I had been “in country” for 5 days and the Sunshine State had yet to live up to its name. The weather ran the gamut from cloudy to drizzly to pouring down cats and dogs. There was no time left to hope Mother Nature would come through for me – it was Saturday morning and I would be wheels-up in four, short hours. I grabbed my dad’s car keys, left my parents sleeping and headed for the Atlantic Ocean, 10 minutes away.
The resentment I felt towards the fickle sunshine gods melted away as soon as my bare feet hit the sand. So what if I had to wear a sweatshirt with my shorts? At least I was wearing shorts, a fashion decision that would have resulted in frostbite from the thighs down in my home state of Illinois. The temperature was only in the 60s, the salt water soaked my shorts and the sand scrubbed the fake tan right off my legs. I was as happy as a clam.
A hot cup of good coffee warmed me from the inside out as I walked in the surf. When empty, that same cup became a carrying case for the shells and pieces of coral I plucked from the surging tide. I gazed out at the limitless horizon and for one, brief moment; the sun peaked through the clouds. It shone down on me like a benediction. I only had an hour on the beach before I had to head back to pack, but it was enough to put a shining cap on my trip.
Fast-forward 24 hours.
Even though I looked like a Nordic mummy in the scarf I had wrapped around my face and neck, the bitter wind found its way through the folds of cloth to slap my cheeks red. The harsh sound of my own breathing reverberated through the echo chamber that was the deep hood of my ski jacket.
I trudged down the dirt road from our house the ¼ of a mile it took to reach a favorite and well-known destination, the banks of the Illinois River. I stifled my own, loud breathing, as I looked over the water and for a moment the entire world was enveloped in silence. I was reminded of a favorite quote that hangs in my mother-in-law’s home:
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
I’d gone from the banks of the Atlantic Ocean to the banks of the Illinois River in one, short day. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but the joy of walking and the beauty of the water soothed and exhilarated me in both places.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t rather have the 70 degrees, however.