December 4, 2009

Coast Stories

True confession time: Disneyland was not the highlight of my recent trip to Southern California. It wasn't the construction at California Adventure that made my mouth fall open. It was the beach, or I should say, the beaches that captured my attention, my heart, my thoughts.
Admittedly, I am an Orange County snob. There is not a single beach in Los Angeles County that compares to the beauty found in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Capistrano or Dana Point. And please, don't get me going about San Diego- it's absolutely gorgeous, too. Los Angeles does have it charms, however- more on that later as well.

As I had two and a half days to myself, I started the morning by sleeping in and then heading down to Peet's Coffee for my morning java. I sat by the fountain in this little plaza by Fashion Island, sipping my brew, reading the paper, and thinking about the day ahead.
This was to be a driving day, and I'd stop along the way as the spirit moved me. Jumped into the car and turned left onto Pacific Coast Highway. Driving all the way down to Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, the beauty of the endless stream of bright red bougainvillea contrasted with the gorgeous sky and deep blue waters. There were many moments I wished I were the passenger instead of the driver. Although I missed the company of my wife, it was really a treat to quietly drive and just stare at the seascape I grew up knowing and loving.
After a couple hours at Mission San Juan Capistrano, (photos to come in another post), I stopped in Dana Point for a short little nap on the beach. What a treat to feel the warm sand, hear the ocean waves, and bake in the 80 degree sun of late October. It is an odd thing to say, but I always hear God speak to me in the sound of the waves. The beach is my preferred perfect place to rest, to pray and to focus on the majesty of God. It is more rejuvenating to me than just about anything else I can think of.

After an hour or so, it was time to move on, so I headed north. Eventually, I could feel the calming of my spirit and the gift of quiet. It's impact was undeniable. Things seemed right in my world.
This was my first true vacation since February, a short trip to San Antonio for my Dad's 70th birthday aside. It had been a busy work year for me. Between the planning for three big service projects, including my participation in a two week service trip to Asia, and my heavier than normal work load, I needed this rest. I was tired but not discouraged. Yet, it had been a full, satisfying but very tiring year.
Next stop was Laguna. I had planned to just walk the beach, but once I walked on to the sand and into the water, I decided I had to go in. I quickly tore off my shirt, dropped by sandals and camera. Diving in straight away, the briskness of the water was refreshing, its salty taste brought me back to my youth. The sun instantly began warming my body. This was why I loved the ocean- and this was what always seemed to be my siren's song.
More time passed as I watched families on the beach. The squeals of little kids experiencing the surf was a treat to hear and a riot to observe. The combination of apprehension, a bit of fear and sheer delight of the unknown brought a smile to my face, and I couldn't help giggling a bit inside.

After enough time, I hopped back in the car and took off for Huntington beach. There were more adventures ahead that day. Those hours before me of quiet, rest, sun, surf, and sand were just what I needed to regroup, pour my heart out to my God, and be encouraged. Soon enough I would be back in Colorado and all would be a memory- but what grand ones they would be!

(Photos copyright Mark Taft.)

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