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Growing up in very rural Newfoundland, boats, beaches, and books were a way of life for me, and all three offered an escape of some sort.  Books allowed me to discover worlds and places only limited by my imagination.  Boats were what my grandfather worked from, catching lobster and sometimes cod. Boats were also the only way off the Island that was feasible.  For me, the foreign land of Nova Scotia was only a quick one-hour drive to the ferry and then a mysterious eight-hour ferry ride to the shores of Cape Breton and the wonders that the Mainland held for an impressionable child.

But it was the beaches where true wonder could be found.  Beaches, for me growing up, were places where fishing stages were set up, nets mended, and prices haggled.  There was one beach not far from my family home that I could go to (when my mother was not watching!) and sit and imagine, and just be me.  It was called “Bear Brook.”  We called it “The Beach.”  You walked through a farmer’s field and then down over a clay embankment.  You crossed a little trickle of water on a rickety two-planked bridge and then ran to the rocky shoreline.  You couldn’t see houses or hear any sound except for the tinkling sound of the waves over the rocks as they broke along the beach.  Or, if it was windy, the ocean made a roaring sound as it swelled and rolled.  The smell of the briny ocean is unmatched.

The beach became the place, that as a child, I learned about God.  God wasn’t in a book, or the little white church down the road, but right there at “The Beach.” It was the place I learned to be quiet and listen.  I could feel the Spirit in the wind and the mist of the waves.  I could see the magnificence of the Creator in each whitecap and swirling undertow. It was the place where I knew I was called to serve the God who placed boulders besides pebbles and clay against sand.  The beach became the place where I could speak freely, aloud or silently, and know that THE ONE was always listening.   The beach became the place where I could dance and sing, or search for periwinkles and shells, and know that I was perfect without any expectations.

Now, “The Beach” lives on in my memory and in a small lithograph that hangs in our home.  We don’t go back to Newfoundland much anymore.  When we visited Newfoundland in 2018, I made an attempt to go to “The Beach.”  The clay embankment was too soft to climb down, and the rickety two-planked bridge was gone. I could only look from afar.  But the knowledge I gained of a God who loves without expectation, who creates the seagulls and the seaweed, and who listens to a young girl’s ramblings, is knowledge that moves with me and is heart-knowledge of a God who is always with me.