A Hallmark Christmas in the Making

Our early December in Avon, North Carolina has had the charm of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

There are a few exceptions, of course.

…We didn’t end up here accidentally.

….We’re not snowed in or trapped here by inclement weather. 

…We didn’t start out hating Christmas or each other.

…We aren’t estranged from anyone.

But it has had all the smiles, warmth, and spirit of a good Christmas movie.

Imagine the scene — a remote fishing/ surfing village on a sandbar in the Atlantic Ocean — almost as far out as you can go on a little strip of sand.

All the tourists have gone home.

Many of the small shops and local restaurants have closed for the season.

Most of the beach houses around us are vacant.

We are usually the only two people on the beach.

There are no malls, no Santas, no professionally decorated trees, houses or excessive light shows in sight.

No snow, no crowds, no hustle or bustle.

Just the ocean, a few select cafes and speciality shops, Doug and me.

When we go to dinner, we are usually the only two people in a modest, dimly lit, locally owned restaurant.

We linger over dinner and watch the sunset while listening to the quiet hum of Christmas music.

And we talk about Christmas — not about what gifts to buy or how to keep everyone entertained but about the Christ child.

Last night, Doug said, “Sometimes when I think about the story of Christ’s birth, I get emotional wondering what it was like in heaven when God sent that little baby to earth. Were they joyful? What was happening there when the Christmas story unfolded here?”

We wonder about that for a minute and realize that we are feeling the Christmas spirit envelop us in this cozy little spot by the sea.

We think the warmth of the environment and the laid back vibe allow for it and even seem to invite it.

We start imagining coming back another year with our family for a simple, scaled-back Avon Christmas.

We imagine all of us leaving the hubbub of our normal Christmas celebrations — the parties, the shopping, the rushing from here to there, the decorating — all of it.

We dream of Christmas here in this quaint, quiet little village where conversations about Christ and the real meaning of Christmas come easier because there is time for conversation and contemplation.

We are not in a hurry to go anywhere, do anything. It’s a luxury we don’t always enjoy in December.

We imagine our family exploring the beach with us — finding shells for ornaments, and decorating a live Christmas tree from the tree lot down the street while listening to Annie and Josh sing Christmas carols while playing their ukuleles.

We imagine them coming with us to walk the streets in the little seaside town of Manteo, NC where Christmas lights are strewn randomly across city streets and where Christmas decorations consist of street lamp lights in the shapes of anchors, fish, and stars.

We imagine a day trip on the ferry to Ocracoke where we just enjoy the sights of the sea and then browse through the surf shop as the only customers of the day.

We imagine taking the ferry back and savoring the sunset, the water splashing up onto the ferry, and the cold wind on our faces. 

We imagine it because it’s been our experience for the last few weeks and we want to share it.

We feel like we have been living in a Hallmark movie where everyone feels restored, happy, spiritually fed and content just sipping on a hot cup of cocoa and appreciating the peace and beauty of the holiday season.

We imagine all of this being enough for Christmas — maybe more than enough.

We’ll be leaving this piece of paradise in a few days and returning to the excitement of a traditional Christmas with all the fun of shopping, presents, lights and baking, but for now, we are soaking up a different kind of kickoff to the holidays and dreaming of doing it all again next year.

beach, From my Bookshelf, Writing

Blue Mind Magic

I usually try to write blogs based on what causes an emotional reaction in me.

So, you’d think that being at the warm, sunny beach in February would trigger a lot of emotions.

img_7309The problem is that the calming effects of the ocean lull me into a kind of beach bliss — such a subdued, satisfied, relaxed state of happy -that I can’t muster the mental energy to write a coherent blog.

If you’re a beach lover, you know that a physical change takes place in us when we’re near the wide expanse of the ocean.

Our breathing slows, and our overactive brains relax like a tired, soft baby on a mama’s shoulder.

There is a pleasant loll that gently overtakes the brain, giving us a break from incessant, urgent thoughts.

Our senses heighten, and our need to “do” gently subsides. A welcome tranquility settles into our bones.

So, rather than looking at my laptop and writing while I’m at the beach, I end up spending time captivated by the rhythmic ocean waves, the dolphins skimming the ocean’s surface, and the massive formations of birds hovering over the water looking for fish.

I stare at the changing clouds, and marvel over how one minute they look full of rain and the next, they are gone, and the sky is cloudless, a stretch of perfect blue.

I gaze at the different varieties of beach houses around me, all painted in bright happy colors like coral, green, sky blue, and yellow.

img_7386And, I watch workers busily getting houses ready for the vacation season — roofers precariously perched on top of sloped beach houses, painters on tall ladders, restaurant owners painting picnic tables and benches, and even a realtor flying a drone over a house to get good photos that highlight the features of a house going on the market.

I look at the breach where the ocean powered through the sand dunes and took out part of the boardwalk, and then I walk toward the fishing pier and wonder when the construction crew will finish this year’s repairs.

I walk on the beach, ride my bike, read a book, and binge watch The Crown on Netflix.

img_7389Yes, while Doug caulks, power washes, paints, seals, and putters, I laze and enjoy watching the flag flap in the wind and I savor a certain smugness that comes over me when my daughter and sister send photos of yet more snow in Utah.

img_7406I read about Blue Mind, “The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, On, or Under Water Can Make you Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.  (How’s that for a title?)

Turns out, Blue Mind is a real thing. Science even proves it. “Water attracts and fascinates us, and we know instinctively that being near it reduces stress, increases creativity, and brings us peace.”

For a few more blissful days, I will savor the Outer Banks, knowing that soon I will be back in the clutches of a Utah winter.

But, for now, I will appreciate the beauties of Blue Mind Magic.