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  ~

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  1. Such a beautiful post. I feel the same way on our Northern California shores. Where the beach is always empty and I feel God's nearness like no other place. It is the reason we remain here connected to our childhood roots. Both my husband and I were born and raised here. And now our children are rooted here too. The sea, forests, mountains, and valley farmland are all a part of who we are. The dust of the earth. It is the beauty you behold,cherish, and hold dearly in your heart. Your tears mixed with the earth bringing healing to your sorrow. And how beautiful it all is. And as you said, it is sacred. Bless you for embracing what truly matters. xx

  2. Laurie, can I just say that you have an amazing gift of writing what you are feeling. If I would feel those emotions it would come out so bland. I LOVE reading your writings my friend. Blessings to you and also peace...

  3. I feel speechless, my dear friend. The pictures of today and of the past...your words. Your grief. I have nothing to say except this is the most beautiful post l I have ever read in my 6 years of blogging.

    I wish you all the very best. I wish you everything you need to hold these memories close to your heart and to move on. The future calls. And you will always have this incredible post and your memories to soothe you when the going gets hard.

    Sending so much love, my friend.

    Jane xxx

  4. Hi, Laurie. I enjoyed this post on so many levels. The photos are amazing, and I love what you've done with the older you've interspersed them with the others to tell the story. I relate to your nostalgia. Sometimes I'll be in the kitchen with my husband and children, and a wave of sadness will just come over because I want my grandparents. I want them in the room with us but know I can't have them and my babies, too. It's hard to be in that middle place, I think, but it's beautiful, too, because I know I'm the bridge. I'm the one who ties together these people who've never met, and I have within me the power to share my grandparents with my children. The stories are mine for the telling. Happy Anniversary! You are so beautiful and CERTAINLY do not look old enough to have been married thirty years. May God continue to bless and keep. Thank you for praying with me, today. My heart has been so heavy.

  5. Just beautiful...words and pictures.. What a blessing to have such sweet memories..thanks for the journey! Blessings and Happy Anniversary!

  6. What a beautiful post. I'm so glad you got to revisit your wonderful childhood memories and to process some of your grief. The beach is my most intimate place with the Lord and so I completely related to the healing you experience by the sea. Also, I've never been at this special place, but I'd have wanted to sell everything and move there as well!

  7. Laurie, oh how wonderful! I'm leaving you full of emotions and peace! Congratulations to your wedding anniversery - fantastic to stay together in love for such a long time!
    All my best my dear to you and yours

  8. just beautiful, Laurie, what an amazing blessing you received that special day. Happy Anniversary, sweet friend!

  9. Loved reading this post... beautifully written with poignant photos of the beach and beach cottages.


  10. Oh sweetie, what a beautiful journey down this most precious path into your childhood... your words carried me away to simpler, gentler times... I can just hear the laughter of you and your brother, and almost taste the lunch your mama packed for you to all share on the beach... she looks so beautiful in her swimsuit there... this is indeed a most sacred spot for you... one you can go to again and again... letting your thoughts carry you there often... cherishing those carefree days and your family's love... through your words, I can sense what a kind, caring and loving man Rog is... and you are right, some times no words are needed between the two of you... just the fullness of the moment... and the many blessings you have been given... you wear your heart on your sleeve my friend, and I am going back to read every word once again... much love to you, xoxo Moi

  11. Oooh, and a happy 30th anniversary to you and Rog... what a lovely way to celebrate your love for each other... and your life together... xoxoxo

  12. Laurie... le tue parole mi hanno emozionato, le vecchie foto di famiglia mi hanno toccato il cuore. Capisco la tua struggente nostalgia e il tuo amore che si respira ovunque. Un abbraccio grande!

  13. Simply beautiful!

  14. That was a beautiful post- I so enjoyed it. I think it's wonderful that you had such good childhood experiences and memories to go back there and relive them in your mind and to smell and feel what you once knew again. Sometimes going back is painful since things always change. The good thing is you have those beautiful feelings and memories. I know it's been a tough year for you, and I hope this trip was a good part to your healing.
    Happy 30th Anniversary!

