Delights: July 1 to July 7

July 2:  We could hear the screams. 

Kevin had suggested a picnic tonight and we found a sandy slice of heaven in West Ocean City, Maryland. From our rocky perch (hoping for picnic tables, we hadn’t brought blankets), we looked out over Assawoman Bay, the Ocean City Inlet (which separates Ocean City from Assateague Island) and the amusement pier at the tip of Ocean City. 

Next to us, fishers cast lines into the bay, while across the water we watched as the lights came on: two Ferris wheels in candy colors, a Tilt-a-Whirl on steroids that almost left its moorings to frisbee riders into the sky, and a double-loop roller coaster with a ski-lift momentum builder. Kevin noticed a bungee jump behind an old-time hotel; one rider boinged higher than the poles. 

There was a lot of screaming over there. On our side of the bay, Kevin and I just smiled.

A view across Assawoman Bay to Ocean City. My camera caught the supercharged Tilt-a-Whirl spinning on its edge (left).

July 3: Sitting on my sunny patio today, I browsed an old issue of the Sunday New York Times and found a charming personal travel essay by Noa Avishag Schnall, tucked in the front section, of all places, where seriousness abounds. Entitled A Woman Alone in Oman: Three Weeks Along the Arabian Coast, the essay catalogued Schnall’s travels, perils (including a beach-marooned SUV) and, as she put it, “generous cultural exchanges.”

That’s the part I enjoyed the most. True, I appreciated imagining Wadi Darbat waterfalls, stately dromedaries and beautiful beaches. But I loved her heart-infused adventuring: saying “yes” to an ocean picnic with a man she’d just met; saying “yes” to a group of young men who, seeing her hiking nearby, invited her to share their mountain picnic; encouraging teenage girls who wanted to practice their English; camping alone on the beach. 

As a woman of Jewish Yemeni heritage, she said her Western dress, uncovered hair and “vaguely familiar features” drew giggles from the girls and jokes from the boys. And one new friendship rescued her: When her SUV got stuck in the sand, she phoned a man she’d met a few days earlier; his friends towed her free. 

As I anticipate a do-nothing beach holiday, I think about Nate’s distinction between travel and vacation. I don’t think I’ll ever spend three weeks alone in Oman. But I can be welcoming of strangers and I can allow them to welcome me. Radical risk-taking generosity. Now that’s a foreign country we all could visit.

Bonus: Speaking of heart, I hope you enjoy these three beautiful portraits from blogger Nes Felicio Photography taken on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

Bethany Beach sunshine, 2019. That’s where I’m heading this week….

July 4: The beach practically bubbled with people. Grandparents wrangled their grandchildren, gaggles of young people held cameras aloft, a mom tucked her little boy into her lap, and a teenage girl dragged a slumping teenage boy (her brother? her boyfriend?) past me. We were all there at 5:35 am to see the sunrise. 

A poppy of molten pink began to bloom from a violet bed. As it rose, the sky turned salmon and the sun flamed so brightly I had to look away. The people — scattered in ones and twos and sixes along the shore line — were reverent (or giddy).

As the sun slipped its last tie to the horizon, the teenage boy turned to the girl and kissed her. And, as I walked away, I heard the little boy turn to his mom and say “we did it.” 

Morning sunshine and staircases along the Bethany Beach boardwalk.

Bonus: After the sunrise, I strolled down the boardwalk to my usual bench for my usual decaf coffee and donut. Every year, my family ventures to Bethany Beach, Delaware, to enjoy a week-long church “Family Camp.” Two blocks from the ocean, the camp offers air conditioned rooms, three meals a day and dozens of people we’ve befriended over the years. 

Soon after dawn very morning, I go for a walk to admire the gardens, houses and boardwalk views of this tiny town. And I eat a wee breakfast before breakfast. This morning, I arrived at my bench especially early. When the little cafe opened its boardwalk window at last, I greeted the proprietor. “I can’t remember,” he said when he saw me. “Large decaf or medium?” We laughed, I answered, and eventually I  settled back on my sunny bench to grab bliss with both hands. 

Then it hit me: I hadn’t seen the owner since 2019. Everything had changed, and yet, in that instant, time had collapsed and nothing had changed. I returned to the window to express my gratitude and wonder. He emerged from the kitchen to chat and to salute our funny little friendship. He asked, “You’ll be here all week, right?” Right. I smiled and then I turned away, tears stinging my eyes. I think I’ll eat a lot of chocolate-glazed donuts this week. 

Today’s spectacular Bethany Beach fireworks display eclipsed any attempt at brevity and eluded my camera. So I’ll say Happy Independence Day with bunting and flowers instead.

July 5: I arrived at Bethany Beach — that heaven of sunrises, gentle waves and hours of uninterrupted reading — without my book bag. Although Jeremiah would arrive shortly with rescue in hand, I had an evening, a donut and a sunny morning bench in between. So, naturally, I went to the independent bookstore near the boardwalk (that was inevitable anyway) and came out with A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles.

Over the years, my friends and family had flung enthusiasms at me (“You’ll LOVE this book!”), but I had managed to dodge them all. And now (and I don’t think it’s the decaf, donut and sunshine) I am reading every word with an uninterrupted smile. Kindness spills out of the book’s samovars and gentle wit seasons the vodka. (Bolsheviks climbing the Bolshoi steps dressed like the cast of La Boheme?) And it echoes a church camp theme: focusing on who’s here, rather than who’s not; what’s present rather than what’s lost. The book is delicious — and salubrious. When I start flinging enthusiasms at you, don’t duck.

