I'm in a shabby, garishly bright beach house, sitting on the sofa with my drowsy dog next to me. We never took the dog to the beach before, but here we are tasting of the "dog-friendly" variety of accommodations.
It is, however, ocean-front. It's growing on me. There is a lot to be said for three large sliding glass doors facing dunes, palm trees, and the ocean on the horizon. There's something magical about waking up and walking down a wide, sunlit hallway to a bright space with views of sunshine speckling up from the ocean beyond, glittering like diamonds across the deep blue beneath the flat line that seems to indicate the end of the world in the distance. Beyond a jungled growth of beachy flora, it is just far enough away to feel deceptively safe.
April at the beach is very different from August. The heavy haze of August heat is absent, leaving colors clearer and light sharper. The azaleas bloom delightfully. New houses spring up on stilts here and there, smelling of lumber and sawdust. A work crew replaces the wooden decking of beach accesses. Sunrise arrives crisp and fresh, and you need a hoodie, or even a jacket, when you take Mr. Schubert out for his morning constitutional.
There is also a large ham radio antenna, central in the view from my window. This would be more disturbing were it not the temporary antenna that my dear husband himself brought along to try to contact Europe across the Atlantic. Perhaps he will be successful.
I see a large red and white boat floating by.
We went for a walk along the seashore earlier today. It was almost warm enough. A shocking number of people had gathered around the pier to enjoy low tide. Shawn and I held hands, walked in the sunshine, and discovered that the tide pools were warm enough to wade in, warmer than the air. Walking eastward was considerably warmer than walking westward.
The drive down was long. Long drives get harder for me as I age. At one point, the stiffness in my back, the numbness in my feet, the pain in my neck and the seemingly endlessness of the road made me feel sick on many levels. I asked myself the infernal question that keeps coming back to haunt me, "Why do all my children have to be so far away from me?"
I remembered that I've written that sometimes I hate interstates. That evening on the road, Jesus gently enlightened me that I ought not hate the thing that gets me to where I am going, difficult though the journey may be.
The interstate is not the problem. The distance is the problem. The interstate exists so that the distance can be crossed. Someone has gone ahead of me and built roads, paved them, raised them into bridges that cross rivers and streams, forged on-ramps and off-ramps.
I need to be thankful, thankful for roads. Sometimes I want what I want, and I want it now. I want to pray and get a miracle, kaboom. But when we pray for a flower or a fruit tree, God may answer by handing us a seed and a trowel. When we pray for place and community, God may provide a donkey, a map and a path (I'm speaking metaphorically, but I trust that you can think of a situation in your life that fits the analogy). Of course God can do miracles, but He set up the Universe to work in certain ways because He knows that process can be as important as product. I think it is safe to point out that He doesn't seem to circumvent the process particularly often. This calls for patience and endurance. It also calls for a heart of gratitude and eyes to recognize the active presence of God in slow growth and long journeys.
After Jesus opened my eyes to this truth, the sun began to sink behind us. We were driving southeast, between Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC. Beautiful mountainous country. The spring growth was out in its early glory, light green leaves, white and purple blossoms, foliage both delicate and brilliant, expanding along the mountainsides. As the late, deeply slanted rays of sunlight shone from behind us onto the delicate pastel colors adorning the curves of the road ahead of us, the earth seemed like some other planet. Vibrant yellow-green treetops glowed, almost pulsed, in front of luminous pink clouds that radiated against a backdrop of soft lavender sky. If a painter had painted the scene exactly as it appeared, viewers of his painting would probably think his imagination had run away with him, into some sort of saccharine fantasy. But it was all real. Pastel, glowing, illuminated by the fading light of the lingering end of day. If we had rolled the car windows down to breathe the air, I think it would have smelled like dew and apple blossoms.
There is a theme that I am picking up in WWII literature, a theme of hope because of a field of flowers, a blue sky, a bird or a butterfly that flutters back and forth across the barbed wire fences that separate a death camp from the freedom beyond. Even in this desperately broken world, there is always a remnant of beauty, because God is eternal.
North Carolina in April is much more than a remnant of beauty. It is a reminder that a road can end at the beach, and that light and joy await those who trust in the Lord.