looked out our window to see if Toby had gotten involved playing with another dog on the beach. Nope! I looked far away at the campground store, thinking George may have stuck up yet another fishing conversation with its owner. Nope! My eyes trailed along the blacktopped roads leading to others’ campsites. No luck, at least the ones I could see. Often the big RV rigs have one if not several awnings unfurled which makes spying on our neighbors no longer an option.

Another hour passed. I am beginning to get seriously concerned. Just about the time I decided to go out and hunt them down, I saw George and Toby walking up the road to the top tier.

“You’re not going to believe what just happened, ” George began as he stepped into our rig.

Questioning, I responded, “You were gone for such a long time…”

He sat down and began:

“I was walking on the second tier and I noticed an older man lying lifeless beside his rig. Several older people had gathered around him but no one was doing anything to help. It appeared they all were waiting for someone else to step forward.

FYI: Insert. George is a retired firefighter.

“I walked over to the man . I knelt down and felt to see if I could feel a pulse or hear him breathing. I asked if any of them knew how to do CPR. They all just shook their heads. I told them I needed someone first of all to take care of my dog. Then I went to work on the gentleman. While I was administering CPR, I told one neighbor to go and inform the park rangers we had an emergency, probable heart attack, and to call for an ambulance immediately. More people were beginning to gather, concerned or worse, curious. A few minutes later, the ranger arrived and began to help me. He informed me a helicopter had been ordered, but for some reason it had gotten cancelled. The fire department from the closest town (twenty miles on a winding road) was on its way. Finally, they arrived and took him away (back on a winding road).”

“Was there a wife?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I was too busy to notice.”

You would have thought I would notice an emergency vehicle escort itself into the park with my slightly less than eagle eyes and harboring curiosity, but I did not. Perhaps it was meant to be that way. George was gone a long time… I may have panicked seeing that.

The next morning we checked with the ranger to hear if they had heard any news about the gentleman. They had not.

To this day, we often wonder if the old guy had made it, if his wife was left alone to try to take care of their rig. It was a lesson for us to ponder and probably every other retired couple at the park that evening.

I was proud of my husband that day, for stepping up, doing the responsible thing, taking charge.

We hope his kindness was the life-giving kind.

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