Fleeting.

The sunsets here in New England have been stunning lately. During the day the sky is a crisp, clear cobalt blue. Then as the sun slips down in the evening it paints everything in shades of pink, orange, and gold. For a few fleeting minutes the whole world from land to sky is on fire with brilliant color. The leaves are gold and blushing. The sky is gold and blushing. And we are gold and blushing standing in the same brilliant light.

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I chase the sun and the light around with my camera trying to capture and tame them in my lens but they’re rebellious and always run ahead of me. The sun and the light are not meant to be captured or tamed, just soaked up and enjoyed instead.

The other day I was at the beach at sunset and the sky was showing off again. I had to catch it. It was too pretty not to hold onto. I was with my brother and his family but I just took off running for the sun and left them without explanation standing on the beach. I held tight to my camera and ran across the sand, crossed the road holding up traffic, down the sidewalk to the end of the houses and out to a clearing where I could get an unobstructed view. But the sun wouldn’t obey. The colors were perfect—and gone before I could rein them in and save them to show you.

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So I walked back up the sidewalks, back across the street, and back through the sand to the water. When I came in view my nephew came running and pulled me along by the arm saying I must see what he’s done. I must see the hole he dug. He was digging for gold, you know, and his work must be reviewed. He ran ahead of me on the beach and I followed his little footprints in the sand.

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I praised the hole he had dug that was now filling with water. And I thought—this moment, these babies, those little footprints in the sand, a tug on my arm to come see what he’s done—all this is just as fleeting and perfect as the ever-changing sun.

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Then & Now

Sometimes it feels like everything has changed. Sometimes you look back and realize nothing has changed at all.

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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We chase the sun across the waves.

We taste the salt water kisses on our lips.

Summer won’t get away from us, not today.

Summer Days and Life Lessons

Earlier this week Darren and I went to the beach with our friends, Victor and Olga. V and O are in love with a beach in Rhode Island that Darren and I had never seen. So we all loaded in our cars and took of to see this spot we’ve heard so much about. A few minutes out from the beach we parked and climbed into Victor’s boat for the rest of the trip out to their spot.

I’m so glad they decided to share this place with us because it’s honestly the prettiest beach front I’ve seen in New England. I was completely mesmerized the whole day. As soon as we were on shore, I was busy walking along the water gathering shells and rocks and I even found a crab claw I plan on terrorizing Darren with.

{Such a happy couple}

{Earthy treasures from the sea}

There was bright green sea weed floating around and lots of the rocks had taken on the same lime green color—so of course I filled my pockets with them to haul back home and scatter around my house. Every time we go to the beach I look for little earthy treasures to take home and decorate with. My living room is filled with mason jars full of sand and shells from all over. There’s also a whole birch tree in my living room, because yes, I drag those indoors too :]

{I drug the tree in the house by myself and cut it in half on the kitchen floor with a hack saw…wahaha}

Darren sometimes forbids me from bringing any more nature indoors and I always smile like I’m listening and fill my pockets anyway. I think he doesn’t mind in the end because he’s always showing off our jars of sea treasure when we have company and telling everyone about the adventures that went along with each bit of nature we’ve brought back home.

Once we unloaded all our stuff from the boat and settled in on the beach, the boys decided to take the boat back out on the ocean exploring. Olga and I opted for staying on the beach with the kids and away from the wild ocean waves—we know too well by now how those boys like to drive the boat like it’s a water rocket.

{The boys}

The kids took off for the sand and waves and were quickly busy digging holes and building sand castles by the sea.

{The kids + Victor digging in the sand}

Victor and Olga are Russian. They have three children; the oldest is in school and speaks English perfectly. Their daughter hasn’t started school yet and only speaks Russian. And then there’s the baby who speaks, well, baby. They also have a little boy from the Ukraine staying with them for the summer and he only speaks Ukrainian. So there were three children playing together prattling off in three different languages and yet they understood each other perfectly. Childhood is simply a language all its own.

