beach

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.

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Family Friends

After a busy, laughter-filled Thanksgiving week, I sit in a quiet beach house listening to the clock tick, the ceiling fan spin, and the ocean waves rhythmically, consistently roll in over the sand and back out into the water again

2014-05-03 15.52.21And I remember…

Only a few days ago, this house was filled with people busily baking pies, basting turkeys, and tying gold ribbons around napkins for a beautiful holiday table. The house was full of happy people working together to create another memorable Thanksgiving dinner.

Eric, the master pie crust maker
Eric, the master pie crust maker

After dinner, we lounged around the family room and reminisced.

We remembered the Thanksgiving we spent in a cabin in West Virginia when it snowed and we made makeshift sleds and sped down the hills, hiked back up and did it again.

We remembered our friend, Annette who recently died of cancer. We proposed a toast to her and laughed remembering the year we were cleaning up the Thanksgiving dinner dishes in the kitchen and she pointed at some leftover pie and said, “Who made that wretched pecan pie?”

“I did,” I said.

Her face turned fuchsia and she immediately tried to explain that she was talking about a different pie, a store-bought pie that was the wretched one, not my homemade pie, which, of course, was delicious.

Uh huh. That’s why she pointed at my pie.

What else could she do when she called my homemade pie “wretched” right to my face?

Now it’s an annual joke. “Who’s making the wretched pecan pie?”

Actually, I think we dropped pecan pie from our menu after that.

At least I know I never made it again.

And then there’s the driveway pie.

That’s the creamiest, most delicious coconut cream pie you’ll ever eat. And we only have it once a year.

Tragically, one year, while being carried into the house, it was dropped on the driveway – shattering the glass pie pan and splattering the custard all over the driveway.

We were so disappointed that we could only think of one thing to do – get spoons and eat it off the driveway, carefully picking out the shards of glass before ingesting.

I wish I could say I was kidding about that memory, but truly we found ourselves huddled around the splattered pie spooning out as many tastes as we could before giving up because we started spooning up pieces of glass.

We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with this same group of friends for about 30 years.

After dinner Thursday, Doug thanked them for being part of every major event of our lives from our dating years to our marriage years, through the births of both of our daughters and every milestone in between and since.

When I moved to the Washington, D.C. area, my boss said one of his favorite things about living here was that friends became like family.

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He said since most people in the DC area are transplants from someplace else, it’s like we’re all out on a limb together so we take care of each other.

That’s definitely proven to be true for us, particularly with this group of friends we met after first moving here.

We’ve supported each other through the deaths of parents and siblings, through dating relationships and breakups through marriages and parenting, illnesses and job changes and more.

Through it all, we’ve created memories that cement our friendships; and don’t friendships and relationships sustain our lives?

So as I sit here savoring the silence as the sun goes down on my last evening at the beach, I remember the loyal, true friends I’ve been blessed to know, the ones I don’t see often but the ones I know will always be there for me because they always have been.

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Perspective — the first gift of the sea

Before we left home for our trek to the beach, I wondered if I could leave all my duties and responsibilities undone for a week.

A miraculous thing always happens when we arrive in Avon, North Carolina.

My memory gets wiped clean.

I can’t remember what I had to do that was so important it couldn’t wait.

As I sit on the deck, mesmerized by the ocean, I try to remember.

What were those things I thought I couldn’t leave undone?

Perspective is one of the gifts of the sea, I think. 

The first book I brought to our new beach house was Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, the 50th anniversary edition.

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In the first chapter, she wrote, “The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down the faded straw bag, lumpy with books,  clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists, and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even — at least not at first.

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“At first, the tired body takes over completely. As on shipboard, one descends into a deck-chair apathy. One is forced against one’s mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the seashore. Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, and stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.

“And then, some morning in the second week, the mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense –no–but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind…”

“But it must not be sought for or — heaven forbid!– dug for. No, no dredging of the sea bottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.

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“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.”

The bottom line of this blog is that I need to stay longer. A week is barely enough. I need to move into the second, third and fourth week to experience the awakened mind and to receive the sea’s gifts of patience and faith.

But, at least I’ve received the first gift from the ocean — perspective and forgetting home and all the seemingly important things that I thought needed to be done.

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Personal

An Outer Banks Weekend

Doug and I drove to the Outer Banks Friday for a “business meeting” and then turned around and drove home Saturday.