  15. Oh Laurie, your words are so beautiful and touching. I know you'll always miss your mom and dad but how wonderful that you have such happy memories of them to cherish! Happy Anniversary to you and your dear are just as gorgeous as ever!

  16. Hi Laurie, I'm glad I looked at Bloglovin today. I am not receiving most of my blogs again and almost missed this. I wish I had a beach like you do. Some place to go and relive all the memories. But my place seems to be right here where I've lived since I was 5. I do have the same emotions though. They surface the strongest when my husband talks about moving. I just don't think I could do it. I can still see my mom hanging clothes out to dry. I see her taking a cool drink to my dad when he mows the field. I see them both in the shop working together to refinish a piece of furniture. When the pecans fall I can still see my dad stooping to pick them up. I don't think we ever lose these emotions of loss, longing and love. And truly, I don't think I want to. Because it means we had something wonderful in our life. A lovely post, Laurie. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    hugs from texas,

  17. What a beautiful journey back to your place of childhood bliss and nice to celebrate your anniversary in that way. I was thinking, oh maybe you could buy one of the homes and live there! It sounds cathartic for you, and to be the only ones on the beach is amazing.

  18. such a beautiful post, and what wonderful memories you have. this is my first (second?) visit to your blog; I am a fellow Michigander, and love Lake Michigan too.

  19. Laurie, my prayers have been with you. What a wonderful post. Your photos are breathtaking, and, your story heartfelt. Happy Anniversary, my friend.

  20. Laurie, I was so moved by this post. I could feel every word. Thank you for sharing this beautiful time in your past, and the lasting legacy it has left in your heart.

  21. Ugh My heart aches for you while reading this. Such a beautiful place and yes a lil piece of heaven and such dear dear memories.No one can ever take that away from you! I too feel so at peace when I am close to the beach. It's such a calming feeling.
    Your adorable as always ! Thank you for sharing such a private moment.Hugs Sweetie :)

  22. Oh Laurie - I felt like I was reading a chapter in a beloved book - you have such a graceful way of recapturing your past while living in the present -
    This post brought me back to time spent at the lake as a child - flip flops - hotdogs - noxema - and a simplicity that has been lost -
    Memories are gold.
    Much love,

  23. What a beautiful hearthwarming post and blessings from!

  24. You are such a gifted writer! Your emotions were profoundly felt through your words. I have not experienced what you're going through, but felt like I have by reading this post. I'm glad to know that you're taking the time you need to make peace of your new reality. That beach area was beautiful. You're lucky to have those wonderful memories there and be able to return to see it. I think it's all so therapeutic and you will become stronger for doing it too.

  25. this lovely post is filled with such raw emotions, laurie. beautifully written-i hope your visit left your soul a bit lighter:) happy anniversary!

  26. :( Made me cry best memories are on a beach with my loved ones...And some of those Loved ones are not here anymore...Brings back the undeniable fact ..we all "Think" we have more time than we do.

  27. Laurie,
    Beautiful post and Happy Anniversary. As you continue in the healing process I wish you inner peace. I thought how you mixed in old photographs with the new and poetically told your story while weaving in the message was soulfully done. Be strong.

  28. Laurie, You are truly gifted with words. I grew up in Southern California and loved my family visits to the beach too. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful cherished memories. It was a very inspiring post.
    Happy Anniversary to you and your husband!

  29. Hi Laurie, what a beautiful post and time spent in a place filled with so many wonderful memories. Happy Anniversary to you and your hubby. I am so glad for you to have this time to heal at the beach that carries you back to special times with your family. Love the old pics. Memories that live forever in your heart.
    Blessings to you and God's healing comfort.

  30. I recognized those bathing suits as my sister and I had similar ones when we lived in Indiana...what a beautiful, magical blissful walk into your wonderful memories.

