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Beverly Beckham

Taking time to smell the roses, hear the surf

I’m home from vacation and trying to hold on to the good times. Trying not to let the getting home, flight canceled, next flight delayed, airport packed, nowhere to sit, noise, suddenly so much noise, announcements, shrill voices paging stand-bys and missing passengers, the cacophony of it take away from having been there.

Being there was quiet. Being there was a time out, getting away from it all. But being present, too. Being there was balm. Fuel. Peace.

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I was on the West Coast, but the East Coast is the same, miles and miles of sand and sea and sky. Mountains cast the same spell. And the desert and the plains and any place where you look around and inhale and smile.

Every day, I walked along a beach, taking the same path, making the same turns, watching the gulls soar and the waves crash and the sun turn the ocean blue and gray and green. I looked up at the clouds and down at the sand and around at a world that is always there, that is beautiful, but that I seldom see because I am too busy doing, running, racing.

Slow down, the waves chanted. And I did. I sat and breathed in the cool, salty air and watched black dogs chase frisbees, and small children chase one another, and a family build a totem from a pile of rocks, and two young women jogging.

I did this every morning for five days and every day was the same, but different, too. Different dogs, different children playing, different families, different joggers, different shades of light. The waves made soft applause one day, roared like a distant train the next. They slapped the sand. They were sibilant. No two days were alike.

And I thought there are no reruns in life. No repeats. Every day that you don’t pay attention, you miss things.

I’ve learned this lesson before. I learned it last year and 10 years before and 10 years before that. But I forget it every time. I see tiny flowers growing through cracks in a giant boulder, thriving in slivers of sand, and I snap pictures and I think, “I have done this before.” I have stood in awe of other intrepid flowers growing out of rock and cement. I have taken their pictures and vowed not to forget the miracle that life is.

But I always do.

I take pictures every day of birds perched on a fence, birds perched on a wire. I snap away, photographing grass and stones and the arch of trees and ground cover that is all yellow flowers, of rabbits and deer and a small stucco house I love. I take hundreds of pictures. And I take notes. And I think, “I have really taken notice. I have really paid attention. This time I will remember.”

But I won’t. God bedazzles and I forget. There could be just one kind of yellow flower, one yellow rose, standard size, growing all over the world. And it would be enough. It would feed the soul.

But God is not a one-trick pony. There are thousands of yellow flowers and blues and pinks and reds and oranges and purples. And so many shades of blues and pinks and reds and oranges and purples. And trees and birds and fish and animals and the sun and the moon and a sky lit up by stars and it goes on and on, and on, this never-ending parade of beauty.

And it’s all around us. Down the street. Across the block. In a garden. At the shore. Birds. Flowers. Nature.

Slow down, the waves chanted. Notice. And I did. For five days.

Beverly Beckham can be reached at beverlybeckham@me.com.
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