I was on the front porch when you drove by and I waved. You saw my luggage?
It is possible, if you live in our city, to find yourself in the Great Smoky Mountains after an hour drive, or for a little more effort and time, you can sit comfortably in your T-shirt and linen jacket and eat your dinner in a restaurant with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Recently, Her Majesty yearned for the sea, the beautiful sea, so we motored to the beach, which is a wonderful place, for a week. Paradise, actually.
But paradise is temporary; you really don’t want to stay too long.
Your resort neighbors are not the kind of people you want to share a property line with - thus paradise is blissful until about Thursday.
You’re in a town that remodeled itself for tourism and when you look at the boutiques, souvenir shops, and pastel-colored restaurants, you realize nothing here predates 1990. Plastic pirate statues in store entrances look like they were dressed by a 15th century Tommy Hilfiger. You couldn’t throw a fish without hitting a Visa card.
The people around you are in different degrees of relaxation but we know that people are at their best when they are engaged in a quest for something - love, happiness, excellence in golf, Broadway and Park Place, the perfect sandwich - but relaxation makes them dull. We were originally hunters and once we chase down a fleeing gazelle and devour his hindquarters, we immediately get lazy. We throw down our spears, collapse in lounge chairs and slather on sunscreen.
Right now, I’m watching some people around a pool below. The old geezer guys and their geezerettes look frazzled amidst a squealing mob of grandchildren.
Exhausted from never-ending questions (Grandma, what are we doing tomorrow? Grandma, can we rent a movie? Can we have a snack, huh?) they long to sit in a quiet deck chair or enjoy the burbling of a hot tub. The grandpas with their sagging chests sit and sway like walruses, processing cholesterol and digesting krill. I decide I’m not going to walk down and strike up a conversation with them.
Conversation in Statesville during the winter is God related - His existence, His kindness, and His mercy for providing us with summer, but I don’t sense much theology here in paradise, just a large sense of privilege. In winter we talk about God who loves us so much He gave us decongestants. You need faith in order to keep trudging across the frozen tundra and black-iced parking lots.
Our pastor recently spoke of God and the dualism of our faith - people of the same tribe who upon observing behavior of others they do not agree with (political, social, etc.) would call down fire and brimstone on their own brethren.
But another aspect of our faith says God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways, therefore we should walk softly and never assume too much.
When I’m home, I lean toward a warrior view, believing myself to be one of The Chosen Tribe, entrusted with sacred knowledge, but right now, enjoying the beach, eating pecan encrusted grouper, I am sliding into retiree paganism, an old beach bum who desires to dance in the moonlight by the ocean. Also, I am on a quest to make my wife happy until the money runs out, we regain our senses and we head home.
But right now, it’s paradise. I will enjoy my perfectly cooked grouper, watch the tide come in, and lift a glass of sparkling southern iced tea to you.
Readers can write to Joe at Joehudsn@gmail.com and Facebook (View from the Hudson). He is author of “Big Decisions are Best Made with Hot Dogs”.