{All the world is magic when you are five years old}

Olga and I settled into camping chairs in the sand with our legs and arms stretched out hoping for a kiss from the sun.

Just me and Olga.

Olga scares me a little bit because she’s very pretty and put together. She always wears nice clothes and has her hair done. She even smells good…how ridiculous is that? I always walk away from my time with her feeling like a frump and loser who needs to get her life together. It’s not Olga’s fault I feel this way either. She’s very nice and doesn’t do anything to make me feel bad. It’s my own jealousy and insecurity that leaves me feeling this way and not anything she needs to change. I share this because I knew going into our little beach trip that I wouldn’t have any fun if I let my feelings about O intimidate me. I decided this time I wanted things to be different. I wanted to relax and give O a chance instead of putting her in a little box of perfection she may not herself want to be in.

On the boat ride over to the beach I kept glancing over at her. She looked lovely. Her outfit was cute. Her hair wasn’t attacking her in the wind like mine was. I wanted to push her off the boat. No I didn’t…well, I sort of did :] But I decided I was going to do my best to open up and get to know her better that day. Usually I clam up and try to play it cool so she won’t figure out how not together my life is. But I knew I was being fake and frivolous and it was time to get past fear and insecurity. So after the boys left we started chatting…just our usual small talk at first. But then I started asking her questions and she asked me questions too. I thought I would be miserable trying to talk to her and open up but before I knew it the sun was dipping behind the sandy hills and were wrapping up in sweaters to stay warm. Olga told me about her life. She told me about some of the things that are bothering her and things that aren’t going right. She would stop sometimes, struggling to think of a word in English or how to communicate an idea from Russian to English. She told me I’m the only person she ever really speaks to in English and she feels silly when she can’t think of a word. I couldn’t believe Olga ever felt silly in front of me. I told her I forget words in English too and it’s the only language I speak :]

{Beautiful Olga}

I learned a lot about O that day and I learned a lot about myself too. I learned that as perfect as Olga looks and seems, she is a girl just like me. A girl with a heart that can be broken, feelings that get hurt, and fears that follow her just like me. I learned that I don’t need to try to be like Olga to have my life put together. I just need to be who I am, as imperfect as that may be. If I wear things because Olga wears them or say things because Olga says them, I’m not more like her, I’m just less like me. I cheat myself by thinking imitation will bring me any closer to who I should be. The truth is, Olga and I are very different people. We grew up in different countries and even in America, take part in very different cultures. She is six years older than me and the mother of three children. We are in very different places in life. How can I expect to know and be all that she is when we are so different in the very fibers that make us who we are? I realized that day, as we snacked on fresh fruit and treats from the Russian grocer, that my fears and insecurities are just that—fear and insecurity. There is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing unattainable about Olga; we are just different people. I’m glad I gave O a chance because I left the beach that day with a great sense of peace and confidence. Instead of feeling unattractive and inadequate, I left feeling inspired. Inspired to be the person I’m meant to be. Inspired to learn from the things I admire in Olga, not to merely mimic them. Inspired to grow and change…into myself, not into someone else.

{This is who I am, no one else}

The boys came back with the last rays of light and soon we were all marching off to get ice cream together. We sat on a wall with our ice cream watching the boats bobble on the water. There was a cannon like BOOM and people screamed; I laughed. Laughter is a nervous reaction for me. I have a feeling when the ol’ apocalypse gets here I’ll be laying on the ground giggling while everyone else runs for their lives. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism :] Victor said they do that BOOM to let everyone know it’s sunset. Olga joked about how we should probably know it’s sunset without a cannon going off and we all laughed. Of course she’s funny too…maybe I’ll push her off the boat on the way back home :]

It was a lovely day of sand and sunshine…and a life lesson or two as well. I’m thankful.

We left after dark. The black water looked like pools of ink as we glided over it. I wanted to dip my quill in it and write you a story, this story.


