Friday, July 27, 2012

A day at the beach is a slice of heaven

Arriving at our Rhode Island beach house with anticipation, I settle in as the day enfolds.

Today the light sea breeze is fragrant and the sun delightfully warm and toasty.

Listening, I hear the surf in the distance rhythmically rocking back and forth, bidding me to come closer.

I walk up and down the tiny streets, a path I could navigate with my eyes closed. Since childhood my sneakered feet have skipped along these roads lured by the sea.

But the journey is almost as wonderful as getting there.

Our neighbors’ well-kept cottages with garden beds bursting with blue-hued hydrangeas, orange day lilies, white daisies, red roses and violet morning glories are the stuff of a Monet painting brought to life with the added benefit of scent.

As I near the beach, the air cools. A gust rips the straw hat off my head, and my long hair breaks free, dancing in the wind.

Leaving the little community behind, I amble down toward the salt marsh, where pink beach roses and sea grasses create another picturesque landscape, swaying and rippling in the breeze.

I climb over large stones and thousands of shells more than a foot deep that mark the high tide water line, and I sink into the soft sand.

Gingerly, I head to the water’s edge, kick off my shoes and feel the shock of the cold water caressing my skin as the swash and backwash slide by.

Then I walk tracing the contours of the shoreline, which awakens the primeval urge that immerses me in seawater as comfortably as sets me on dry land.

I approach the line of boulders strategically placed as a natural seawall to prevent beach erosion. But they also offer the perfect spot to sit a spell.

Scanning the horizon, I watch a catamaran fly by, as airborne as it is seaborne, skimming the Sakonnet. But here there is only the motion of a few seagulls that walk by me without a passing glance.

Perched on a rock, I am a sea creature whose second nature is to nest or rest here.

Framed by this rugged, rocky New England coastline, I am a sentient being, warmed by sun and cooled by spray, while the wind plays with my hair.

Riding this glorious wave, I am unaware of the passing of time.

But then a gull dives in the surf in search of sustenance, which breaks my reverie. I have fed my soul. It is time for lunch.

Friday, July 20, 2012

'Come follow me'

Watching the sunset over Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, we are 230 miles away from our summer home in Tiverton.

Why do we venture north when we could happily follow the well-beaten sandy path strewn with beach roses to the Sakonnet shore, filled with happy beach-goers?

It is because this pilgrimage provides something we cannot find there.

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” Jesus tells His disciples in Mark 6:31.

Consequently, I take this spiritual journey every midsummer. It feeds my soul, adding the missing ingredient to a full life.

Five-hundred years before Jesus was born, Lao-tzu in ancient China dictated the 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching or the Great Way. Verse 29 says:

“Allow your life to unfold naturally. / Know that it too is a vessel of perfection. / Just as you breathe in and breathe out, / there is a time for being ahead / and a time for being behind; / a time for being in motion / and a time for being at rest; …

At an inn nestled in the White Mountains, I learned to walk, taking my first steps on the wrap-around porch into the waiting arms of my grandfather.

Throughout my life, this place has taught me important things, especially the need to get away from it all.  

Sometimes you need to look up in awe, overshadowed by a majestic mountain of towering pines, and gaze at the tumbling waters rushing down a chasm in the cliffs.

We climb a mountain road, and there is a holy place on the summit. Inside the chapel, we sit on a wooden bench and notice the timbers in the post and beam construction, the glass wall that brings the forest within, a spectrum of colors in the window with the words: “Come follow me.”

“Here I am, Lord,” I pray.

At twilight, I watch from a distance as boats silently skim the lake, like fireflies flickering.

A single bird soars against the pink sky.

The mountains are spiritual sentinels encircling me and pointing to heaven.

As night descends, I realize there is not another human in sight.

Yet, I am not alone.

I sit in silence in the dark, caressed by the night wind, and feeling loved by the Creator.

That’s why He brought me here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

'Bee' careful out there

A beach house evokes an idyllic setting where families relax and play under blue skies beside undulating seas for endless hours.

Our summer house at Fogland Beach offers this and more, but other times the place can be downright dangerous.

