Monthly Archives: January 2016

Winter Visit to the Seacoast

It wasn’t a day for basking in the sun, splashing in the waves, or building sand castles. It was a day for buttoning one’s coat tight, putting up one’s hood, pulling on gloves, walking a wide hard beach in the wind, then huddling over coffee in a quaint little shop. A winter visit to the seacoast. We loved every minute of it!

I can never grow tired of watching the waves curling, spraying, rushing to shore, always chased by more and more waves thundering their way in. Reflections of the sky gleam from the wet smooth sand, then momentarily dull before another wave splashes the canvas wet again. The colors in winter are often subdued, yet oh, so rich–lavender, pink, coral, green, and grays that change in seconds to blue. Sand pipers rush to glean what they can from each wave’s harvest.

 

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I often fall behind Charles as we walk because I love to study reflections, sea shells, and little scurrying creatures while he very much likes to walk briskly and go as far as he can. Yet, sometimes, too, we walk together toward some distant boardwalk until one of us reminds the other that we have just as far to walk back as we’ve been already. When you’re facing a blustery wind, it’s a pleasure to turn around and feel it battling your back instead, actually propelling you to your destination.

Recently, at St. Augustine Beach, we walked to the end of a nice wide fishermen’s wharf late in the afternoon. I had my camera with me that time and enjoyed trying to get a perfect shot of an old gnarled man using crackers to entice a flock of tiny birds to arrange themselves around his camera. He drew steadily on a pipe as he patiently set and reset the box of crackers spilling its contents beside the camera on the wide railing. I wanted a picture of his profile with that pipe in his mouth but I never got the shot I wanted. After all, I didn’t want to disturb the picture he was trying to take! But later I was able to take my favorite picture of the day: a fledgling bird huddling on the railing seeming to say, “Go ahead and stare. My feathers are the finest and I know it.”

 

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The temperature was in the 30’s with the wind blowing. Yet I looked from the wharf up the beach where white-foamed breakers rolled in, and there were three or four people in the water. I wasn’t close enough to tell whether or not they had wet suits on, or even whether they were children or adults. We commented to each other that they must be Canadians. There we were shivering even in all our coats and they were swimming! Another incongruent scene was that of a cluster of birthday bright balloons drifting out to sea.

One day we climbed the St. Augustine 130-year-old lighthouse and enjoyed a spectacular view. It was sunny that day and we could see over the tops of historic buildings out to the bay where boats clustered in toward shore, then far on out to the deep blue of the sea. We watched the lighthouse Light with its “thousands” of prisms slowly turning. It still sends its saving gleam every night nineteen miles across the water, even though it’s no longer needed by sailors who have modern security signals. These days the lighthouse keeper doesn’t have to haul thirty pounds of fuel up those steps as keepers of years ago did. The 219 steps up spiral staircases have to be negotiated all the way down as well! At my somewhat “sedate” 73 years, I didn’t even think I’d make it all the way up but once there, I had no choice but to come down. I made it just fine and Charles did not have to call an ambulance when I arrived at the bottom! We were both intimidated by the number of people getting their daily exercise by going up and down the steps time and time again. I think one man was working on his tenth climb of the afternoon!

 

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Eating seafood by the shore is so delightful, especially when you’re with your favorite person in the whole world. We like quiet corners best or a window with a view of the sea. But one time we were in a recommended restaurant across the street from the beach. It was a lively, loud place but the food was delicious, succulent shrimp and crisp fried grouper. The noise level was so high we couldn’t talk without leaning towards each other over our dinner! But there was something very exciting about the energy and enthusiasm in the place. The description “rocking” really applied to that restaurant. Another night we ate in a very romantic restaurant in old downtown St. Augustine, “the Columbia,” a Spanish restaurant. There we enjoyed, not only the gourmet food, but the elegant china, silverware, perfectly white tented napkins, and a waiter solicitous to our every desire.

