“Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude.” ~ Louie Schwartzberg.
I am neither a sun-worshiper nor a frequent beach-goer. As a child I have two sets of memories of going to the beach. In my early years in the UK, beach meant a cold and usually rainy campsite within walking distance of a beach. It had its own beauty, there were mountains in the distance, and huge jagged outcrops of rocks on which we would climb and yell ‘I’m the King of the Castle, get down you dirty rascal!’ Somehow to be Queen wasn’t that appealing. The sea itself was bitterly cold – even in the summer. I have a memory of pretending to swim (I would stay in the shallow water and walk my hands along the sea bed, legs out kicking behind me) and begging my father to be allowed to get out. We would emerge blue, bristling with goose-bumps, teeth chattering, bones chattering! And be greeted by my mother with a blanket and a cup of soup.
Jamaica on the other hand, is of course a Caribbean island. After we moved there, trips to the beach were another story. First the ride to get there. It was probably no more than 45 miles from our home to the north coast, but the two lane, winding pot-holed road climbed up over the backbone of Jamaica and down the other side. If you were stuck behind a slow moving bus or truck there might not be a good place to overtake for several miles. And of course as a driver new to the environment, my father was not going to take any chances. I don’t recall how long it would have taken, but with a car full of teenage and younger children, you can imagine how long it felt!
The first time dipping your foot into the Caribbean is an amazing feeling that I still remember. The water was warm, like bath water! What a shock! No one had to stand on the shore making sure you stayed in and got your exercise! This was bliss! But I soon learned that with the blessing of the Caribbean Sea comes the curse of the tropical sun – the sun screen we used in those days wasn’t the overproof block that we have today. I paid the price with sun burn, an unattractive shade of lobster red that was very uncomfortable, and over the next few days went through the blistering and peeling stages, teaching me that the sun was not my friend.
In those days we had not yet heard about the association of sun exposure with skin cancer, so once that connection was made, I had a whole new reason to stay out of the sun whenever possible! I now happen to live just a few miles from the beach. In the first few months I would drive out in the early morning and walk/jog along the boardwalk in the early morning, before the sun came up. But that was in the winter months. I soon realized that in South Florida, even early morning can be hot and humid. And the cost of parking worked out to be more expensive than a monthly air-conditioned gym fee, and I changed my routine.
Last weekend I went to the beach on an overcast day. There was a strong breeze, and I sat for a while on the sand, staring at the mesmerizing lull of the waves rolling in and out, in and out. I watched the pelicans sleekly gliding above the water, then suddenly diving in for their prey. I had forgotten that it is a restorative place, a reminder that nothing stays the same and yet everything stays the same. That life continues despite the madness of humankind. That mother nature finds ways to survive our ignorance and shortsightedness.
I once heard a suggested exercise. Imagine that at the beginning of each day you had only the things you had expressed gratitude for the previous day. What would you have? Most of us were raised to have manners, we say please and thank you automatically. But are we really thankful for all that we have? We are quick to complain to anyone who will listen about our laundry list of problems. And to be honest there are many who do have seriously complicated lives; sick relatives, troubled teenagers, all sorts of challenges that many of us can only imagine. But most of us take much of what we have for granted.
One of the biggest gifts of social media is the ability to get glimpses and reminders of the beauty of our natural world. Friends share photos when they travel; lovers of sunrises and sunsets share the beauty they behold; you can belong to groups that let you climb mountains with the mountain climbers; spot birds with the bird watchers; appreciate the artistic ability of others. To be genuinely grateful for all that we have begins with an appreciation of the ability to see, to use all of our senses to be present in our world. And it requires that we even be grateful for the bad, for that is the contrast that reminds us how good we really have it.
This Friday morning I hope you have nuff to appreciate. Even as we ponder with ever-growing concern the statements and actions of our leaders, we still have many good people who are working hard for change and sanity, and for this we are grateful. I thank all of those who share their world with me, both virtually and in person. I appreciate those who make me do things I may not really want to do, I almost always am happy that I did (like going to the beach!) This message this morning is to me, a reminder that health, family, friends, love, these things are not to be taken for granted. I appreciate them all.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!