Another Laurie Anderson painting, made for the Hirshhorn exhibit I attended last week.
The Gentleman in Moscow would agree.

July 6: During my early morning stroll through town I paused at a store display of beach bags and swim suits. As I wandered past the window, still gazing intently, I spied a knee, a pink shirt and a woman sitting inside the window applying final touches. She smiled at me. I’ll buy that!

Bonus: After this morning’s lollipop sunrise sweetened the sky, I returned to the boardwalk with a clutch of litter in my hand. At the trash bin I met another woman who, having just stooped to pluck an errant napkin, deposited her trophy too. We walked together a bit, agreeing that beauty deserves affection. More than an hour later, I sat with my book and coffee facing the boardwalk. During last night’s rain, a napkin had glued itself to the boards right in front of me; I’d grab it soon enough. A person paused in my shadow. It was the same woman. She smiled and pointed: “I assume you’ll get that one?”

Bethany Beach welcomes visitors with this perfect block-long garden. The bunting decorates the fence that surrounds the public playground, basketball court and our church camp grounds.

July 7: Forge. Hammer. Punch. Draft. Vinegar. Nouns, yes, but also the very necessary verbs throwing sparks in the pop-up smithy on the grounds of our church camp this week. Do you want an iron bottle opener with decorative piercings in the handle? Those verbs, right through descaling with vinegar, will get you there. Do you want to understand the physics of the hammer and anvil? The cow dung theory of blacksmithing will explain it all. Do you want to marvel at the skilled young blacksmith who, at church camp nearly twenty years ago, graciously played ping pong with a middle-aged mom not his own? Well, step under the canopy and let the years flatten like a blacksmith’s bellows; a little puff of the Holy Spirit might tickle your nose with wonder and gratitude, but absolutely not tears. (Ha.)

Bonus: The “cow dung theory of blacksmithing”? Slam a baseball bat into cow dung and observe the trench. Drop a flat rock into cow dung and observe the splatter. Drop a bowling ball into cow dung and observe the hollow and rim. Apparently, iron, anvil and hammer act the same way. But a little less smelly. 

Our blacksmith’s anvil glows under its orange canopy.

History Bonus: Bethany Beach was founded in 1901 by members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as a church retreat. The first building in town was the tabernacle, an octagonal assembly hall and place of worship. (Its image still graces the Bethany Beach town seal.) Early travelers reached Bethany Beach via a canal spur to the Assawoman Canal (connecting Indian River Bay to the north and Assawoman Bay to the south). Despite a massive 1962 hurricane that destroyed the Tabernacle (and that, incidentally, spared Maryland’s Assateague Island — and ponies — from Ocean City-like development), several brown-shingled cottages remain from the early days. 

Still known as “the quiet resort,” Bethany Beach is 1 square mile in size, with a single commercial street (named after 19th century President James A. Garfield) that’s just two blocks long. “Wasn’t it nice,” Jeremiah said to me this week, “to be able to let us explore by ourselves when we were little? And have other families look after us at camp?” Indeed. And it’s still awfully nice. Nowadays, though, it means other families treating my children to a beer!

The original Bethany Beach tabernacle, built in 1901 and destroyed by hurricane in 1962.

Readers, to receive notifications by email each time I make a post, just scroll all the way down this page (next to the “word cloud”), look to the left and click on the black button that says “Join Me!” And if you think a friend might enjoy these, please share the Delight!

If you’d like to browse my past essays, please consult the “word cloud” featured at the very bottom of this post. Find a theme or two that interests you and sift through the sands. Or learn a bit more about my Blog by visiting my Welcome page. You’ll also see links to my four published essays. I’m glad you’re here!

6 thoughts on “Delights: July 1 to July 7

  1. Oh my – so many wonderful things this week! Bethany Beach looks glorious and what a great idea to start the 4th July by watching the sunrise. Thanks for bringing a bit of sunshine on this very wet and wintery Friday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it! That’s another one of the delights of having blogging friends in different hemispheres: your summer blogs certainly cheered me up in dismal winter! Bethany Beach is indeed a magical place; I can’t wait until next year (and I did need a full day to recover from all that sun and socializing!)


  2. Ryan, Anne M - (anneryan) July 8, 2022 — 5:05 pm

    Loved your blog this week and really enjoyed link to essay by woman traveling in Oman. I would never make trip like hers alone there , but loved experiencing it vicariously! Love, anne

    Get Outlook for Android ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Anne. Thanks for your note! I’m so glad you (too) enjoyed that essay by the woman traveling alone in Oman. I hope some of her adventuring rubs off on me! Love, Carol Ann


  3. Seems like you’re having a wonderful break, reviving the spirits while simultaneously grazing on chocolate-glazed donuts (or doughnuts, as we would write here. Strange isn’t it, how our two nations speak the same language but just can’t agree on how to spell it 🙂). Enjoy!

    Your observations on Noa Avishag Schnall’s essay are a potent reminder that most people in most places – regardless of culture, ethnicity or religion – are fundamentally decent. It’s a message that needs reinforcing at a time when so many politicians and so much of media spend their days promoting a different and more divisive narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it: “Grazing on chocolate-glazed doughnuts” (I do like that spelling). It was indeed a sociable (exhausting) week.

      And your wisdom about Schnall’s essay inspires and reassures me. Like you, I believe people are fundamentally decent; sometimes we just need to give them (and ourselves) the chance to be our better selves. In her travels, Schnall cultivated openness and a willingness to freely rely on others.

      My husband says I rely an awful lot on grace; I believe it’s out there for the taking — mostly generated by other people — if we open our arms to it!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close