Tuesday, May 20, 2014

living art

We are up before seven on vacation, but nobody is complaining. Daddy and I got them up early- we are the excited children, we are the ones who couldn't wait to get down to the ocean early in the morning. We eat powdered donuts on an old sheet at low tide.

People walk the beach, looking for treasures. Perhaps they are walking slowly through memories.
Meanwhile, little boys eat quickly so they can dig, run, and tease the waves. Daddy and I linger on the old sheet, with coffee and open eyes. The ocean roars, and we sit in comfortable silence. The sea and the sky are blue with a million blues, and I am glad that I brought my watercolors.

But for now, I stay still, marveling at the living artwork made by the hand of God. I watch those precious little boy bodies playing in the surf. They scream when the waves come, and I do not tell them to be quiet. Little legs cannot seem to outrun the ocean; waves grab ankles, and a boy trips, laughing as he spits salt water.

A woman smiles at me through wrinkles, a smile rich with memories and understanding, a smile from a mother to a mother. She keeps walking. She does not tell me to seize the day, to enjoy every moment, and that they grow so quickly. I see her slow steps, her sun-spotted skin, and the slight curve of her back as she walks away. I hear the speech she did not give.

My husband hands me his glasses and runs into the water with the boys. I observe his figure and smile. Yes, I still like watching him play in the water. I remember before kids, when I had to drag him in to play with me; when he was so in love that he let me talk him into swimming in the rain. (Perhaps that old blue bikini was a factor.) Now, my boys drag him, and he flings one over his shoulder.

Fatherhood looks so good on him.

Florida is for romance: romance and babies, and I smile thinking how these things are all tangled together in this life we have been given. The blue bikini has been packed away forever, but I do not grieve. My heart, life, and figure are full. I embrace this season of fullness.*

I towel-dry sandy little boy bodies, and as we pack up, I hand them things to carry. Even the littlest will carry something, and he will insist on doing it by his “OWN self.” Our family is growing up, growing out of things, into other things.

While the boys stop to dig just one more hole, an elderly man tells us about the sea turtles, and low tide, and the best pizza place “just around the corner.” His wife hides in her book, and I wonder if we will be like that someday. I suddenly miss my grandpa.

When my arms no longer carry Mickey Mouse towels and tiny sunglasses, of what will they be full?

Perhaps I'll wear an enormous sun hat, and it will shade my workspace as I write and paint. Perhaps he will have a tan bald head, and he will be reading his 3,000th book on his Kindle. And nobody will be running after seagulls or digging for crabs. And I'll be the only one drinking from my water bottle.

Unless there are grandkids, of course.

“I found a gold doubloon!” my son yells, holding a seashell. “I'm going to use it to buy my very own motorcycle!” He hands me another piece of God's living art, and I almost try to explain how there are things of value that cannot be exchanged for motorcycles... but I just ruffle his hair instead.

“Leave the seashells at the beach, boys.” He drops the “doubloon” and grabs my hand without looking back. I let him drag me through the broken shells, through the sand, and up the stairs towards showers and naps.

I look back at the ocean, but he pulls me on.
He's right, of course.
Carrying today with me will not keep me full tomorrow.

Then, and now, fullness comes from living with hands open before God who gives. To be sure, the sun will still feel good on wrinkled skin, and sand on crooked toes. 

And perhaps, God's living art is even more beautiful through aged eyes.

*(Full disclosure: I deleted a few pictures of myself, but only the ones that were totally exaggerating.)


  1. Beautiful story. Would you ever post any of your watercolors??

    1. I'm thinking about it! Working on a post about my painting kick :) I am no artist, but it seems to me that the process itself is worthy of my time.

  2. Emily, I loved this post. It is very a poetic way of pointing out our priorities as mothers, (and grandmothers). Your lines about the photographs, bathing suit, and your figure are so true. When we look at the children we've been blessed with, a swimsuit figure is made pointless. And your lines about when you get older are so true. I will turn sixty in a few months. Now I'm the one walking down the beach who wears big sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat to protect my eyes from the sun. And you wouldn't know it, but I'm now the woman who looks at mothers with their children and wants to tell them, "What a blessing you have; your motherliness is lovely and makes you beautiful."


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