Friday, August 15, 2014

The Healing Beach

My husband and I recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary,
and he asked if there was anything special that I wanted to do.
To celebrate this momentous occasion each year, we usually meander out to Lake Michigan, stopping at antique shops and roadside farm stands along the way, reconnecting with shop owners we've come to know.

But this year...
this year I felt the need to reconnect with my past.
After spending countless hours during the past couple months sorting through old photos and slides discovered in my parents' basement,
I desperately needed to touch and feel a physical yearning turning deep within my soul.

God was calling me to remember.
Never forget.
This is who you are.

So, we headed out to Port Sheldon where I spent many summers during my childhood,
to where my grandparent's cottage once stood.
To the private beach where there was no noise from the outside world.

I was surprised that once we got close,
the directions, the landmarks,
all came back to me.

As we pulled onto that quiet, sandy drive beneath ancient, towering trees,
my heart began to pound. 

I remembered this all so well.
It seemed like yesterday,
when it had actually been years and years. 
The memories became alive.

We got out of the car and stood together,
taking in the cool, peaceful quiet of the beach woods.
Inhaling the fragrant mix of damp earth, wet sand, pines, and the lake.
I wanted to bottle it.
To infuse my entire being with it.

We walked hand in hand,
down the two-track.
I suddenly stopped in front of the old stairs that led up to our cottage.
I looked up and saw the cottage that had been built on our foundation.
My heart wrenched.
I felt tears welling.
Memories were sharp.
Bursting inside me like diamonds hard to contain.

Hands carrying multiple baskets and boxes of food.
Beach towels thrown over shoulders.
My brother and I dancing around my parents in anxious happiness...

My husband and I moved on past the two cottages that had been there since the 1930's.
Parents of a long ago high school friend still owned this wonderful old place.
It made me happy...
and very envious.

Our cottage used to look similar to it with the cinder block foundation and large screened porch.

Cottages are built very close down these little beach roads tucked in the woods.
The vintage ones have such beautiful character.

We exited the wooded area, and as we stepped into the opening, I looked to my right.
The old foot boards that once led to the beach from our old cottage lay in the sand.

Our gaze swung to the scene that lay before us.
We were speechless.
We felt awe ~ like we were in God's sanctuary.
The distant sound of soft, deep rumbling waves on the shore called.

I took off my flip-flops and walked the old boardwalk to the beach.
I wanted to feel the sandy wood beneath my feet again.

We walked without talking.
Words were not needed ~ nor desired.
We just wanted to breathe it all in.
Each in our own beautiful world.
Each just feeling.

The old Pigeon Lake pier still reached out into Lake Michigan,
the power plant pipes old and rusted.
A soft breeze rustled the beach grass.

Emotions began to rise in my heart as we stood there.
We were the only people on the beach.

I stood there and tried to control my emotions.
To stop the flood of tears that were filling my soul.

When my husband walked up to me and gently put his arm around me,
my feelings.

The waves lapped onto the shore.
The seagull cried overhead.
My heart cried.

THIS is what heaven must look like.

I turned and looked back up the boardwalk toward "Old Baldy",
where from the top of that towering dune
you could see for eternity.

My brother and I used to crazily run down as fast as we could go without tumbling head over heels...

and would end up at water's edge jumping waves.

Our cottage used to be beneath that tall, trimmed up pine
next to the gray house with white shutters.
We used to have a big cinder block "lookout" patio where we would sit on Grandma and Grandpa's laps and watch the sun kiss the lake each night.

My husband and I started walking along the shore,
letting the cool water tickle our sandy toes.

The water was crisp, clear, and clean.

As we walked, I noticed that the beach was much smaller than it used to be.
It was almost as if the dunes had pushed their way toward the water, decade by decade,
leaving only a quarter of the large, sandy beach that used to be there 45 years ago.

We walked over the sand where my brother and I once built sandcastles with Dad,
while Mom looked on from a large beach towel while pulling out sandwiches
from the old wicker basket, and lemonade chilled in the Coleman cooler.

Emotions ran rampant throughout my heart.
They were so bittersweet.

We walked to an old bench sitting amidst the beach grass;
and shared feelings of awe,
and complete and utter peace.

It was so quiet.

I didn't want to leave this place of beauty.
This closeness to God I felt.
 I wanted to close out the world,
wrap myself up in it,
and just be.

Minutes and moments passed.
I don't know how long we sat there just soaking it all in
and becoming one with God's creation.

But with my husband's gentle nudging, despite my sad cries of despair,
we turned our faces toward the beach woods
and headed back up the boardwalk.

Once again,
we walked quietly.
As if leaving a sacred place.

Tears stung my eyes.

I didn't want to let go of this.
Of me.
Because I somehow felt differently here.
More whole.
More healed.
More complete.

I felt like I was leaving a piece of me behind.

As we entered the damp coolness of the woods,
my feet stopped at the old block staircase again.
I found myself moving up them.
Not wanting to disturb or invade anyone's privacy.
But I just had to get closer to where our cottage used to stand so proudly in the woods.

I remembered our small, flip-flopped feet scampering up these same stairs
summer after summer,
past the ferns and vines that had flourished since the cottage burned down those many years ago.

I'm not sure how soon after we lost our cottage that this one was built,
but the footprint was the same.

I stood and looked that the cinder block wall were I used to collect lady bugs in Coke bottles;
my mother delighting in each one and suggesting I draw pictures of them with my crayons.

I suddenly wanted to live here.
The urge, the incredibly strong.
I wanted to sink back into the comforting arms of my beloved memories,
give up everything I own,
and live here.

I wanted it with my whole being.
My whole heart.
Oh so strongly.
 I wanted to live among the sweet memories of my family
while creating new ones of my own.
I felt like I owed that to my parents and grandparents...
to honor them...
to cherish them in a tangible way.

But reality settled over me like a cloud
and misted my eyes.

I glanced down the block stairs and saw my husband looking up at me,

I knew it was time to go.

Descending slowly,
as if each step took me back to the present.
I looked to my left and saw a sweet, quaint cottage nestled into the side of the hill.

This place charmed me to my core.

I think it was seeing the happy red roof among all of the green under a turquoise sky.

These powerful feelings that totally consumed me,
affirmed one thing in my soul.

Even though I love my life in the country
with the wide open spaces and roaming wildlife...

my heart

my soul

my entire being

will always



belong to the beach.

And nothing in this world will ever take that away from me.

We turned our SUV toward the world,
and I sighed.
My cheeks wet with salty tears.

I was leaving the child I used to be
back on that beautiful beach.

But I knew she would wait for me...

until I returned.

~  Eucharisteo  ~

Linking to the linky parties on the lower right of my sidebar.