Monday, September 22, 2008

Heading north to Virginia

Time for a quick post...

It's been lovely doing very little for a week here at Topsail Island, North Carolina. I did spend time at the beach, although less than you might suppose. I am one of those people who quickly sizzles in the sun--I get the highest "factor" sun goop and layer it on with a trowel. Laugh if you like, but if I don't put it on like frosting on a cake, I burn. My "tan" is a slightly dirtier shade of pale. Okay, so here's the thing: I go to the beach, I have to put on all that goop (at 6-2 and well-fed, I have a lot of real estate to keep track of); okay then, at some point, I want to go in the water; splash-splash, come out--time to put on more goop! Sit in the sun, bake for awhile, keep checking to see if another layer of sun-screen is in order. After awhile, back for a pit stop or a meal. This is a lot of trouble.

Well, someone back home gave me a good suggestion: get a beach umbrella! Good idea--so on the way down, I stopped at Wal-Mart: sorry, we don't have them this time of year, we get them in the spring. Next Wal-Mart had one, $14.95, so I bought one. When I arrived Monday afternoon, I trundled my beach umbrella, chair, towel, mini-cooler with snacks, plus sun-screen factor-kajillion in my pocket, over to the beach. I was set for the afternoon!

Only first I had to get that umbrella stuck deep enough in the sand--harder than I thought it would be. Then it turned out to be windy--the umbrella kept coming up.

Oh, and I did I mention the flies? These aren't your obsequious house flies--these bite!

The next day, I saw a couple of ladies with an umbrella that seemed cooperative--how do you do it? "Oh, you need one of these anchors"--she pointed at a plastic device around the base, stuck in the ground. They directed me to a store in town. So I got one that evening. Next day: I was armed with an anchor, plus some safari-strength bug repellant (I got the one with the highest quantity of "deet"--this stuff, called "REPEL/Sportsmen Max" is 40% Deet. Personally, I'd prefer 100% Deet, but that might kill me).

Now I have added to the ritual of slathering on the sun protection, finishing that off with a veneer of bug poison. Plus my umbrella. How did it work, you ask? was windy again, so yes the anchor stayed anchored--but at one point, the wind pulled the umbrella out and off down the beach it went bouncing. I hadn't tightened the screw tight enough. When I did, then the problem was the umbrella getting turned inside out by the wind. So I turned the umbrella around, till it faced the wind and didn't get ruined--except that meant no longer turning it toward the sun.

Oh, and the flies? They loved "Sportsmen Max"! At first they would just hover, no doubt thinking, "uh oh, what's that I smell?" Until one of them actually landed, and called out to the others, "come on in boys--this stuff is great!" I kept spraying more on, even spraying the stuff directly on two flies who were having lunch on my ankle, bathing them in this stuff, and they wriggled around like it was the best high they'd ever had.

So, while I did swim in the ocean, and walked around a bit, I didn't spend a lot of time just sitting on the beach. Yes, it did occur to me that bringing snacks to the beach drew flies; so one time, I didn't bring snacks, and yes, the flies were somewhat discouraged. But then, one gets hungry or thirsty...

Anyway, I did enjoy myself, and I did enjoy walking on the beach, and when I could, sitting and contemplating the watery horizon. And I found myself gazing at the sea and the beach, and wondered about the past, thinking about what history transpired here during the war between the states; or about the settlers who arrived here 300 or so years ago, looking back across the same ocean, with nothing but wilderness to their backs, and every bit of civilization and comfort a long, long way away.

We are told that the ancients firmly believed the earth was flat; but aside from evidence of thoughtful people, very long ago, figuring out otherwise, one is stuck with this simple observation available to anyone: when you look out on the sea, you see not flatness, but a curve! Even if you didn't believe the earth was some sort of ball, you'd still have to believe the earth was some sort of "mound"--and wouldn't someone wonder how water could stay in that position, and not rush off to the sides to the lower places?

I mean, you can laugh at me for thinking this way, but my point is, I'm just observing what any ordinary person without any education other than lived experience could notice: the horizon is curved, and water always runs from a higher position to a lower position, and--if you walked a ways, or got on a boat, you never actually came to any change in the horizon other than land. The rounded edge always recedes. Surely anyone who took to a boat and sailed even 100 miles would have noticed this, and if even a bit thoughtful, would have deduced--at the minimum--that the world must be some sort of bowl, and we live on the outside of it. But "flat"? Only those who lived away from large bodies of water, and never met people who had seen large bodies of water, and also never walked about very far, could avoid such obvious, contradictory observations. And here's the thing--the people who wrote our Bible, and the early Greek and Roman philosohers--were not such untraveled people!

I really can't explain it, but here's the thing: I don't recall those who study the past, and tell us with certitude what those "credulous" people back then thought, raising these questions; which makes me wonder who really is credulous--the ancients, who gave us an intellectual inheritance we're still living off of, or the forgettable experts of later years?

Well, I have to finish cleaning up--the deal here is you pay little, but you have to clean your quarters, and I'm putting off the bathroom for last. Then I head to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to meet some friends this evening, then to Northern Virginia to do the same there on Tuesday and Wednesday, then headed home.


Ellen said...

I swear by Coppertone Sport aerosole spray sunscreen. I tan easily so I usually only use SPF 10, but on a trip to the Caribbean two years ago, I used this spray in the SPF 15 varieyt and spent an hour and a half snorkeling in open water and the only place I burned was where the straps on my suit rubbed a bit away. I even got my mom (who had flaming red hair and pale, freckled skin as a child) who has been dealing with all the sun related skin problems to use this sunscreen in either SPF 30 or 45 and it works like a charm. Maybe you could try it next time.

Vicki aka Diva Mom said...

Thanks for the laugh - your description of your time at the beach was hilarious!

Enjoy your time in Virginia. I'm originally from Falls Church and went to college at JMU and I miss VA most in the fall. Absolutely gorgeous.

Drive safe!

Anonymous said...

One of your best stories ever!

We love N FL in winter, where it's never hot enuf to burn nor to be assailed by buglife.

Your letter to the Dayton Daily News on simple weddings was first rate,BTW. It was published this morning.

Wishing you a safe trip home and thanking you for the true-life looksee into some priestly downtime.

Am sure God loves us more than usual when he observes our efforts to have a good time no matter what!
It's gotta be amusing to him!