I don’t like the beach. I have several reasons for that:
- Even on the best days, the water’s too cold and the sand is too hot.
- Sand thoroughly permeates everything you take to the beach, which means that you can’t carry food, a camera, shoes, or bodily orifices.
- I’m a poor swimmer, and ocean waves scare me.
- All the decent beaches are crowded, and all the non-crowded beaches are crummy. And I can’t stand crowds.
- I have fair skin, I burn easily, and melanoma runs in my family.
- Those Charles Atlas ads in my childhood comic books still haunt me.
- Walking on sand reminds me of how it feels to run from monsters in a nightmare.
- I just don’t like the beach.
For sheer majesty and awe-inspiring beauty, I prefer mountains. I can stand at the bottom of a mountain and feel an overwhelming sense of age and absolute permanence. I can hike halfway up a mountain and feel a sense of wonderful accomplishment when I look back over the ground I’ve covered. I can hike to the top of a mountain and look out over the land and see more of the earth than I can from anywhere. Nothing about a beach even compares.
But even more, I love plains. I never have a stronger sense of security and well-being than when I’m in a place where I can see ground meeting sky in every direction. In such places, there is a palpable sense that God is in control, all is right with the world, and I can really let loose with an Aerobie.
My wife, however, likes the beach.
This has never been much of a problem, since for most of our marriage the closest beach (on the Gulf of Mexico) was 4 hours away, nasty, and constantly strewn with dead jellyfish. Now, though, we live 15 minutes away from an exceptionally well-maintained beach on the Atlantic ocean and I have difficulty devising daily reasons not to visit it during the summer (the $8 entry fee has been my best friend). I had avoided it successfully for most of the summer, but last Sunday I broke down and took her, paid the $8, and trudged through the sand to where some church friends of ours had staked a spot.
A couple of people had guitars, so we sang some praise songs and told each other how God is working in our individual lives. Our pastor was there, and he said a few words to encourage us. We were able to talk to friends, play catch with a frisbee (which doesn’t fly quite as far as an Aerobie), and enjoy each other’s company.
When we got in the car to leave, my wife had a look of divine contentment on her face, expressed with a beautiful smile. Her smile lights up her eyes, accentuates her cheeks, and melts my heart. As long as I have that, I can do without the mountains or the plains.