When the world feels like it’s pressing in
The mid-morning sun illuminated the mist that blanketed Lake Huron, 45 minutes and a world away. We trudged across the cool sand, supplies and kids and stress in tow, until we reached the perfect spot beside a towering oak-like tree. The kids flung off their shoes and over-clothes; my friend and I retrieved them, shook off the sand and folded them neatly. I pushed in the beach umbrella to protect my once fair and freckle-free skin.
We organized everything as though we were staying on the beach for a week, rather than an afternoon, then donned our SPF 50 and chatted quietly as we watched the kids bury each other and collect treasure-stones and make birthday cakes of sand and sticks.
We had intended to watch, to just sit and observe and guard, but the sun climbed high and did its work well. Even from beneath my beach umbrella, I knew it was serious today.
My friend lowered her shades. “We gonna do this?”
Wait. You mean? You mean, take off my bathing suit cover? You mean, offend the sensibilities of our fellow beach-goers with my…(what’s the opposite of sun-kissed) skin? You mean…
“Get up. I’m hot.”
I got up. Like a child entering a new classroom in a new school, I glanced around wide-eyed as I readied myself. How many years had it been since I had flung off my over-clothes and raced down to the water?
Arm in arm, we braved the now-sizzling grains beneath our feet as we crept to the shore. On Lake Huron, the shore is where the sand ends and the rocks begin. Pebbles first, then time-smoothed, water-slicked stones line the floor. Water shoes are recommended; we had our feet. I suggested turning back, but even I knew it was too darn hot for that.
Our toes hit the water, and something shifted. That unmistakable, jarring cold roused the child inside me. We’re going swimming! A smile swept across, and we entered to our ankles. By the time the water hit our knees, these two middle-aged moms laughed and shrieked and begged the kids not to splash us as we pressed on, slipping on rocks and braving the rising, breathtaking cold.
I squeezed my eyes shut and my friend cheered me on as I ripped off the proverbial Band-aid and dove in. Soon, we were neck-deep and giggling. Our kids, all bemused and slightly envious, looked on as we congratulated each other for braving far more than the cold.
I turned away from the shore and, from this vantage point, the incoming tide created the sensation that the entire Great Lake was about to fall on us. The water, the waves, were above us – a feeling both fascinating and foreboding.
Isn’t that just like life? We stand in the Great Lake of our lives, and everything feels like it’s pressing in. The trouble is, when we focus on only the Heavy Things, we forget what it feels to be light. But that hot afternoon, for the first time in forever, I remembered. I remembered that sometimes all we need is a quiet morning away with a good friend. I remembered the little girl sleeping within. I remembered how an icy splash washes away everything Heavy.
I remembered that, when the world gets relentless, we can always go down to the water.
Photo via Visualhunt.com