This past Sunday, Sharon and I headed to the ocean, just to see. There were so many people like us who went there – all for their own reasons. Hurricane Sandy had stressed everyone on so many levels. Mostly, we all just needed to be there.
As we parked the car near a hotel on Main Street in Ocean Grove, a man sitting there on the porch greeted us and shared his story. He was from Avon by the Sea and they were hit hard. He wanted to know where we were from and our story. Our story? We are photographers who love the sea, needed to be close to it and record it.
In Ocean Grove, the electricity went on the night before. People were just coming out of their homes and sharing stories. We stopped in the bakery for coffee and a croissant. Most people spoke of their gratitude. They were grateful to be alive. They were grateful that their home or their business was still standing. We sat outside and there were people cleaning up debris in the streets and boarding up broken windows in stores. Businesses were starting to open – an art store, a hotel, a restaurant. Someone said, “the sooner we get back to normal, the sooner it will be normal.”
On the way to the beach, there were bulldozers and mounds of sand along the curb. The boardwalk had been pushed up by water and sand and was broken into pieces in a few spots. The fishing pier was shorter – the little shack at the end was gone.
Strangers talked to each other to share stories. One woman with misty eyes told me her husband proposed to her under that fishing pier. She said she needed to walk on the beach and to feel God’s presence.
One man said that he couldn’t believe how he could look up and down the coast and it looked so different. The usual structures, the ones that he looked for, were all changed. What he looked for just wasn’t there. He had tears in his eyes.
What I was looking for was there. That beautiful ocean – shades of blue and green – was there with the rhythm of the waves gently rolling over the sand. This day, the water was so calm. Everything was so quiet. The sky had so many shades of blue – it was periwinkle in some areas. The clouds were fluffy and white with shades of pink. The light on the beach was beautiful. Even the seagulls were quiet, standing strong on the ocean’s edge.
Those times in my life, when I have looked for God, I could always find Him here. Today was no different. God is good. He is present and loving and He gives us hope. There is His promise that he will always be with us. We know that life will go on. Our beloved Jersey shore will be there and life there will return to normal – maybe even better than normal. I am so glad I went – just to see and to feel. Strangers were reaching out to each other, rebuilding had already started – signs of hope and God’s presence were everywhere.
I was so glad I went to spend some time by the sea.