Friday, March 30, 2012

Water's Edge

“I have heard the mermaids singing,each to each.”-T.S.Eliot


          Yesterday we made our first beach trip of the season. Throughout the spring and all summer, there will be many more. As we drove through Big Lagoon State Park, headed toward the picnic area, I was overcome with a sense of peace. This has become, over the last three years, our special place. Unlike many beach-type areas, it doesn’t often seem to attract loud, annoying people. The few people who do come are more of the quiet, friendly sort. Thus the wildlife is not frightened off and the sense of harmony with nature is not disrupted.

          Big Lagoon is a place where I can revel in God’s creation. Last summer we befriended and fed a heron, whom we named Terron. He hung out with us for most of the day, eating our picnic leftovers and coming nearly close enough to touch. At any given moment one can look up and see flocks of pelicans overhead. Ospreys and other large birds nest in the park’s trees, and a family of crows has returned each year to the same place near our picnic spot. One of our favorite activities is to catch and observe tiny water creatures, such as pipefish and seahorses. They are so small, yet they are little pieces of delicate perfection. My daughter likes to collect hermit crabs and build them sand houses. Of course we return all of the animals to their homes. I would never presume to impose on the beauty of this place by removing so much as a plant from the premises.

          Yesterday the water was still too chilly for swimming. I look forward to the day, a few weeks from now, when I will be able to totally submerge myself in it and feel that mystical connection I have with oceans and lakes and rivers and lagoons. My father loved the sea. He might have been a sailor, had the realities of life not kept him bound to the land. I am his daughter, and from him I inherited a love not only of water, but of places and things that are free and wild. At times I am tempted to utter a barbaric yawp, to quote Whitman, over the roofs of the world. A part of me has been and always will be untamed.

          Walking along the water’s edge, I thought about a lot of things. I thought about God and life, and how nice it is to spend a day with friends and family, and how perfect a hot dog tastes when it has been incinerated on the grill. I looked at little shells and seaweed and driftwood and a dead jellyfish. I thought about the goodness of the Creator, and how He works all things together for our good. Those little seahorses swimming about in the kelp bed have no thought or knowledge of us, or of anything other than hanging on to life and producing young, yet God knows when each one gives birth and when each one dies. That’s so amazing. How much more, then, does He know us, our hopes, our dreams, our futures? Jeremiah 29:11 talks of this, of how God’s plans are only to prosper and not to harm us. That word “prosper” does not necessarily have anything to do with finances. It has to do with the investment of our souls in eternity. He will get us there. We just have to keep walking with Him, trusting that everything serves His purpose.

          A group of children and adults, apparently either a large extended family or some type of family daycare setup, arrived at the beach about an hour after we did. They brought with them a large assortment of sand toys, but the children, being children, were not deterred by the water’s chill and eventually made their way into the lagoon. They were nice children who did not throw sand at each other or attempt to drown one another. It is always refreshing to see kids who get along with their peers and obey the adults who are in charge.One little girl came up to my friend Robin and I as we waded up to our ankles and said, “Excuse me, will you watch over me for a minute while my mommy gets my float?” We said we would, and she smiled and ran back into the water. I thought about how rare it is for a child, given an opportunity to be out from under a parental eye for a moment, to actually request supervision. It’s really a shame that we refuse to be humble enough to acknowledge our own need for God’s help and protection.

          Right before lunchtime, as the hot dogs were cooking on the grill, the dolphins came. I don’t mean just one or two dolphins, but an entire pod. They were chasing the fish near the shore, and they were close enough that we could see the water squirting from their blowholes. The children stopped all play and stood transfixed in wonder and delight. So did the adults. The dolphins swarmed in circles, stirring up the water. It was almost a dance, their movements were so smooth and lovely. God’s gentle pets at play. I was honored that I saw them. It is good to know that in the aftermath of the oil spill horror, the great creatures of  the sea live on. It is impossible to know right now the complete impact the spill had on our gulf waters, to know how much the populations of various species were decimated, but in that moment just to see these animals joyously leaping was enough. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to give us a little hope.

          Yesterday I got a taste of the joys to come. I remained on the water’s edge, looking forward to what the summer will bring. I also had a sweet-sad feeling, for this summer will be a little different. My son graduates in two months, and he will be starting his first college class in June. He will also be working, so he won’t be with us all of the time. We will have to have some of our beach days without him and his silliness and the sound of his guitar. He is about to begin his own journey into adulthood. He too is at the water’s edge, almost ready to plunge in. I hope the memories we have made will be enough to sustain him through whatever hardships the future brings.

          God be with you, my son.

Oh dance along the silver sand

And beat the turtle drum

That youth may last forever

And sorrow never come.

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