Photography made available from our private collection.
See reference note at the end of this post.
My husband and I usually celebrate July 4th with a road trip, not only because we enjoy the summer holiday free from his hectic job, but also because it is the anniversary of our engagement. I remember the July 4th when he kept waiting for the perfect moment to ask me to be his wife. We had a picnic beside the lake at a monastery outside Atlanta where Trappist Monks had built their home 40 years earlier.
Enjoying a peaceful holiday as we talked about the future we'd dreamed of sharing, we watched ducks drifting in the currents of the warm lake that summer afternoon. We played a board game similar to Trivial Pursuit while we ate fresh fruit and chicken wings. We were lazy in the summer heat.
Later we sat quietly together inside the Abbey gazing at the architecture and design, aware of the holiness of this place and moment. We walked the grounds near the store where the monks bake and sell their breads and nurture their beautiful bonsai garden. Though neither of us is traditionally religious, we enjoyed experiencing the contemplative atmosphere in which the monks live their lives and the serenity which bathed us in light and love.
In the evening we dined atop a luxury hotel, watching fireworks through the glass walls as the restaurant slowly revolved, giving us views of the city from every direction. Several firework displays around the city dazzled us that night, all seeming to celebrate our love and the future we had moved toward for two and a half years. I went to sleep happier than I had ever been, wrapped in love and promises of our future.
Since that July, our favorite way of celebrating this holiday is to retreat to the central Oregon coast and sleep with the ocean. We find a room which has a private balcony overhanging the sandy beach, a place where high tides lap the rocks and drizzle sand just below our room. We forget tsunami warnings when we climb into the sound of waves as they tumble to shore. We are hypnotized by the sound of the water, the smell of the ocean air, and the flight of the birds outside our room as morning wakes us.
The gulls visit us each day and eat from our hands. At sunset campfires dot the shore beneath our balcony, and we eagerly anticipate the beautiful light display which will soon shimmer in colorful reflection on the wet sand. Many beachcombers bring along their own personal stash of fireworks to the evening’s orchestra of light. They'll give us our own private show of color glittering the evening sky high above the surf.
We drive the coast during the days, exploring familiar areas again, taking in the seascapes with new eyes, always struck with wonder at the magical hand of nature in some detail we never noticed in the past.
We see old trees hanging above the ocean, wondering how many years they have lived on this earth. We notice the sea stacks of rocks and earth positioned far into the surf, open invitations to breakers which pound them with foaming, salty water.
We watch the sea lather the shore where someone wrote a name, see each letter erased bit by bit in rhythmic motion. Birds travel between shore and rocks, some roosting far out on craggy ledges which overhang the sea. We watch them through the binoculars. We study the tides to learn our best chance for uncovering hidden treasures. We won't disturb tidal pools, but we will take home agates and beautiful rocks left in the sand, some washed smoothe; all beautiful. But, mostly we’ll take home memories of days and nights seasoned with love and tranquility, steeped in the comfort of the constant sea. We are already counting the days until we will sleep once again with the ocean – next month we will head to the northern California coast.
One day we will own property on this coast, a place to retreat each season. In spring, summer and fall we will sleep with the door open to the air, to the smells and sounds of the surging water. We'll watch the winter storms and migrating whales in colder months. It will be ours, the place where we can sleep together with the sea.
Enlarge each photograph by clicking on the image.
The photograph inside the Abbey, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, is published
with the kind permission of James Behrens, photographer.
It demonstrates the soft light in the aisle which filters
through the stained glass windows.