I’m in Maine this week along the southern coast in a beach house my parents rent each year for an all-family vacation. If you went to an East Coast summer camp, you would definitely recognize the place. It’s all pine boards inside with slanty-floors. The bedrooms have peaked roofs and the deck sort of hangs off the back of the house. There’s an outdoor shower with the usual spiders and a clothesline strung out over the dune grass and beach roses that make up the lawn. The beach is a stone’s throw from the front steps and we can bike into town to the general store/café where the raspberry lime rickies are not to be missed.
Today it’s raining. For most, this would be a downer, but I love a good rainy day in the middle of a beach vacation. It lets us play card games, do puzzles, or find a nook and read a book while listening to the gentle fall of rain. Or, the heavens open, the thunder rolls and we can appreciate the power of a good storm. Maine’s thunderstorms rival Texas in strength, but without that state’s ‘big sky’ so you can’t see them rolling in from a distance. They shake the earth just the same. It’s the kind of storm to remind you of your humble place in the grand scheme of things.
For most of my life I’ve lived within a few miles of some stretch of the Atlantic Ocean. Where I call home these days is in the Great Marsh which stretches along the Northern coast of Massachusetts. Think of salt marshes, mud flats, sandy beaches and inlets with rivers and streams all draining into the sea. It’s all tidal as well. When big storms blow and coincide with an astronomical high tide, the roads wash out. Nature has a larger footprint here than in the average suburb. I’m grateful that I get to live in an area with this kind of beauty. It’s a pricey place to live, like anywhere on the coast, but when I drive by the sun setting over the harbor on the way to the grocery store I’m reminded of what a privilege it is to live in such beauty.
The kids are less grateful. When we rented a vacation home in Florida a few years ago you’d have thought they’d died and gone to heaven. They had their own rooms for once and the house had two living rooms with huge TVs and a pool. They didn’t mind that it was in a development with houses that looked exactly the same – it had a game room! They kept asking why we couldn’t live in a house like that in Massachusetts. I tried to explain to them the realities of the real estate market. They were nonplussed.
I’m not worried about their lack of appreciation. At their age I was camping in the woods of Maine and later, working as a camp counselor not far from where I’m staying now. I didn’t appreciate the natural world around me, I took it for granted. It wasn’t until I traveled some that I realized how lucky I was both for getting to see the world and for growing up in a beautiful place. The world is full of beauty like the countryside of England, Krakow, Poland, the forest and hills around Hot Springs, Arkansas, the Hill Country of Texas, Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. These places all took my breath away, but I wouldn’t trade them for this slanty-shanty on the shore. Somehow this place is in my blood. As much as I love the sunny beach, there’s something special about the rainy days with family just comfortably existing around each other. There’s a peace and rest to be found here that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It’s uniquely wonderful. I hope it rains all day.