Perspective

I spent Saturday exploring Plymouth, Mass where the Pilgrims first explored this land. In the late afternoon, a storm blew in over the ocean. A fierce wall of slate gray clouds stretched like reaching hands over the face of the water bringing darkness and chill of cold air over everything it touched. I stood by the bay awestruck (and a little scared) by the clouds billowing and changing overhead. There’s no view quite like a storm at sea. You stand by and watch as in slow motion the storm reaches and stretches consuming every sliver of sunshine and blue sky in its path. Huge swaths of rain fall and wave like ribbons. I stand on the bay snapping pictures of the ever-changing sky until the winds blow hard and the drops begin to fall–then it’s a race back to the car before the torrents let loose and all the slate gray from above comes splashing down below.

Today I’m home caught again in the ruckus of a thunderstorm. The rain falls fast and hard as the gray clouds zip by overhead. But today I can’t see the storm–only the rain and the sound of thunder. There’s no panoramic view or way to gain perspective on all that rumbles above. I couldn’t see the storm coming and I don’t know when it will leave.

Isn’t life the same? If only I could stand on the bay and watch life stretch out before me. If only I could see the story beginning to end–dark though it may be and threatening, at least I would know. I would know when to stand in awe snapping pictures of the overwhelming beauty and when to run for cover from the heartache and hurt. But life doesn’t give us warning or panoramic views. Life doesn’t tell us when heartache is coming or when it will leave. We stand in the storm seeing and hearing only the rain and thunder–not the beauty and majesty of the clouds that bring our trouble. I think of the storm at sea, and try to remember that even trouble falls from beauty and brings beauty in its wake. The storm lasts for a season and at times we believe we will be consumed–but we won’t. There is brightness after the rain. Rainbows to bring light, color, and the hope of a promise.

God may come in storm clouds dark, fall on us in trials and pain–but there is beauty in the panorama of it all. If we could stand on the bay and see his plan–see his purpose stretch out in fierce beauty from beginning to end–then we would understand. Then we would be awestruck at his divine plan. We would stand in the falling rain, and though we may be afraid of the storm clouds and thunder overhead, we would see there is a beginning and an end–a purpose stretching with beauty and hope through all the dark clouds and rain drops that beat around us.

Though you stand in the thunderstorm and see no plan. Though your heart is broken and overwhelmed. Know, always know, there is beauty overhead. Know the rain falls from beauty and brings beauty in its wake. Know, always know, there is a plan.

Island Hopping in the Caribbean

Last week Darren and I took off on our first real vacation. We both needed some rest, refreshment, and quiet time together so we decided the beach was just the place to be–a beach as far from our house as possible that is. So, on Sunday we flew to Puerto Rico and from there hopped onto a big fat shaky boat and set sail for the Caribbean. On Monday morning we woke up as the boat was rolling in to the lovely island of St. Thomas.

We bounced off the boat and found a taxi–and by taxi I mean a pickup truck with benches in the bed–and told the driver we wanted to go to a beautiful beach. We ended up at Magen’s Bay–perfectly beautiful with white sand, palm trees, clear water–perfect. We found a little spot to put our stuff and splashed right into the crystal clear water rolling onto shore in turquoise waves.

Darren and I are very white, white people. Darren is fair-skinned with freckles all over and I’m fair-skinned without even freckles for protection. Every single time we go to the beach we end up frying to a crisp and being miserable the rest of the time. So we decided we would outsmart the sun and tan before we left. Tan, tan we did and pretty soon we were both a nice golden brown and very pleased with ourselves. When we got to the beach at St. Thomas we didn’t even bother with sunscreen. We jumped in the water and laid out on the sand soaking up the rays–daring the sun to touch us. The sun is not to be trifled with, kids. My skin started feeling hot. Then it felt too hot. Then it felt like I was on fire. I put my sun hat on, wrapped my beach towel around my shoulders, buried my toes in the sand, did everything I could to escape the sun’s hot angry rays–but it was too late. I dared the sun and the sun won. Apparently our cute little American tans are no match for the equator and by the time we gave in and left the beach we both looked like red sun boiled lobstas. I was fairly certain we would have to be taken back to the boat on stretchers.

