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Have you ever been schooled by a wave?
I was floating at a picturesque beach in Hawaii. It felt effortless as the buoyant salt water carried me. The ocean gifted me new powers—I was weightless and free.
That’s when I grabbed the board and started to surf the four-foot waves. I imagined that I was flying.
The exhilaration started in my stomach and spread up my body, exploding into a spontaneous smile as I realized I was riding the crest.
Then, the crash. Chaos.
I felt as if I had been punched in the nose—the left side of my face started to go numb. I began to panic as I saw only water. I was unsure which way was up and which was down. Every time I thought it was over, another wave pushed me violently back into the sand. My lungs began to ache and I wondered if I would drown.
It felt like an eternity before I was spit out onto the beach. Sweet relief swept over me when I finally found air and the oxygen rushed in.
That wake-up call in the ocean taught me that I love to breathe.
Over the past year, the reminder to appreciate breath reappeared. Again and again.
First came COVID-19. I heard so many heart-wrenching stories of people struggling to catch their breath. Then the need to wear a mask arrived—the message was now personal.
For 16 months, I wore uncomfortable and restrictive PPE for 12 hours at a time. The tight elastic bands cutting into my cheekbones left deep, red marks and traumatized the tender skin beneath.
“What? Sorry, what did you say?” It’s hard to communicate with a mask. People with hearing loss could no longer read my lips. All spoken sounds were muffled.
My appreciation and understanding grew—breathing is so much more than life-giving oxygen. It is also connection and song and wisdom.
Now, the fires are back. Eighty miles away today, and above me it is raining ash. The sun is blocked out, my eyes sting, and my throat is irritated.
It’s getting harder to breathe. A shadow of that familiar panic is creeping in—the trees that give me oxygen to breathe are burning.
I love to breathe. Air is the most immediate and consistent need in this body.
I’ve gotten the message—loud and clear. So what can I do?
I did the things that were in my immediate reach. I looked up at the 30-foot pine trees outside my window and I thanked them. I planted some new plants and fertilized some older ones—I tended to my own ecosystem.
I focused on caring for the things that bring me breath.
Please join me. Please start by doing one thing today for the air that we all share. The air that gives us life.