When I was small, I had a love-hate relationship with water. I enjoyed swimming or floating in it, and would spend hours once I got in. Getting in was the challenge, though. Self-image issues made it hard for me to be comfortable in a bathing suit. There was always someone around when I was small; it was the first rule. Even when I was alone later, sitting on the edge of the deck wearing shorts and a t-shirt or sneaking a few minutes at the lakeshore at camp, I still felt self-conscious.
I became far more aware of the power of water when I lived in the desert than I was when I lived to the northeast, where it rained and snowed regularly and I took it for granted. When it rained in the desert, it was an Event that my coworkers and I discussed for an hour or two beforehand, as soon as the clouds begin appearing in the sky. The summer monsoons are always impressive, dropping inches of rain in minutes and ripping through with a ferocity that easily inspires reverence to a storm goddess. I’ve seen freeways flooded and cars stranded in fast-filling washes, a strong reminder that storms and water are not to be trifled with. Life in the desert also reminds you how essential water is for life.
While worshiping ocean deities in the desert was not easy, I was able to make it work. Besides using salt water and other bodies of water, the desert is actually not more than a day’s drive from the coast and I was able to get there on a long weekend. During a longer visit, I made a pilgrimage there for her, visiting several beaches along the way.
The first beach was actually a straight shot. We took the I-10 the entire way out to California and drove until it ended at the Santa Monica beach. The sun was setting and I felt like I could “watch the world die” like the Everclear song. I greeted her there formally for the first time. The water was achingly cold and I hadn’t thought to dress for it, but that was my own damn fault and not her concern.
The next day we started up the coast. We had our pick of beaches as we drive and I stopped when I felt called to. I made it a point to stop at Pismo Beach because I watched too many Bugs Bunny cartoons growing up. The sun had just come up and it was almost too cold for bare feet even on the sand. I pulled out my knife there and cut myself, forcing a much more deliberate action than I usually took. I let myself bleed out into the water until it stopped on its own, and she seemed to accept the gesture.
Further up the coast we stopped at San Simeon and Moonstone Beach. I spent more than an hour walking up and down Moonstone Beach in the surf. Rán’s daughters, the waves, introduced themselves, and the water threw out a piece of driftwood that I knew was meant to be a wand – a literal clue-by-four.
We worked our way back down the Pacific Coast Highway, in sight of the ocean virtually the entire time. We stopped again at Santa Barbara and ended up at Seal Beach, back in LA. Seal Beach is a bit of a tourist pit, but I have a weak spot for tourist pits. Browsing those shops did finally trigger the inspiration I needed to build my altar to Rán.
But that was not really the end of my pilgrimage. I decided – or was inspired, it’s hard to say – to get a pendant with the rune laguz on it. I didn’t think this would be a big deal; the pagan shop I frequented at the time was heavily Norse-themed and has plenty of rune pendants. However, it turned out laguz was not a popular rune and it proved nearly impossible to find. Almost a month went by and shortly after some issues I was asking her help with concluded, I finally came across a pendant with the laguz rune on it at the Ren Faire.
Two weeks later I found myself eating dinner off the coast of the Atlantic with some business associates. The trip had not been my choice, but I’m not the type to overlook such an obvious opportunity. I was able to get away from my coworkers and slip down to the beach, where I held the pendant in the water and let Rán see that I’d found it as promised. I can say that I came away far more satisfied from that brief encounter than from the rest of the business trip.