Reflections on the water

The perfect spot on the beach.
The perfect spot on the beach.

At fifteen I wrote a poem about the beach that hangs framed in my Dad’s bedroom.

This is the place I want to live. To run fast and free beside the sea. To be forever the best I can be.
And I would love for you to come with me.
To look at the heavens, dark and far, reflected in the water,
and count the stars…

It’s our first summer vacation getaway and we came to New Smyrna Beach. School just ended Friday and we loaded up the car. Surfboard? Check. Bathing suits? Check. Cooler? Check. Not much else needed. We rented a little townhouse that allows dogs. It looked great in pictures. But when we walked in, I actually gasped.

It’s spectacular. This is what people who love the beach and architecture imagine as the perfect beach retreat.

The deck alone is worth the rental fee. Big and deep, wrapping around the ocean-facing rear of the house, creating a secluded, romantic retreat nestled into the dunes.

Pictures can’t do it justice. Four adirondack chairs face the water with an enormous umbrella offering shade. Just behind them is another seating area with a big comfy sofa and more chairs. This is the place to hang out all day. There’s a gas grill and an outdoor shower surrounded by lush sea grape, pampas grass and wildflowers. Wildflowers!

Wow. Just wow.

Oh, and the interior is beautiful too. The walls and ceilings are covered in Pecky Cypress stained the color of driftwood. There’s a loft with two beds that H has claimed, laying out all her books. We’ve hardly seen her in three days.

All this and we were able to bring our two dogs, no questions asked. Life is sometimes perfect.

And then…not so perfect.

The raw intensity of the ocean where it meets the land can be serene…or ferocious.

On Sunday afternoon helicopters and rescue boats interrupted the bucolic scene searching for a 17-year-old boy who had been swimming with friends and then was suddenly gone. We watched them go up and down the beach looking for him. I thought about his mother. I prayed.

I sat on our beautiful deck with the late afternoon sunlight shimmering on the waves, watching rescue crews look for that boy underneath those waves for hours.

…This is the place I want to die.
To watch my soul take wings and fly.

I don’t remember the rest of the poem. His body washed up on shore this morning. For his mom, the world has stopped. Yet on this same beach, people are swimming. Kids are giggling. Surfers are running headlong into the waves.

I made my children breakfast and quietly gave thanks that it was not my tragedy. Not my son. I hugged him a long time until he squirmed free, laughing.

I set aside the horror of it all for a moment to try and renew my vow to savor every second of this day, this life, this beautiful spot on earth.

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