Back in April, I booked a week in a little beach condo for the kids and me. We traveled so much together in my former life – much more exotic locations and expensive trips. But I’ve had such an expensive spring, and my budget looks very different than it did a couple of years ago. So we settled on a little spot on the Florida panhandle that is a short drive from home.
I’ve felt a lot of unease about this trip in light of my grandmother’s health struggles as she is still in a hospital bed in Atlanta. But we transferred her to the university research hospital to get more answers and better treatment for her, so I’m trying my best to exhale a bit and enjoy my time with the kids in the meantime.
I loaded the car on Sunday morning, and we were on the road by 10am. I bought them each a blank notepad and a fresh box of crayons for the ride down, and that got us 3 hours of entertainment in the car. The rest of the trip was full of I Spy and Letter Hunt, and we finally arrived to our tiny condo in the midday heat.
It’s a studio apartment of sorts with one room that features a bed, a couch, a television, and a tiny kitchen where you have to turn sideways to squeeze by the dishwasher and reach the oven. We unloaded the car and put our things away, and then I braved the grocery store with the kids and at least a million other vacationers. Empty shelves and long check out lines and chaos. We came back to the condo, and I made a quick dinner that we ate on paper plates. We threw on bathing suits and raced to the beach, and we were just on time for the magic hour.
I am so worried about so many things right now – family health struggles and my own bank account and the thousand things I need to address in this season of my life, but the ocean always makes you exhale in a deeper way and realize things will eventually be okay, right? (Asking for reassurance here.) Hardship comes and goes, and in this past few years, it feels like I’ve had more than my fair share. But tiny moments of peace also come and go. I try and squeeze every last bit of comfort I can from them.
I’m reminded again of that Mary Oliver line I don’t know what a prayer is, but I know what it means to pay attention. I’m paying attention this week. To freckles and sandy eyelashes, splashes and giggles, sno-cones at sunset.
Waves roll in and out, over and over. The world keeps turning. Nothing is better than the ocean at showing us that paradox of change and impermanence in the face of eternity. It’s a big, wide world. And struggle exists for every single one of us eventually.
We have three more days here before we head back home. So far, it is a vacation in the truest sense. The kids sleep late while I am up with the sun, and I read with coffee (or write as I am now) while they snooze. They wake and we lounge around with breakfast until we go to the beach mid-morning. We drag our things there, they play for hours, and then we return for lunch and a break from the heat. Late afternoon finds us at the pool, and we’ll shower before dinner and go straight to pajamas most nights. Then we indulge in mugs of ice cream and a movie and sleep to do it all again the next day.
Leisure can feel weird when you are in a season of struggle. We feel like we should be paying our dues somehow. But I’m remembering another Mary Oliver line where she asserts, You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. We are loving what we love this week, without regret or reason. I’m taking these tiny moments, bottling them up as best I can to float me on.
7 thoughts on “beach week”
Thanks again for your heartfelt writing. As I read this I thought of the words from the last issue of the Sun magazine. Rachel Carson spoke of those who contemplate the beauty of the earth and find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. She said “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature, the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter”.
Kayaking gives me a peace that you are feeling this week. Enjoy.
Lovely. Nature is comforting.
I’m right there with you … family health struggles and healing from a relationship. You have helped me realize what I have been doing to heal. Tending my flowers and vegetables (watching all the bugs, birds and animals) and playing basketball each night just before sunset are my, “moments of peace” that make the rest of my day pretty good.
Your words are a great comfort to me. Still loving your photos!
Sounds like a lovely vacation. Nothing like the sea, sand, and childhood delight to make the soul feel better.
I love your Mary Oliver quotes. If you were to suggest 1 of her collections, which one would you recommend? They really resonate with me in this season of my life. Thank you. I hope you make happy memories with your beautiful family on vacation.
I have this one that features most of her greatest poems. https://www.amazon.com/New-Selected-Poems-Mary-Oliver/dp/0807068772/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465824754&sr=8-1&keywords=mary+oliver
And I definitely have to pass along this incredible interview with On Being. It’s a great listen if you have time for it. http://www.onbeing.org/program/mary-oliver-listening-to-the-world/7267
Thank you, Katie!