Plum Island—My Sandy Church

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Fishing was one of our favorite pastimes when we lived in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t necessarily ever about catching anything worth eating, but it was just nice to sit along the water with family, no rush, no expectations, just talking and watching the water. Once we moved to New England, the ocean was our source for sitting along the water. By our second summer there, we found the perfect place to sit along the shore and fish—Plum Island.

Plum Island was found by just stumbling around driving up the coast. This was how we found most beautiful and peaceful places that became our favorite spots. It was literally tucked away from the rest of the world. After driving a long, narrow road flanked by marshes and sea grass, you simply would come to a spot where you couldn’t drive anymore. There was just a parking lot overlooking the water. Before the stretch of road that ended at the parking lot, there was a little intersection with a restaurant, some other establishments and homes, and a small bait shop.

We could only go on the occasional Sunday as that was the only day Sean had off work. We would head up the coast in the morning with the poles and some snacks. Then, buy bait at the shop. We learned by our second trip that bug spray was a requirement. Our first trip was spent dodging the largest and meanest looking green-headed flies I had ever seen. They bit and they bit hard and fast without any provocation, leaving large welts on our arms and legs. The spray at the bait shop put an end to the attacks from the little devils.

Plum Island wasn’t like other beaches and spots along the Massachusetts coast in the summer. There were hardly any people. It was mainly a fishing spot, although a walk up the beach led to an inlet where no one ever was. We would carry our gear, chairs, blankets, food, and drinks down through the parking lot and out into the sand, past drift wood, and the occasional group of fellow fishermen. We would set up a little village area of our own. Time would stop once we got settled. Sean would get the kids’ poles rigged and I would get comfortable with a book, a journal, or just myself. The entire day would drift by as the water lapped up towards our spot. The kids never got bored, whiny, or ever asked when we could leave. There was silence, sea gulls, the sun, and a breeze. There were no devices at that time (2002), no longing to be in front of a screen of any kind, and no rush to get anywhere else ever. If fishing wore out its welcome with Alyssa, she and I would walk around the bend in the shore where no one fished. We would go in the salty water or hunt for shells and rocks. There were always plenty of shells to gather. They were little gifts from God sprinkled for us to find and treasure. I made sure to bring a bag with me on every walk because we never knew what we would come across. The waves were gentle there, almost embracing us. This was nice when the kids were toddlers and didn’t want to get slammed around like we all loved to do at the beach as they grew older. The weather was always perfect, breezy but not chilly, sunny but not sweltering. The silence was what I remember most, except for laughs and shrieks when someone caught a fish. It was Heaven.

The days would wear on and we would eventually need to pack up and leave, but it never seemed like anyone really wanted to go. I would look over at the houses in the distance, the ones on stilts safe from storms, and wonder if they feel that way every day, if they just lingered around and never realized an entire day had passed in silence and peace? While I’m sure they must’ve had day jobs and some were just summer escapes for people in the city, there was never a rush. It never looked as if anyone ever had anywhere they needed to be. It was as if we were in another world until we drove past the bait shop, further down the long narrow road, past endless salt marshes, over the bridge and back to the highway. Then the world would start again, on full-speed, with cars buzzing, noises blaring, and we would be back to our neighborhood in the middle of an urban area. Yet an hour before, we had been suspended in time, in silence, with soft sand, and clean shells and sea glass.

While I loved our life in the middle of so much chaos and the entire things-to-do-places-to-be lifestyle that came with our location, age, kids, jobs, and daily life at the time, there was something magical, almost holy about spending a Sunday sitting in the sand, watching the sun move from one end of the earth to the other. There was something mystical about watching my little family before me, safe, sound, and healthy, enjoying a small, beautiful corner of the earth with no interruptions or discontent. It was church-like in its simplicity, reverence, and importance to my soul. It was a true spiritual sanctuary and inspired as much reflection and introspect as sitting in any pew at any church on a Sunday morning would. While other beaches and family adventures have filled my heart and soul with joy and anticipation of returning to certain spots someday, Plum Island is where peace and solitude rest with me. It is where that inner voice and spiritual simplicity can guide and help settle the mind. It is where God can be found in the glint of sea glass. It is where the devil can be found in the form of monstrous green-headed flies whose bite can make anyone swear and take the lord’s name in vain. If you ever stumble upon Plum Island, remember to take a minute to reflect on your blessings and the beauty of the earth given to us all. Also remember to protect your body and soul with the bug spray sold at the bait shop.

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