What is my favorite part of visiting the seashore in winter? Perhaps going to sleep with the sound of the ocean in my ears as we did at Ormond Beach. Or walking and watching the changing sky and sea. I enjoy seeing a seashore totally smooth as if iced, like a cake. But then it’s also fun to see footprints appear in the sand. Or what about the beach when it’s as ripply as corrugated cardboard? Dunes with their own ecology systems are fascinating, too, the scraggly little trees and sea oats dipping in the breeze. The taste of salty sea air, the smell of the death and life of the ocean, old soggy driftwood hailing from who knows where, the squawk of a seagull…Coming in out of the wind on a very cold day and wrapping one’s fingers around a hot cup of coffee–that may be the very best!

The memory of the crashing waves always rushing to shore is in my mind even now. And I’m reminded again of our eternal God Who made them, Who keeps them forever going, and will reign forever and ever, even when He chooses to stop the breakers and begin a new heaven and new earth.

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Mizpah to you in 2016!

We had black eyed peas (seasoned with chicken broth) on New Year’s Day, along with cabbage, smoked pork chops, rice, and cornbread. To make the cabbage more interesting, we adhered to our tradition of slipping a dime into the pot for some lucky person to find. Adults in my family know I’m going to put that dime in the cabbage. What they didn’t know was that this time, Charles placed a gold dollar in the cabbage. The gold dollar was welcomed by my granddaughter Amanda who, by the way, really loves steamed cabbage so it was no chore to eat a lot of it and feel the clink of that coin on her plate! Traditionally, these foods bring you peace from the peas, riches from the rice, joy from the “jowl” (this time chops), and just plain fun eating it all as a family.

Of course all that luck stuff is a game. We rely on the power of our living Lord, which is sure and immeasurable, and, year by year, constant. Jacob, in Genesis 31:49 gave us a word I like to pass along.”And Mizpah, for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” Far better than luck–a contract between relatives and blessed by the Lord!

Jacob had every reason to believe that his conniving uncle Laban might indeed wish him harm when he, Jacob, decided after twenty years to leave his wealthy uncle’s “ranch.” Laban had already tricked him into working seven years only to receive the wrong daughter as his bride, seven more to receive his beloved Rachel, then six more to receive his own herd. Of course Jacob had done his own trickery in animal husbandry, not to mention his trickery as a very young man when he stole his own brother’s birthright. To read more of these fascinating stories, open your Bible to the book of Genesis and soak in the mystery and intrigue, and to taste the wonder of God’s power revealed through faulty man.

So Jacob and Laban stood over a heap of rocks which served as witness to their promise to each other. “Mizpah” was the word sealing their mutual understanding that “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”

My Dad used to sign his letters to his “away” children with that Hebrew word “Miszpah,” meaning “God watch over you while we’re absent one from another.” Dad died when I was sixteen several years before I was an “away” child and I’ve known for years that I never received one of those letters, though I was there when he dictated them to Mamma, and that word did sink in.

Recently, while going through a box of correspondence, I came across a letter to me from my Dad. What a treasure! At the time of my Dad’s writing the letter, I was on a lengthy visit with my sister Jackie in Maryland. Now, so many years later, sitting in my attic, tears came to my eyes as I read this short but tender letter from my father signed by his shaky hand after his trademark “Mizpah.” “God watch over you while we are absent one from another.” I was more thrilled at the second receipt of the letter than I had been at the first. My Dad had actually sent me a “Mizpah.”

It’s such a good word, Mizpah. Wouldn’t it be a good one to apply when seeing your kids off to school (Aw, Mom!), saying goodby to an old friend (What’s that again?), or even kissing your spouse goodby in the mornings (Should I check you for a fever?)??? Maybe, seriously, you could Mizpah your family this very day. Past the surprise and curiosity might be a new appre-citation of your word skills–and your devotion.

To you, my friend, Mizpah, in 2016! Regardless of how well the black-eyed peas bring peace or the rice brings riches–Mizpah!

My Prayer:
God, I pray You will watch over our families who are separated one from another, that You will bless each member, and make them into blessings for Your name’s sake. Amen.

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