{Before the sun ate us}

 We found a taxi back and ended up spending the rest of the day tracking down and putting on aloe vera and vowing to never taunt the sun again.

The next day was spent at sea making our way down to Barbados. So you know what we did? We slept all day. It’s amazing how tired you can be and not even realize it. You go and go and go and keep on getting by until you finally sit–and then it just hits you how completely exhausted you have become. So we slept until we couldn’t sleep anymore and woke up to Barbados. Carefully considering and learning from our experience the day before regarding sun burns, we thought it wise to spend another day at the beach :] So another taxi we got and zipped FAST along the busy, crowded street of Bridgetown until we were dropped off at another even whiter white sand beach.

We noticed big moody clouds rolling in overhead but paid no attention to them. We found a nice spot on the sand, put lots of sunscreen on this time, and relaxed. BAM. The sky opens up and pours all her wrath and furry down on us in a torrential downpour. We snatch up our things and run for the beach house through the pouring rain. The beach house was right next to us but we were still completely soaked before we could get inside. The people laughed at us and said the sun comes after the rain–and they were right, it came back out in a few minutes’ time. The clouds still looked pretty upset though so we chucked out some money for beach chairs and a big sun umbrella to hide under–good thing to, because it rained several more times and we stayed perfectly happy under our big fat umbrella.

Next, the fat shaky boat took us to St. Lucia. We wanted to see the Pitons and more of the island so we decided to take a bus tour. The big bus zipped FAST FAST up the steep mountains, down the hills, around the sharp curves, past pedestrians and vehicles, through the rain, over the slick muddy roads as we held on tight.

We saw banana plantations, fishing villages, a botanical garden and waterfall, the Pitons of course, and the beautiful scenery of the lush green mountains towering all around us. After the wild bus ride we wobbled off onto solid ground momentarily only to climb on board a catamaran for a better view of the coastline. It rained and rained and we huddled inside under the roof trying to stay dry as the boat bounced up and down like a water roller coaster over the fat cheeky waves. It was a lovely day even if it rained and rained.

{Can you see the ocean in his sunglasses?}

 The next day we arrived in St. Kitts and since the sassy sun had made a return, we decided to spend another day on the beach.

The sun was so hot and angry, the only place we could be comfortable was in the water–so the water it was. And you know what, kids? I learned how to swim in the wild blue ocean. Can you believe I never learned how to swim? Well, I didn’t and ever since I moved to New England I’ve been wanting to learn. But the water in New England is sooooo cold I’ve never had the fortitude to do it. But, in the warm Caribbean water with nothing to do but splash around and enjoy the waves? Well, it was the perfect  opportunity so I started flailing about like a baby learning how to walk and Darren patiently showed me what to do–how to kick, how to move my arms, how to breathe, and so on. And you know what? By the end of the day I could get around without sinking. I’m a regular fish now! Okay, that’s a lie. I would probably still drown if my life depended on my swimming skills but it’s a start :]

{Now I’m a fish}

I also held a monkey–that has nothing to do with swimming but I did ;]

The time we spent in the water at St. Kitts was my very favorite part of the trip.  Having Darren teach me how to swim showed me so much about him–his patience, his gentleness, his protective nature (he held onto me tight–so careful of me when I was in water too deep trying to keep myself up). That day really helped me step back from the hustle and bustle of life and just see my husband all over again–see the man who stole my heart and who keeps on stealing it each day in spite of me. I love him.

{Who couldn’t love this kid? He really thought he could steal the boat–everyone cheered him on too}

{Perfect sunset at the end of a perfect day}

On the last day, the fat shaky boat took us to St. Maarten. St. Maarten is divided and owned by two governments–half French owned by France and half Dutch owned by the Netherlands. We wanted to see both sides so we took another horrifying taxi ride over to the French side.

We got out at the open air market and walked around taking in the beauty and culture of the island.

