Heading south from the Edmonds Marine Beach Park, I set out on a hike into a driving rain this week. I was off on a journey, in the worst weather imaginable, to be in nature and have some time to reflect. I hiked over logs, near railroad tracks, and scrambled over rocks. The tide was high so I didn’t have much beach to work with. There was no one in the Off Leash Dog Area and as I continued south towards Richmond Beach I had the beach to myself.
It took a while to slow my brain down, to shut off email and to not check my phone. I get out of practice with how to really enjoy a hike…you have to tell your brain to stop doing and learn to just be for a while. This is difficult for me.
But then the strangest thing happened as I allowed myself to be present to nature around me. Up high an eagle screeched out its call and flew off. A seagull was curious about my presence and he kept squawking and flying near me. The wind and the rain beat against me… and it was fantastic. I stood on a log for a long time listening the sound of the sea pound on the rocks below. I stopped to notice the most beautiful purple snail shell as it was getting tussled around by the crashing waves. I was enjoying the smallness and minutia of the present so well I literally almost stepped onto a seal. In a flash and flurry he bounded into the water and I’m fairly confident we both scared the daylights out of each other.
Minute by minute I was leaving the city behind and I was all here, on this marine beach, alone with just my thoughts and the Lord. It was an Exodus journey of sorts, praying my way into God’s presence again and mindful of where God has led me thus far and all the next steps that lay before me.
I came around a smell patch of rocks and descended back down to the sandy beach. I wasn’t paying great attention as I was watching boats travel up Puget Sound into a strong gale wind. Ouch- a thorn in the skin of my leg pierced through my jeans. What in the world is this stupid thorn bush doing on the beach? Why does something bad always have to be in a good spot? Why do good things have to end so easily? I started to get negative when all of a sudden I looked down. And there, on the rock below me, was the biggest agate rock I have ever seen in my entire life. If you don’t know, you can read here, agates are a rare stone that have a translucent quality about them. We have found agates on Hood Canal, but agates on the canal are the size of an adult tooth. But this agate I found on my hike was a monster- and its presence under the sticker bushes was not to be missed. Sometimes it is in slowing down through the hard things that the best treasures are found. I wrote a short poem about the agate here:
The biggest agate I ever found
Was while trapped in brambles and sticker bushes
On a beach hike in Edmonds.
Why sticker bushes along a beach path?
Why sticker bushes at all?
Trapped- stuck- thorns pierce my jeans
And hold me there a prisoner.
All my life
On sunny days
But here- amidst brambles
In fear and pain and frustration
Jewels are found.
The best parts in life
In the toughest terrain.
The best treasures always
Emerge in the tussle.
At the end of almost an hour hiking on the water, once my hands were numb and my clothes were soaked through, I said goodbye to Mother Nature and Father God that was in that place. Like Jacob after he wrestles the angel in the book of Genesis, I felt God meet me on that beach. I felt a nearness to Him and a newness from Him that I haven’t felt in a while. It was a wonderful hour with God. In the book of Genesis, Jacob leaves a pile of stones to mark God’s presence in the place where he encounters the Lord.
For me on the beach, on a wet miserable day, on a beach south of Edmonds, I left a marker to the Lord. Surely the Lord is in this place. I made a marker there to celebrate Him.