Cyndi and I spent three nights last week in the Foghorn Harbor Inn in Marina Del Ray, California. It was a fun place to stay; it felt more like a mom-and-pop bed-and-breakfast than a big-time hotel. They even kept a basket full of free snacks in the lobby. Whenever we travel, Cyndi only books hotels that serve free breakfast, and sure enough this hotel fit her guidelines. We enjoyed our bagels, muffins, and yogurt each morning on the patio with nice view of the sweeping beach. Since we were tucked into a marina and removed from the ocean, the water was smooth and quiet. As was the beach itself. It was sandy and flat and smooth, with no rocks. I’ll admit I haven’t seen a lot of beaches, but this was the most stationary beach/water combination I’ve seen. It was named Mother’s Beach.
It was beautiful, and it was peaceful. But it was almost too quiet. I missed the sound of waves against sand and rocks. It wasn’t until I heard the silence that I understood how important the wave music was to my beach experience.
And so I wondered if it was possible for life to be too peaceful. Too static. Can there be real beauty without the energy of movement?
Maybe that’s the wrong question. Of course there can be beauty … as in the beauty of a snow-covered field. But the energy of movement is more important than I had given credit. I missed its presence.
Here is what I wrote about this during a summer vacation near the beaches of Kauai in 2012: The rhythm of the waves crashing into the beach was hypnotic - a cliché’, but true - every wave sounded different from those before and after, yet they all sounded just alike. The earth’s meditative breathing. Add the breeze blowing through palm trees and the result was captivating and peaceful. It’s easy to see how someone could get trapped all day listening to this song.
For fifty years I spent too much of my conscious thought trying to smooth the ripples in my life, trying to find equilibrium. I just knew there had to be an arrangement of career, ministry, relationships, and personal life that looked like Mother’s Beach. Calm, peaceful, and functional.
But while looking at this beach during breakfast I had to admit the water was not inviting me in. And that’s beside the fact that California ocean water is always too cold, even in summer, and this was November. But the very flatness of the water, well, who wants to simply stand in perfectly calm ocean water? Not me. I need waves for entertainment.
However, if I were here with my granddaughter I might see the beach differently. Kids probably love to be in this water, and their parents probably love it even more. (Maybe that’s why they named it Mother’s Beach … mothers love it.) There are no giant waves to knock kids over and pull them under. No rocks to avoid. What could be better than jumping and splashing all day?
Which makes me wonder, again, about my desire for choppier water and noisy waves. Where does that come from? Have I always wanted that, or is it something I’ve grown in to once I stopped being a kid?
My friend Clark introduced me to Edward Abbey’s poem, Benedicto, which begins with this line: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” Maybe that’s what I was missing … crooked dangerous views.
I don’t know. I’ve already pushed my observations of beaches further than I should. I’m not enough of a beach guy to have a legitimate opinion. I prefer mountains.
But I know this. I no longer ask God for a calm and peaceful life, the way I did when I was younger. My prayer nowadays is for a life that will pull me toward God, and for the courage and resources to live through the disturbances. I want a life full of energy.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32