Vancouver, of course, is a city surrounded by ocean. It's protected water, though, sheltered from the open ocean by Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. It's not the Oregon Coast kind of ocean. Instead, it's a much calmer beast, seemingly surrounded on all sides by mountains.
I can not imagine myself living away from the water. There's something about spending time on the beach that renews me. It's at the ocean that I often feel much closer to God than I do anywhere else.
I grew up no more than a 10 minute walk (usually much less) to four different beaches. First, there was the main beach at Deep Cove. We'd often go there in the summer to swim and year round to just goof around. Even as a child I was struck by the beauty there. I did a painting or a drawing one time in grade 5 or grade 6 of the view from Deep Cove. I loved it. My teacher loved it, too, and asked me if she could keep it. I wish I still had it.
About a five minute walk away from my house was my favourite place to go swimming. It didn't really have a name, I don't think. We called it the secret beach. There was a little path between the back yard of one house and the side yard of another that would take you to a rickety set of wooden stairs. It looked like you were walking through someone's yard to get there. The beach was small - maybe only thirty feet of sand and broken shells worn smooth by the waves - and it was nestled in between the rock retaining walls surrounding the waterfront homes on either side. The best times to go swimming there was when the tide was either way in or way out. That way, we didn't have to step all over the barnacle-covered rocks as we eased our bodies into the cold water. There seemed to be a strip of those nasty barnacles right at the mid-tide level. We'd often come home with tiny cuts all over our feet, but it didn't matter. There was great swimming at the secret beach.
Down at the end of my street, there was a little public dock. Right in front of the dock there was (is!) a small island with a house on it. Sometimes we'd swim to the island when the tide was low. That dock was my haven as a teenager. If ever I was upset and needed to get away, I'd go down there. The early morning or dusk were my favourite times: a mist hung over the water and the light was still grey around me. It was quiet and calm, and every now and then, if you were lucky, you might see a seal pop his head up off in the distance. I would often go there to meet with God.
Over the years, there have been countless encounters between me and the ocean. Snuggling up on the beach on New Year's Day with an old boyfriend... watching the summer sun slip behind the horizon at Birch Bay and remembering how my grandma loved to do the same when she was still alive... watching pods of killer whales swim alongside the boat up in Port McNeil... gathering with hundreds of thousands of people to watch the offshore fireworks competitions in Vancouver every summer... silently paddling from bay to bay in a kayak, watching the shore glide past... going for longs walks with worship music playing on my discman, feeling God's presence with me as I walk... looking out at the forever horizon down on the Oregon Coast or at Long Beach, with the waves crashing in and feeling so small... crouching at the shore to listen to the sound of tiny pebbles rolling over each other as the water eased in and out, in and out...
Most of all, the ocean reminds me of God and his faithfulness. It's steady and unchanging. It's where I often get a better perspective on my life. It's where I can block other things out and just focus on Him. I definitely need to spend more time at the water's edge.