The air is light, the soul is content and the heart is happy when one departs from worldly concerns to rest awhile on vacation. It could be a serene spot near the bluest ocean, majestic mountain, medieval forest or perhaps a visit to a fabulous foreign city – the delightful adventure is always the same. In my experience, nothing quite compares to the moment when you cease all regular activity and allow your mind and body to fully rest in the beauty of God’s creation. Author Fredric Heidemann said “Beauty is a universal human experience that is impossible to ignore.” As people made in the image of God, we are drawn to an awareness of the transcendent through the beauty of this amazing world.
Growing up, I vividly recall the morning of our family departure for summer vacation on Cape Cod. Our car would be fully packed so we could leave our New Jersey home at the early hour of 3 AM. Dad wanted to be sure to get over the bridge before all the tourists. Even though we lived out of state, he didn’t consider us to be tourists since we were born and raised in Boston. Going back to the Cape every summer was a right of passage for every member of our family and a trip that we all looked forward to, especially since we’d be spending it with our beloved New York cousins. Mom and her sister Barbara spent every summer vacation together which meant that the 3 bedroom/1 bathroom cottage we rented slept 4 adults, 5 girls and 2 boys. We always had other family members join us too, like Mom’s little sister Susie, so the numbers would only climb, which we all loved. The rooms were easily distributed: the parents each got their own room, the girls got one room to share and the boys slept on the living room floor. These were some of the happiest, most joyful days of my young life. There was so much laughter, fun and carefreeness in our little cottage by the sea – we did not want to go home!
Days were spent on the beautiful, sandy Falmouth beaches just a few steps from the cottage. I recall our daily view – the light blue of the summer sky meeting the deeper blue/green of the majestic sea – it was as if we had drawn a picture with our crayon box. The moms made sandwiches and snacks for the kids so we never had to leave the beauty of the beach. In the evening, the Italian sisters made the best dinners including Auntie Barbara’s famous salad which accompanied every meal. Some nights, we went out for ice cream, all twelve of us. We would order the biggest cones we could get, smothered with jimmies! I can still see the brilliant colored jimmies on the ice cream as each kid held it up in the back of Uncle Chet’s station wagon. These were simple times filled with an abundance of beauty and love.
Our parents adored being together. In the evening, the four would occasionally go out to dinner leaving the older boys in charge. (Not a great idea!) The responsible girls made sure everything went well and the parents enjoyed their time alone with wine and cocktails on the beach! We kids explored the beaches and little town of Falmouth. It was like a dream. We didn’t need anything extravagant to be happy – we had everything we needed in each other. The beauty of our surroundings allowed our parents to relax and rest from the hard work of life. God was close to our family during these days as evidenced by the overflow of joy among us. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. The beauty of God’s creation drew all of us together which resulted in a delightful and memorable vacation for all.
Being at the Cape last week with my dad, siblings and their families was a flashback to younger days. We spent the week on beautiful Popponesset Beach, just steps from the ocean. Enjoying many of the same pleasures from days long ago – ice cream stops, bike rides, family dinners and parent happy hours on the beach – it felt like 1979 again. The beauty of our surroundings drew us close together for a week of pure joy. One morning I awoke early and walked the beach alone at sunrise. I realized that basking in the beauty of creation – the beach and sea – allows one to transcend worldly concerns and discover an inner peace which only God provides. I walked off the beach feeling refreshed and ready for another new day. Perhaps my mom experienced this peace too – her life seemed to indicate so. If we all take time to enjoy God’s beauty more often, I think our lives will be better for it.