  31. Happy Anniversary darling friend,
    Blessed you are to have these memories, touching you deeper then one can understand without it happening to them. My heart in my throat, each picture telling of its story tears welling in somber awwww! and feeling exactly how it makes you feel to remember when? Growing up on beaches of Southern California myself I can so relate to this Godly feel, that nothing more powerful could even touch this piece of earth, sand and it's wetness, the breathtaking poetry that flows through you with no words at all just it's energy and pull.

    Laurie, to see your cottage where it once stood, and to feel your heart beat rapidly I could only imagine the pain and pleasure it must have brought you at the same time. Those deserving tears, and how refreshing you must have felt releasing them to the beach waters edge. Thank you for sharing your grace, your beauty, and your ever so raw emotions here. You in many ways have touched our souls or at least mine with opening up memories many of us have tucked away.
    So wish your cottage home was for sale giving you the opportunity to re-buy it, it's my fantasy to the end of your journeys day spent there, could you even imagine that? A chance at living your childhood days all over again? Well, perhaps someday God will take you back there, you an your sweet loving husband hand in hand walking a new heavens walk.

    I hope you were able to take a Sandy footed floor board deck piece home with you to add a bit of that walk into your home?
    Laurie, on a sweeter look here, I think we have the same jeans wholes all the way to the hips!! :)
    Visit soon, miss your beauty.

    My prayers to you are days ahead of you filled with joy, days where your tears have dried up, days where God has given you back the moments where sadness was not thought of. Laurie, look at all the blessings God has bestowed upon you; you my friend have made your parents proud, and they want you to live more now then ever.


  32. Laurie, this was a beautiful post. Your photos are breathtaking. I love how you included the vintage ones. This must have been a beautiful little trip for you to share. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos.

  33. Wow Laurie. What a beautiful post. Hugs to you dear lady! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home.

  34. I will feature this tomorrow at Home Sweet Home.

  35. Calling by from Share Your Cup Thursday. What a lovely post, to me this sort of post is what the meme title is all about

  36. Hi and Happy Anniversary! What a beautiful post with such lovely photos of the beach. I grew up a minute from the beach and it reminds me of when I was little. Thanks so much for sharing this.
    Julie @ Julie's Lifestyle

  37. Beautiful and full of emotion. Thank you for sharing this post filled with heartfelt thoughts and cherished memories. I wish you peace!

  38. rejoice in what God has made, let it always fill your heart. Beach memories are like hugs from nature. xoxoxo

  39. Beautiful. Hugs of understanding from one shore bird to another.

  40. Laurie, what a beautiful place full of beautiful memories! You tell it so wonderfully. Happy Anniversary! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  41. wow! thank you for sharing your journey to the past with us! I was glued to every word and couldn't wait until the next picture! there was so much beauty I am a beach girl and love the beach I live in a beach cottage in Novi Mi on walled lake and I have lived in Michigan for almost 6 yrs now and finally last summer I got to see what the beauty of this state is in the UP up north is like a whole different place such beauty and fresh clear water, the sand, the dunes and just the beauty of it all! you really captured it well and I love the old throw back photos you included to! thank you for sharing!
    Kim Buca

  42. Such a beautiful post, Laurie.

    My twin brother took me to the house we grew up in, my grandparents' house, and my great-grandmother's house. So many changes over time, but the precious memories remain.

    I am so glad that you found your visit to be healing.
    Sending hugs,

  43. happy anniversary wishes!
    what a beautiful spot filled with beautiful memories.
    I adore Michigan & understand your sentiments ♥

  44. Oh Laurie...this is just so beautiful.
    What a gift to have ben able to be there and experience a flood of heart warming memories.
    God is so good...and His love is overwhelming.
    Warmest of hugs my beautiful friend...thank you for sharing yet another place in your heart with us.

    All my heart,
    Deborah xoxoxo

  45. I can't even speak after reading this... it was just so powerful in every way. There are no words



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