My family of four was scouting for the next big wave on a secluded beach on the Pacific Coast. I pointed out a promising swell in the distance that turned out to be a dud. My daughter explained her opinion of what happened “If the waves come too close together, they interfere with each other.” This turned out to be an unlikely affirmation of our family’s travels. Since they were small, we’ve taken them all kinds of places near and far. We seem to always be planning our next trip.
On this vacation, my two girls, balanced on each side of the brink of adolescence, romped and played in the surf. They discovered interesting blobs of goo and long strands of seaweed. They felt the constant breeze against their face, tangling their hair, rushing in their ears. They saw the fog roll in and roll out. They took the obligatory jumping on the beach picture, laughing at the fails and awkward faces. They wrote messages quickly washed away on the waves and built sculptures from driftwood.
As I watched them play, discover and create, I wondered how many hours they had spent studying the ocean’s food chains and ecosystems in school. How many times had they written the names of the earth’s bodies of water on a map or watched nature videos? I’m sure they know a boatload of facts about the ocean but, touching the Pacific was entirely new territory. Because we had a few days to linger, with a free enough itinerary to explore different beaches whose names beckoned us from the highway, they were able to hear the roar of the surf, feel the power of the relentless waves, smell the salty air, and find washed up treasures.
The very first beach we stopped at, fresh off the plane, was known for its sand dollars. Unfortunately, we came up empty. It was another beach, perhaps the fourth, where we found the elusive prize. There on a whim, we stayed even though the fog blocked the sun. Perhaps, because we couldn’t see the end of the beach through the white cloud, our walking slowed. Then we found the first bit of flat, white treasure. Then, a second and a third… countless pieces of these mysterious creatures. Once we learned what to look for, they were everywhere. Slowing down allowed our eyes to notice. I wonder, were they there at the first stop, too? Were we just not looking for the right things in the right places?
My husband and I have chosen to take our children travelling because some things (most, even), are known best through experience. Until you watch the waves, you don’t know that they impact each other, absorbing and building energy in a vast mathematical undulation. Until you have climbed a mountain, you don’t know the height or vastness of the earth. Until you have been in a cave, you do not know complete darkness. Until you have met a redwood, you do not know how old a living thing can be. Until you journey to a place where you don’t know the language, you don’t know the power of communication. We usually travel in a way that allows time for lingering or unexpected adventure. Time is needed to adjust the eye to see new things, to shift the perspective of a mind and body usually spent in one place.
Faith is a bit like this, too, I think. You can read about prayer in a book, but nothing compares to the moments when your mind becomes still and you experience, you feel, the connection between yourself and the Divine. Treasured glimpses of God at work in creation can be found when we slow down, adjusting our eyes to new terrain. Lingering allows time to consider God’s eternal love and blessings, unnoticed in busy routine.
May you be blessed with lingering time this summer; may wonder envelop you as you experience new insights in the everyday. May God’s love wash over you in waves.