I’m writing sprawled out on my bed wearing ear plugs, slippers, and a shabby, mix-matched outfit I grabbed from my dark closet early this morning. My husband woke me at 6am to go out for coffee, a favorite weekend treat we do once in a while when I can remove myself from the soft-sheet comfort of my bed. There’s something exiting sneaking out at dawn, just me and my husband, like two giddy, mischievous teenagers playing hooky.
What a beautiful sunrise, orange neon streaks lit the smokey, sapphire sky.
I crawled back into bed after returning, after my teenager who had just returned from a sleepover said, “mom, what are you wearing? It looks pretty awful!”
He’s the kind of kid that tells me I look nice, or “I like your outfit”. I couldn’t wait to cozy back up into bed to write this morning, in my awful outfit. I slipped on my dark green fluffy slippers that didn’t match either. Writing this blog is like heading to a monastery. It’s my church, too, right now.
We live next to a public park, and because there’s a special event going on, I’m blocking out a man’s annoying and very loud voice shouting through the megaphone. Also, my guys just turned on the television to watch Sunday football. I’m craving solitude and silence.
I’ve been writing a grant for a month now for a project. It’s like writing a dissertation requiring rigorous mental athletics. I need brain yoga today, stretching wide spaces between my synapses. I watched the debates this week, feeling depressed for days until I reminded myself of Jesus who overcame the world. We all need to find sacred spaces in the toil and madness, carving mini-monasteries into the very fabric of our lives. This means shutting off phones, stopping social media, putting to-do lists aside, taking deep breaths, sinking deep into prayer and taking long walks in those beautiful patches of God’s glorious earth — on beaches, mountain trails, desert pathways, and quiet moonlit streets.
Yesterday we did a long mile hike through a wooded nature trail leading to a 3.5 mile stretch of secluded beach, a surfers gem. Taking a deep breath, the salty air lifted our work weary spirits. My husband bounced ahead like Tigger, I, like Pooh, trudged along at a slow pace behind. I yearned to feel God beneath my skin. When we reached the beach, sinking deep in damp shoreline sand, we realized it was much easier to step in the footsteps of those who went before us — probably the photographer or the two fishermen ahead. A half a mile further down, surfers clad in black wetsuits carrying long and short boards entered the beach from secret trails, joining other surfers clumped like beached seals on the sand waiting for water space. Off-shore, surfers performed spectacular aquatic acrobatics, enjoying choice swells. Diamonds shined all over the ocean’s surface. Silence embraced crashing waves and the sounds of squashing sand beneath my feet.
Making our way further down the beach, stronger now from ocean breezes filling our lungs and pumping through muscles, we found a secret trail at the edge of the sand, wrapping its way back to our car. Thankfully, it was still a long walk back, since I didn’t want this sanctuary adventure to end. Along the trail we met three mini, tow-head, quintessential California surfer boys with their dad heading for the surf. They made my heart soar, these little adorable creatures in tiny black wetsuits who could be on the cover of Surfer’s Magazine.
I decided if we had brought sleeping bags, I’d find a quiet cove ahead in the local campground, right on the edge of a natural reserve and wetland habitat, and never leave. We could fish for food, take morning beach walks barefoot, live in God’s country, and learn to surf. Maybe those tiny surfers could teach us everything they know under the grand cathedral where, in God, “we live, and move, and have our being”.
My favorite poem by Wendell Berry comes to mind.
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.