Darren spotted a fortress on the mountain and decided he just had to see it. He looked at me excited, wanting to know if I was ready to climb up there? I looked at him in my long black dress and flip-flops and reminded him of the 400 degree temperature outside. And he wanted to know if I was ready to climb up there? Sooooo, because I love him and because he has big brown eyes, I climbed up that mountain in my long black dress and flip-flops in the 400 degree weather. And you know what? It was worth it. Here’s the view from the top:

 

Darren is not very good at staying out of trouble. He decided to mess with a cannon…

And he got arrested…

And then he got out and took over the land and now it is run by three countries–France, the Netherlands, and the Land of Darren…

And I am his queen–overlooking the land from my fortress above…

After taking over St. Maarten, we decided to spend more time in the water so we took a ferry over to the beach and got thrown about by the wild waves.

When we were all worn out and thoroughly covered in sand, we returned to the fat shaky boat for the ride back home. This beautiful sunset bid us farewell…

Finally, we made it back to Puerto Rico and decided since we had a late flight out, to explore old San Juan a little bit; here’s what we saw:

 And that, kids, is our little trip in a very fat nutshell :]

Hampton Beach in the Spring

The weather here in Massachusetts has been wonderful all winter. The temperatures have been up in the 30s and 40s almost every day and we’ve had hardly any snow–this makes me smile–like this ———-> :]

The only problem with the spring-like weather is that my brain actually thinks it is spring and it’s everything I can do to keep from throwing lunch in a basket and taking off for the beach. Last winter after we had been buried in snow for months, Darren I and decided we had enough and took off for the beach even though it was still freezing out and we weren’t yet out of winter. We went to Hampton Beach in New Hampshire before the beach was really open and had the whole expanse of ocean frontage to our cold crazy selves. Here’s a few pictures of Darren first taking off for the water, touching it and realizing just how cold it really was, then running back with a big grin on his face. I love his expression when he’s coming back from the water–he looks like a little kid all lit up by the excitement of a day at the beach :]

Who says the ocean is just for the warm weather days?

The Pier at Old Orchard Beach

This is a short post but I just wanted to share one of my favorite places in New England–the pier at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.  The pier, or under the pier actually, is the perfect place to escape the sun and the crowd and to sit back and enjoy a good book and the sound of the ocean rolling in. Actually, I was so relaxed last time that my sandals washed out to sea and I had to chase after them like a fool.

Salisbury Beach

Salisbury, Massachusetts

The sun is proud and intense drenching us in its hottest summer rays.

I love the way the water changes colors as it rolls to land—morphing from navy blue in the depths, to green in the rising waves, to the purest white sea-foam as it comes crashing to shore, and finally, brown as it mingles with the sand and is drawn back out to sea.

The waves hollow out pockets in the sand that fill with bubbling water and catch your unsuspecting feet in their grasp. The shallow water pulling over these pockets stirs the sand, causing it to rise in wispy billows like dark storm clouds beneath the waves.

Sometimes I wonder how I could have grown up so far from the ocean (in Missouri, a land-locked state). And then I watch the waves as they billow and roll and somehow it reminds me of home and the vast, sweeping Plains. The waves swell and sigh like the corn and wheat rocking and bowing to the wind and two places so different somehow seem so much the same—vast, boundless, and loud with their silence.

Misquamicut Beach

Westerly, Rhode Island

The ocean rumbles, crashes, swirls, and spins. The waves lap, roll, build until they smash against the shore. This is a place of constant motion, constant churning sound—and yet it is quiet, peaceful. The ocean with its billowing waves sings a lullaby of rest. It breathes it briny breath and kisses my face with saltwater kisses. A tiny bird hops and frolics on the beach in the shadow of the violent crushing waves. A ladybug works on her tan. The water rolls in undulating, ever-changing shades of green then brown before morphing against the sand into perfectly white sea foam.  The ocean is timeless and yet never the same.

Hampton Beach

Hampton, New Hampshire

The dark, water-laden clouds billow above taunting with stray drops of rain. The wind is strong, violent, driving and throwing the sea. The temperature is perfect; the beach is our own. The sky and the sea are the same threatening shade of blue-gray, tossing and reflecting off each other as they make the tempestuous transition into spring.