Hatteras Island, the most southern barrier island of North Carolina's beloved outer banks (unless of course, you include Ocracoke Island) is a favorite vacation spot for my family. It's small villages are significantly less populated than the beaches farther north, especially in early to mid-June. There are fewer shops on the island, fewer restaurants, no large hotels, no McDonald's, no Starbucks and it hosts only one major grocery store - a Food Lion in Avon. It was at this particular Food Lion where we shopped on the evening of our arrival and it was the only place on the island that we experienced significant crowds. As the cleaning crew finished readying our rental house, and after our brief, peaceful interlude greeting the ocean, we decided to pile back into the van and head south six miles to Avon. We only needed a few things for dinner that night and for breakfast the next morning. My daughter Erin and I ventured into the store while the others waited in our van. Never again will I go to this store on a Saturday evening. I'm not a fan of crowds. I despise them. The store had become a den of insanity. Shoppers with their carts were milling about everywhere. Some aisles were rendered impassable due to the sheer volume of people and carts blocking the way. The store manager's voice whined gratingly over the PA system inviting customers "from as far away as Colorado" to sign up for an MVP shopping card. He continued to rattle off the names of all the states from which his customers hailed. "Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania" ... on and on he droned. He seemed to think it was important for everyone to know where their fellow shoppers called home. We were also informed, over and over, by another voice (female) that all ten check-out lanes were open, as well as the customer service desk for people who had fewer than 10 items. There was an express lane outside for those with 15 items or less. All the while, carts were bumping into one another, bread, milk and eggs were flying off the shelves. My head was spinning and I felt the tears well up in my eyes. Finally, Erin said, "Just stay put. I'll gather up the things we need and come back to you." So there I stood, perched between the frozen peas and Tombstone pizza, gripping the handle of my cart for fear of being swept away in the current of madness. A young woman shopping with her mother and sisters complained that she felt nauseated. I longed to return to our beach. As Erin ventured off for one last item, I gingerly worked my way toward the check-out lanes. Much to my relief, I discovered that lane 5 had no line! How was this possible? There was one customer nearly finished checking out when I slid my cart in behind her. I spied an abandoned cart nearly full of groceries, off to one side. Perhaps, I mused, the shopper just couldn't take it any longer and hurriedly exited the store screaming - even leaving behind her purse, which I noticed was still plopped right there in the child seat. Suddenly customers lined up behind me as fast as a flock of seagulls descending upon a piece of stale bread. Finally, our ordeal was over as Erin and I pressed past the long line of people checking out from the express lane outside the doors of the store. We hopped in the van with our items, explaining to the others what a madhouse it was inside. Worse, much worse than the grocery stores back home when an impending snow storm is predicted. I only imagined what it must be like in mid-July at the height of vacation season. Unbelievable.
Thankfully, the remainder of our week was nothing at all like our Food Lion experience. In fact, it was very much quite the opposite.
"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea." Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
I had every intention of blogging a daily journal while my family and I were "beaching it." However, although wifi was available to us, we were unable to connect on our laptop. Erin had brought her Mac with her and successfully logged on, but I only borrowed her computer once to look up some information I was curious about and to change my Facebook status. That was it. I also do not have a smart phone, so basically I was cut off from the internet. I did not mind it one little bit! Perhaps it was providential. We only turned on the television to watch movies on a few occasions. The television in the master bedroom was used to drape a towel over. If the outside world was beckoning, I couldn't hear it; for I was listening intently to a different voice. A voice, like a siren - only trustworthy, luring me away from all of my petty cares and concerns. A voice so sweet and gentle, so full of love leading me to discover Him there in the great expanse of the beauty and the immense power of His created world.
If I were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would I wish to have with me? Nothing, I suppose. My companions would be the ever changing, marvelous sea whose currents run north one day and south the next and whose receding tide bares tiny, glistening treasures in the sand and then covers them later with the rushing and crashing of high tide upon the shore. And the never ceasing breeze who blows from one direction in the morning and from another at night. The creatures that wash ashore, or swim among the breakers or the gulls and pelicans that dive from the sky, headlong straight into the briny waters fishing for dinner. The warmth of the sun and the dazzle of diamonds it sprinkles along the swells. The moon rising up from the deep casting a milky path across the undulating darkness.
Yet, how truly grateful I am to have spent this blessed week with my family. Sorry only that our son was unable to join us due to his work schedule. For a few years now, my brother, a priest from the diocese of Charlotte, NC, accompanies us on our vacations. He is loving, witty, and very generous. A great gift he offers us daily is the celebration of the Mass. I've grown so accustomed to it that I can hardly imagine a beach vacation without it. To my kids, my brother is known as "Uncle Father Jimmy" or quite simply, albeit affectionately, "Uncle". He is a mainstay in our lives and is very much a part - a truly important part - of our family. It is a joy to have him join us for our annual get-away.
|A vacationing Father Jim|
What sheer delight this summer to witness, my little grandson, Isaac's awe and wonder. What fun, too, to see his parents delighting in every squeal and every new discovery. Sure, Isaac ate his weight in sand, tasted seashells, and laughed as the water rushed over his toes. He spied a variety of birds and reached toward the heavens pointing them out, "gack!" Even the numerous ceiling fans in the cottage fascinated him. He called them 'gacks', too! Perhaps because they appear to have wings?? On our last morning on the island, I asked Isaac, "Where's the duck?" He immediately searched the sky to find one. All birds I suppose are ducks or "gacks!" I absolutely loved having Isaac at the beach with us and his parents, too. He travels like a champ and is always so content.
My heart is filled to the brim with gratitude for the opportunity last week to simply be. To be with my family as we enjoyed good food and wine and one another. To be able to play, take walks, swim and laugh together. To be renewed and refreshed. To be patiently in His presence and wait in faith and hope for the gifts He gives with abandon; the gifts of peace, joy, sheer wonder, trust and love.