Once upon a time, when traveling was a thing that people could do without worrying about inadvertently taking COVID-19 along for the ride, I drove up to Ashland early on a Sunday morning to join my boyfriend and his six-year-old daughter, who had been vacationing on The Big Lake for a couple of days at the tail-end of summer. We met in the parking lot of their hotel, where we loaded our bicycles onto their car and drove up to Bayfield to catch the 11:00 ferry to Madeline Island.
It was a perfect day for a six-year-old or anyone else, for that matter. The sky was clear and very beautifully blue. The air was crisp and just warm enough to make a day on the island as pleasant as could be. We biked over to Big Bay State Park, a location from which my little hand-held two-meter ham radio proved to be more communicatively useful than anyone’s cell phone, by the way. (Luddite technology for the win!) We spent the day building sand castles and assorted other sand shapes, hunting for pretty stones on the beach, befriending a seagull, and splashing in the waves. We stayed a little too long, which meant that the very tired six-year-old of our party almost gave up halfway through our ride back to the dock, a ride that seemed exponentially longer and took exponentially more time than the morning’s ride out to the beach. Although the going was slow, we managed to reach the dock just in time to catch the 5:00 ferry.
Afternoon was fading into evening, bringing the chill of a late-summer’s northern night with it, as our ferry churned away from the dock. Apparently, everyone wanted to get back to the mainland for supper or before the night’s cold became more pronounced on the lake. Because we had been the last people to board this rather full ferry, we weren’t able to snag a seat inside. This was fine with me, as I’m less likely to get seasick in the fresh air than in the stuffiness of the cabin. But it was a bit cold out there on the open deck at the top of the ship. So the three of us huddled together, with the six-year-old sheltered between the two adults. When we asked said six-year-old what her favorite part of the day had been, we fully expected to hear that swimming in the lake had been the best part of her day. She does love to swim.
But no. It was not the swimming that she named as her favorite part of the day. Nor was it the sand sculpting, or the bike riding, or the stone hunting, or the friendly bantering with the seagull. In response to the question, “what was your favorite part of the day?,” she shouted heartily THIS IS! Her papa and I looked at each other in surprise. After all, it was cold on the ferry, we were hungry, the air smelled faintly of oil, and the ride was sort of boring, with the possible exception of our witty commentary about hooking our bike helmets to the arm of the bench on which we were sitting, so that they wouldn’t blow into the lake and become seagull boats.
And yet, this was her favorite part of the day.
My surprise at her response dissipated almost as quickly as it had developed. Of course this moment was her favorite part of the day: why shouldn’t it be? She was snuggled between two people who would keep her safe and warm and loved. What could be better than that?
I often think of that moment, not necessarily for its sweetness, although sweet it certainly was. Usually I think of that moment for the metaphor wrapped up in it. It’s a metaphor of tremendous value to all of the older-than-six-year-olds of the world who find it hard to simply sit in the sheltering embrace of a Creator who loves us. We’re often so busy with our own plans – the building and thinking and finding and traveling and doing – that we forget to stop. To sit. To be. To be embraced by Love. We’ve also perhaps forgotten that the best part of the day usually doesn’t lie in the building and thinking and finding and traveling and doing; rather, the best part of the day lies in the being. And the very best part of the day lies in the being embraced by Love.
May you find time in your day today – and all days – to simply be. And to be embraced by Love.
– Lori Randall