June 21, 2009. Palm Coast, Florida
Today marks the longest day of the year, and for us it surely was! We got up before dawn an piled into our rental jeep to head down to the beach and watch the sunrise over the water—a novelty for those us from the west coast, but we were thwarted by low clouds on the eastern horizon. Still, as we staggered out of the house in the pre-dawn (already in the high 70’s), the sky was a deep purple and shapes of houses and trees loomed out of it suddenly as we drove down the road to the Hammock Dunes beach nearby.
The sand is made of crushed clamshells and is multicolored; when we come here on Sunday afternoons to lie in the sun and recharge our solar batteries for another long week of work in on the boat, we never get fine sand stuck to us, which is nice, but we DO leave the beach with hundreds of little shell shards suction-cupped to us, and they are surprisingly hard to dislodge (since we discover them in our hair, on our backs, and other hard-to-reach places hours after we leave the beach).
We were all too tired to be chatty, and the pre-dawn is never a time for idle conversation—pre-dawn is when the world holds its breath like the audience at a concert, waiting for the first notes of the symphony while the conductor stands with hands raised, waiting to bring the whole orchestra into life. I think I understand why, at an intuitive level, so many religions originated with worship of the sun. The moments before it arrives above the horizon are filled with such expectation and faith (that it will, in fact, come up!) that every sunrise becomes a religious experience.
Today, a third member of my crew independently used the phrase “my previous life” to describe their life before they came here. So far away from the things that are familiar, working on something that is REAL and will leave a lasting mark in many lives around the world, many of the problems that seemed so important when we were immersed in them now seem more remote—and more than remote; they seem much less relevant to our lives and we wonder why we worried so deeply or hurt so badly or got so wrapped up in some drama or other. Our perspectives have changed. We are developing more perspective every day on the things that truly do matter—friends, service, honor, hope, determination, and family, which in the absence of our own relatives has been filled with each other. I still can’t get over how quickly we have all bonded, and it makes me think we just might survive long ocean passages as friends!
Sky says the dirtier she gets, the more character she builds—she bruised her leg pretty badly today accidentally stepping into an open hatch in bilge, and later when it was swollen she looked at it and said “Wow, look at that! I’m swelling up with character!” And she is right—our egos, which are enormous just like every other person on earth, have to constantly take a backseat to finding an answer to the many challenges we face from the moment we wake till the time we pass out at night. We are becoming a family…I guess I’m the Old Man around here, though Snoop, a guy here who taught us how to fiberglass (and how to do the greatest dry rub ribs in history) calls Sky ‘Mama Bear’ because she takes care of all us boys.
SO, while we sat in silence and watched the eastern horizon brighten and the sun rise as if behind a veil, I thought about how our lives have already changed since we committed ourselves to this project, and how we will be changed. The fact that every sunrise is different should remind us that every day is different and our experiences today will be different from ALL other days. Every day, we are changed—some days a little, some days a lot, but what we change into is a matter of our perspective and choice, NOT the events of the day. It is ALWAYS our choice. Sometimes we choose wrong, but the day ends, the sun rises again, and we get to choose again.
We stood ankle-deep in the water, the incoming waves made gold by the sun’s warmth struggling through the clouds and bathing our feet in molten metal instead of mere water. On the longest day of the year, we contemplated our new lives (and whether there would be time for a quick nap at home before starting work on the boat….it turned out that alas, there was not) and listened to the whisper of the water meeting the land. It seemed fitting, on the day that the days become shorter again, to remember that life is a finite thing, and can be filled with enormous pain and frustration, but always, ALWAYS the beauty of it all waiting in the wings, just waiting for us to choose to see it. It may be as they say, always darkest before the dawn, but I prefer to remember the unspoken assumption in that statement—that there WILL be a dawn….the sunrise has never failed us yet!
Sing a song up to the sun,
Let your soul take wing.
Run into the face of life,
Dive laughing into the tiny line
Where the rising or setting sun
Kisses the sea, and tosses
His golden coins to all poor beggars