Make the time for joyful escapes

sea shell

“Today, wave upon wave, memories wash up on the bracken-covered beach. I walk the tide line, picking and choosing, making the worthless precious. Stone, shell, carapace, I put this one and that one into my pocket. What was ignored, passed over, what nobody else wanted, I will place among the curios, discrete, exposed to light’s radiance. See how they glimmer and shine. Closer, come closer, and you will smell the briny smell of time, and sea, and rot. That day, I will recall later, laughing or weeping, brought to my knees once more by holy memory.” 

— Curio, by Elizabeth Spires

I pulled the small box from a low shelf on a rainy Sunday morning, a holiday weekend that will unofficially close out the summer of 2022.

This nondescript box holds various sizes and colors of shells, keepsakes from the beach walks with my daughter and grands as summer waited to open for us.

May was beautiful and brilliant on our favorite vacation destination, making new memories while I found myself reveling in many distant ones. It is a gift to see a beloved little boy and girl enjoying this magical place just as my own children did 30 years earlier.

While their kites flew higher and their sand castles grew bigger, there were echoes of joy in the shadows of memory. 

I had not laid eyes on the ocean until I was 20, mainly because the dairy farm on which I had grown up required our constant presence. My parents had a dream, and building it required loyalty to the hard work of consistency.

The good that came of that is undeniable, and, in actuality, we didn’t know what we were missing. We built skills that carry us still, and no vacation destination could have given that to us. 

But my first walk on a beach, the gusty wind pushing and pulsing from the strength of the tide, made me feel I had missed so much. There was a powerful sense of finding an enormous chapel in that big blue sky, surf and sand.

This was not a commercialized beach, but remote and untouched, with no intrusion of the world. I would return there, solo, many times. Most visits I had the entire place to myself. It was glorious and life-changing for a farm girl from Ohio.

While raising my own children, I tried hard to strike a balance of work and fun. Many summers while they were small, there wasn’t the money for big vacations, so I created little day trips that combined fun wrapped in educational experiences. I will forever be grateful to have had the gift of being present, and hands-on, for my children and many of their friends.

Seasons change, time marches on, children grow and go. While we work to live, I am reminded often that we also need to make time for fun, enlightening, soul-affirming, joyful escapes. The work will be there when we return.

That little box of seashells reminded me.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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