Last week we gathered at the summer place to celebrate my nephews’ birthdays.

After catching up, we prepared lunch. Firing up the grill, my brother barbecued sirloin tips, onions, peppers and zucchini, as well as stir-fried shrimp in a wok.

For the next hour, we sat at the round table and feasted on a meal that will never taste this good in winter. There is something about the salty air here that seasons the food to perfection.

We sang “Happy Birthday” and handed out the presents but decided to wait before having cake and ice cream.

That’s when my mother suggested we take care of an odd job that had been deferred for a long time. An old antenna still clung to the roof, secured by one rusty bolt from the siding.

My brother climbed a small ladder and tried to unscrew the bolt with a ratchet, but it would not budge. There was also a safety issue: A good yank might take out the antenna, as well as all of us.

Consequently, we borrowed our neighbor’s full-size ladder, and my brother leaned it against the house and climbed.

Scaling the roof, he held onto the antenna and tried to wrench it free from above, while my nephew mounted the other ladder and attempted to remove the bolt from below.

Suddenly a cloud of bees, disturbed by my brother’s trek across the roof, attacked him.

“Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive,” wrote Sue Monk Kidd. “Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about.”

The woman knew what she was talking about.

There are 400 native bee species in New England, and they live close to us, in the ground and under rocks or in woody materials.

Apparently, these bees preferred a penthouse apartment.

The first impulse when bitten multiple times by angry bees is to back away. In this case, the move would have been tragic.

Instead, my brother became Spiderman. After being injected with bee (rather than spider) venom, he moved at superhero speed across the roof, as if held up by webbing, with the bees in hot pursuit. Then he flew down the shaky ladder.

In true Yankee form, the first words out of my brother’s mouth were an apology to my mother for failing to remove the antenna.

But she was already running in the house for first-aid supplies. There were red, puffy welts all over his legs, and his arms were scratched and bleeding.
Thank God, that was the extent of his injuries, which he shook off as nothing.
If there is a lesson to all this, it is to “bee” on guard when you’re roof climbing and that it is better to have your cake and eat it too.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A fabulous Fogland Fourth

Naturally, I started Independence Day off with a bang.

A few months ago the squirrels broke our birdfeeder, and we replaced it with another model called the “Squirrel Be Gone.” How it works is when the animal clings to one of the perches, its weight causes the food slot to close.

Despite the birdfeeder’s design, a chipmunk managed to hang upside down from the top with its head fully submerged inside one of the slots.

Nearby stood a wheelbarrow, and perched on the handle was a gray thrush staring intently at the marauder chowing down on its food supply.

Suddenly the bird attacked the chipmunk, repeatedly lunging and pecking at the thief that withstood the thrashing for a while. The feeder rocked and clanged as they battled.

Then the chipmunk let go, landed upright and scampered off into the woods in defeat; and the thrush had breakfast. All the while I laughed hysterically.

Pulling myself away from the window, I went back to preparing the pasta salad on the menu for the annual gathering at the summer place.

Driving to Tiverton, I realized that I have spent every holiday since childhood at the beach house; and the trappings of the celebration have always included sea, sky and spirituality.

There are no marching bands and fireworks here, only the sound of the crash and fall of the waves, the cry of gulls, the music of laughter as children play in the surf.

The clan arrives, and just like our fellow Americans, we fire up the grill and feast on hot dogs and hamburgers along with an abundance of side dishes.

Then our family and friends walk to the beach. The sea breeze is cool, conditioning the hot, humid air.

Back at the summer house, they set up the volleyball net, and play game after game, only stopping for a cone of chocolate ice cream.

One by one we take our leave.

As I drive away, I thank God for another fabulous Fogland Fourth and for our country and the freedoms we enjoy.

The “Litany For Liberty” prayer says it best:

“O God, Who gave one origin to all peoples and willed to gather from them one family for Yourself, fill all hearts, we pray, with the fire of Your love and kindle in them a desire for the just advancement of their neighbor, that, through the good things which You richly bestow upon all, each human person may be brought to perfection, every division may be removed, and equity and justice may be established in human society.”