The family and I just got back from a week at the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Before I post pictures about that trip, let me explain a little of my relationship with the beach. My husband and I went to Hawaii on our honeymoon, to the island of Kauai, actually, and it was beautiful. Colors of trees. Scents of flowers. Sky. Sunshine. Mountains. Volcanoes. We watched fireworks from Poipu Beach. We saw an eclipse of the sun. Magnificent. And the beaches were fantastic.
At the time, however, I loved everything about the beach - except for the sand and the water. I'll let that sink in for a moment. So Steve would go out and lay on the beach and sunbathe. And I would stay in the room and wave to him every now and then from the balcony. Yes, it's true - I was inside our second floor hotel room in Kauai, Hawaii, reading trashy novels and watching soap operas on television while my husband, my brand new, remarkably understanding and patient husband, sunbathed alone less than 50 yards away.
Fast forward five years, we took Kristiana to Florida for a week. I was pregnant with Daniel. That trip I sat with them on the beach but never got into the water. I didn't want Kristiana in the water either, so she sat with me and we watched others frolic in the water. That was also the time when a seagull snatched my sandwich out of my hand, just inches from my face. What the what???
Five years later, Steve and I went on a cruise in South America which included a stop in Rio de Janeiro, where we sat on Copacabana Beach and once again, I DID NOT GO INTO THE WATER. There was something seriously wrong with me. I don't even think I put on a bathing suit that day.
Soon thereafter, we took our first trip to Puerto Rico, to an amazing resort called the El Conquistador Resort. That time I did go into the water. I loved it. And I looked back on those earlier trips and shook my head at my silliness and stubbornness. We went to that place in Puerto Rico three times. Then Costa Rica. Then Menorca in Spain. I was hooked on seaside vacations.
Then we discovered Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. The beach there is wide and flat and slopes gently down to the gently rolling ocean. The beach was packed with other vacationers, sunburned adults, pale faced children, vigilant moms, beer sipping older women, newspaper reading older men, families, people alone, walkers, bikers, runners - and there I was. Every day. Sitting. Watching. Reading. Taking photos. And even going into the water. The only thing that deterred me was the number of people emerging from the surf complaining of having been stung by jellyfish. As sand swirled vigorously below the surface of the water, seeing the jellyfish was rendered impossible.
On Friday, our last full day at the sea, I arrived at 9 am with Steve and Daniel. We rented an umbrella and two chairs (our umbrella fell victim to an assault by a brutish southerly wind the day before) and set up camp for the day. Steve went back to the rental house to work on his computer - poor baby - while Daniel and I sat and watched the beach come to life. Ninety minutes later, Daniel abandoned me for higher and cooler ground back at the house. Kristiana came to join me around 11:30 am and Steve arrived soon thereafter. (So much individual coming and going is made possible and sponsored by Peddling Pelicans, the bicycle rental company that we use when we are on HHI. Bike riding is one of the highlights of our time there - at least it is for me.) Steve stayed for a little over an hour and had to go back for more work. Kristiana returned to the house with him. Then he came back at 3 pm and stayed with me until 4:50 PM. Sadly, our umbrella and chair rental ended at 5 pm.
Did you notice what or who stayed constant in that account??? ME! I was at the beach from 9 am until 4:50 pm - and I didn't even want to leave then. I spent most of the time in my chair, I must confess, watching people, reading, journaling, eating and drinking. But I also went into the water, sat myself down at the water's edge and allowed the water to wash over my feet and legs. I was in heaven. Heaven in Hilton Head. When I thought back to my time in Hawaii, I had to laugh - I am now the person in our family who wants to spend the most time at the seashore. I've come a mighty long way. It was a glorious trip.
As the planet twisted and turned last week, as airplanes crashed and burned, as Middle Eastern neighbors bombed each other and North Americans tried to expel desperate children back over our border, I sat on the beach and marveled at the beauty of that island just off the coast of South Carolina. The quietness. The peace. The wonder. The bright sunshine during the daylight hours. The storms that rolled over us several nights during our stay. All was so very well down by the sea. I almost felt guilty for how wonder-filled our trip was. Almost.
* but most of all, India Arie's words came to mind over and over again. Every time I changed into and out of a bathing suit, stepped into and out of the shower, got dressed and undressed in front of the mirror in our bedroom, walked up and down the stairs, climbed onto and off of the bicycle, walked up and down the beach - almost on an hourly basis on certain days, I sang these words to myself:
"Breast kanswer, chemotherapy, took away her crowning glory.
She promised God if she were to survive, she would enjoy every day of her life."
And that's exactly what I did last week.
That's what I plan to do every day of my life -
here at home, in the car, across the ocean, or down by the sea -
I promised God and myself I will enjoy every day of my life.
PS. I cannot wait to get back to the beach.