Years ago, a priest I admired and liked quite firmly insisted that things like knocking on wood or walking under ladders were superstitions and had no place in the life of a Christian who believes in God. And I’ve tried hard to hold to that kind of faith. I don’t exactly go out of my way to walk under ladders, but then, I don’t freak when a black cat crosses my path. I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane for the first time on Friday the thirteenth and got married without something old or borrowed about my person.
And so, I firmly told myself, just because my air handler/heat pump has finally given up the ghost, long past the life expectancy noted in my pre-purchase home inspection, mind you, and my brand new iPad also died, way before its time, there was no reason to believe that misfortune always comes in threes. But still... there was that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Now I’m wondering which of the events since is to be considered the other shoe!
As I write this, my AC/heat guy is outside replacing my air handling system that had been limping along for the past two years with temporary fixes with a brand new, up to date (no Freon here) system. And Best Buy promptly replaced the iPad that failed to take a charge. But yesterday, I wrote out a check for the Fireman’s fund and noted the admonition to replace the batteries in my smoke detectors. I dug through my bin of batteries and found the right size, only to discover the smoke detector in my bedroom was broken. Quite definitely broken since a piece fell out when the battery was removed. A piece I have no idea how or where to put back. So, off I went to the hardware store, and I now have a new, state of the art, smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Was that number three?
Or is it the door to the air handler that literally fell off when opened today? The door is a heavy one, made of pressed wood and all the screws pulled right clean out. Terry assures me he’ll fix it, but I’m wondering if it shouldn’t be replaced. Time will tell on that one.
Or perhaps it’s the fact that mildew was found in the duct. According to Terry’s son, this often happens when a system is failing and tries so hard to function that it sucks moisture up into the ducts where it does not belong. I’m told that an ultraviolet light will fix this. Of course, they don’t have such a light with them and Terry will have to return another day to install that to the tune of another couple hundred bucks.
So, here’s the big question of the day... Since 5 things have failed this week, does this mean there’s still one more thing out there waiting to pounce? And where’s my friend Ken when I need someone to reassure me that misfortune comes in threes is just a superstition?
I’m fascinated by the sea. I love it in all its many moods. I love the exhilaration of blowing wind and stinging spray. I love the feel of waves splashing about my feet. I love the romance of moonlight on the water and the endless shades of blue through all the seasons. I love to swim in it, or sail on it. I love watching the endless breaking of waves. Most of all, I love living here where it’s part of my life every day.
What is it about the sea that draws me so inexorably? I didn’t grow up living by the sea, although my grandparents enjoyed it enough to take me to spend many days at the beach when I was a child. For awhile my father owned a sailboat that I don’t remember much about sailing in, but after a hurricane sank her, my dad spent months restoring her while my brother and I played along the shore for unfettered hours of endless adventure. But it’s not as though the sea was in my blood. I didn’t descend from fishermen or mariners who earned their livelihood from the sea. I didn’t grow up falling asleep with the rote of the sea as my lullaby, and we lived too far away for the smell of salt to be a part of my daily life.
So why has a life lived at the edge of the sea become so much a part of me now? I’ve friends who retired to Arizona, yet I am appalled by the idea. True there is the Colorado River among many others and the magnificent Grand Canyon, but nowhere does that state touch the sea. When I joined the Peace Corps and they told me I was headed to the South Pacific, my first reaction was Awesome! 173 Islands scattered over hundreds of square miles of ocean, how far away can the beach be from wherever I end up?
Before the Peace Corps, and before moving to my current home, I had a lovely house on the shores of St John’s Bay in Maine for twenty years. Now I live on a barrier island in St Augustine, Florida. My kids love to tease me about the endless photos I feel compelled to take of the sun turning the ocean to pink or fiery red and orange, or the moon sending a river of glittering silver across the inky nighttime surface of the sea. The endless waves fascinate me and I’ve taken hundreds of photos of those, too. Sometimes crashing boldly against the shore sending up massive plumes of spray and at other times eddying quietly about the rocks or running up the beach in smooth sheets of glistening water.
But it can’t be just the astonishing and ever changing beauty of the ocean in its many moods because God’s world it full of heart-stopping beauty. Snow capped mountains and babbling streams. Magnifient fall foliage. Gardens in full bloom. Towering redwoods, sweet-smelling frangipani and lilacs in spring. The Aurora Borealis. Sunrises and sunsets. A sparkling fairyland left behind after a winter storm of freezing rain. Or a rainbow stretched gloriously above a rain-drenched world. A newborn baby or an intricate spider’s web. The beauty of God’s works is boundless, from large to small.
So if it’s not the beauty, then why do I love the sea so? Why do I put up with stainless steel that rusts so I can leave my doors and windows open to let the sound and smell of the ocean come inside? What lures me out to walk on the beach every day with my dog? Why am I compelled to take my shoes off and wade in the waves? Why do I feel this incredible sense of belonging and welcome whenever I return from being somewhere not by the sea? Maybe I’ll never know the answer to those questions, but I do know wherever I travel, I always find myself seeking out the sea, looking for the nearest beach, collecting little stones and shells, sea-treasures from all over the world. And I’ve told my kids when my life is done, don’t hold a wake, but have a beach party to remember and celebrate my life instead. Toss my ashes into the sea so some small part of me will live in it forever.