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Day 72 - Beach Days, Temples & Personal Religion.

My children and I go to the beach every Sunday...well, most Sundays. It is our ritual, our time together. Sometimes there are dogs, extra kids and adult friends of mine that tag along. We set up our chairs and then the children make a beeline for the water. They still run toward it like they were five, not calm and collected, indifferent teens that is the personality that possesses them more frequently. They run toward it with abandon and freedom from self-consciousness. It is my most favorite part of the whole day.

Once they return from the water, wet and cold, we walk the beach. From one end to the other. Sometimes they bitch about this. Sometimes they don’t want to go at all. Sometimes they want to go alone. Most often however, we walk the beach together. Discussing topics from sex and dating to dogs and cars and future dreams. We walk and talk. When the talking gets to be too much, they often become possessed again by a youthful spirit and climb rocks or search tidal pools for sea life. There is yelling and excitement whenever something new is discovered.

Sometimes they talk of fears, issues with their friends, challenges they face or desires they have. It is the time I am most present for them. It is the time that I listen without agenda or distraction. I am there, all of me. They are there too which makes this ritual the best thing we do each week for our relationship. It is a time that is committed to us in a life that is often fraught with time constraints, exhaustion and technological distractions.

We see each other there on the sand in a most present way. Familiar yet new every week. I see them change in body, mind and spirit. I see our lives being shaped and altered as the weeks pass on. I see their bodies morph from childhood to adulthood, being currently caught in the middle which is adolescence.

Most Sundays I want to stay there forever. I want to never leave. Or at least come back everyday. To make this one day a week somehow a part of our everyday. It doesn’t happen of course, but I want it nonetheless. The connection between us all so strong and vibrant. My selfish desire to hold onto them for life.

This is not all Sundays though. There are days where they fight. Days where one of them storms off in a sullen tantrum. Times when they are preoccupied with the friends or dogs. Sometimes they walk with each other leaving me as distant observer. While painful, I enjoy the ostracization, I can view them in their current form with a little more perspective.

I always think about the lives that lay before them. I remember being their age and walking the beaches of Panama. So much of my life stretched out before me. So sure that my life would be grand and meaningful. So many plans and dreams. I hope beyond all hope they will one day walk the beaches of some beautiful place with their children and find the peace and contentment that I do on these most precious Sundays.

I say that the beach on Sundays is my church. I mean that. It is holy to me. This time with my kids, the dogs, friends. It is a time where I forget all the other stuff that bleeds my life of joy and the ability to be present. It is as if the sand beneath my feet provides the most stable footing despite its constant shifting.

We did our last Sunday together in our current familial configuration. My son will be in Texas this coming Sunday with his sister. She shall return the following Sunday, but he will not. We walked the beach yesterday hand in hand, my head on his shoulder and his on mine for part of the walk. None of us talking about what our future was becoming. I felt joy in the moment tinged with the coming sadness. I soaked up the feeling as if the feeling could be lodged permanently within my chest. I leaned into the pain and the loss while savoring the present joy, the bittersweetness a lasting taste on my palate.

While the dogs ran the beach and we walked behind them, I was struck by how much these Sundays have become our church. Time filled with worship of things we do not understand and are unable to explain. We participate in the ritual. We honor the commitment. We wear specific clothing that is befitting to the location. We marvel at the temple that houses us and our beliefs. The door open wide enough for all to enter regardless of prejudice or belief. We revere this most sacred place for the time it gives us to replenish and revitalize our spirits. It is the time we give each week to the worship of each other, family and the ability to be present.

Next Sunday I will walk the beach alone. I will write in the sand and watch the waves wash whatever I need to let go of away. I will offer up my sadness and loss to the powers that be to be magically turned into healing. I will cry salty tears and allow them to fall into the ocean. Somehow returning them to where they belong. I will smile at the pleasant memories that will surely cross my mind. I will embrace myself however I find myself next Sunday. I will honor the time spent, love shared and joy experienced. Before I leave, I will let go and allow what is to come next to come. I will make space for it and welcome it in. To all others walking the beach, I will look like anyone else but to a more intent observer I will be honoring my birthright of holding on and letting go. I will walk the fine line between remembering and forgetting. I will be grateful for it all as I walk in the temple of the beach.

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