Our business was buying a beach house.

After we picked up the keys, we kept saying, “Did we just buy a beach house?”

I think we shocked ourselves with this purchase.

Carolina Beach Retreat

As I sat in the family room of this new house, looking out at the ocean, I thought about our obsession with the beach.  What made us want to buy a beach house? A good rental history? A good investment? It was more than that.

Just one of the beautiful views

We’re pale, sun-sensitive, burn-and-peel-people.

So why a house at the beach?

I picked up a notebook and started writing answers to that question:

The beach is the great equalizer.

I can’t tell a CEO from a local fisherman. From the crowded aisles of Food Lion,to the sandy beaches, everyone looks the same.

And, it’s more than the sun.

It’s the state of mind, and the restful state of being.

It is the air, the pace, the friendliness, and unpretentiousness.

It’s the “ah” feeling that inspires naps, walks, bike rides, all-you-can-eat shrimp bars, ice-filled cups, and snowcones.

It’s also rainstorms, heat lightning, ocean views, pastel-colored houses, sea grass and mosquitos.

It’s salt, sand, and seafood; music and Adirondack chairs on the deck, and the smell of sunscreen.

It’s pools, hot tubs and outdoor showers.

It’s the sound and rhythm of the waves, seashells, turtle preserves, feral cats, t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.

Kiteboarding, surfing, kites, coolers, books and acoustic guitar music; .

Beach fires, stargazing, sunrises, American flags, deep breaths, yoga classes on the beach.

Leisurely candlelight dinners, lengthy and relaxed conversations.

Games, puzzles, writing, fishermen, Bingo, and jet skis.

Hurricanes, evacuations, popsicles and pizza.

Sunglasses, miniature golf, Orange Blossom Cafe apple uglies.

Laughter, cooking, crafting, and healing

And memories.

We have so many cherished memories from beach trips with friends and with our families.

We want more of those memories.

The beach is a place for creating and cherishing memories with people we love.

Anne Morrow Lindberg wrote in Gift from the Sea, “For life today… is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, and so on. My mind reels in it, What a circus act we … perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily…”

This describes my Washington, D.C. life perfectly.

So why the beach?

Again, I turn to Anne Morrow Lindberg: “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.”

 

Family

A Quiet Ride

When Doug and I were newlyweds, we used to go to dinner and notice how many couples around us were eating together in silence.

We always commented on how sad it seemed that they didn’t have anything to say to each other.

One of the things Doug and I loved about each other when we met was that we could communicate easily about everything.

On our first date, we talked until we noticed we were the only two left in the restaurant.

I’ve noticed lately, however, that there is a lot more silence between us.

On our six-hour trip to the beach over Memorial Day, I fell into my beach trip routine of listening and singing along to my road trip playlist.

We shared some Pop Chips, and Doug sipped on his Diet Coke while I downed my big old water bottle.

We commented on the distance to the next Sonic, where we always stop for drinks with lots of crushed ice.

As we got to the Outer Banks, we chatted about changes since last summer’s hurricane.

We commented on the fishermen, the boats, and the sun sparkling on the water, but mostly, we rode silently, contentedly along.

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I remembered those quiet couples from years ago and wondered whether we misjudged them.

Maybe they didn’t need to talk to each other because the silence between them created a comfortable, relaxed intimacy that didn’t need the constant exchange of words.

I analyzed my quiet moments with Doug and whether we’d run out of things to say to each other, but that wasn’t it at all. Doug and I always have plenty to discuss.

We share the details of our daily events, chat about our daughters and families, and almost always talk about politics, religion, crossword puzzles, and plans for the future.

We also always talk about being grateful.

When we acknowledge something we are particularly grateful for, one of us inevitably says, “You know what I want to say…”

Then we recite in unison, “We are so blessed!”

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We never have awkward silent moments that feel empty or hollow.

Instead, we enjoy a kind of closeness that comes from simply being together.

In fact, sometimes, words can get in the way of those moments.

I love it that we don’t have to talk just to fill the hushed air. We don’t feel the need to banter.

So as we drove to the beach, I relished the pleasant, comfortable, peaceful quietude of just being with him.

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Maybe we should have admired those couples we saw all those years ago instead of pitying them.

Maybe they had something beautiful going on between them that we just didn’t understand yet.