Tattooed teenaged lovers embrace, determined fishermen guard buckets of squid, skipping children shriek, feisty parents snap Facebook-worthy photographs, smiling mutts chase a soggy tennis ball…
This mosaic of images confirm that my vacation has begun as my family makes its annual pilgrimage to a jetty in Narragansett, Rhode Island. I have a special love for jetties, these carefully arranged walls of stones which protect beaches and vulnerable shorelines. Jetties create a sanctuary easing the impact of the waves upon the beach. All of us need a jetty from time to time to ease the waves of life crashing upon our shores. I smile at this thought as I hop from stone to stone.
So many people come here to this simple pile of rocks for reasons difficult to name. It feels safe and relaxed. It seems free from routine. Perhaps there is nothing essentially different here than in daily life, but here we give ourselves permission to live without an agenda and enjoy the simple experience of being alive. With space away from the drumbeat of productivity, we mark the spray of a crashing wave or the sudden dive of a sea bird as a celebration. Somehow in the thick stench of rotting fish, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Here to this jetty I escaped when my babies were colicky. I would strap them to my chest and march until the salty waves sang them to sleep. Here I came with my toddlers–their terrified hands squeezing mine as they imagined the chasms between the Volkswagen-sized boulders swallowing them whole. Today my tweens sprint ahead of their turtle dad who craves the slowness to wonder about all the things a dad wonders when he realizes that he is needed far less than he once was.
Am I doing enough for them?
Have I done too much?
In the few years I have left, what else can I give these miraculous bundles of stardust so that they know courage, resilience, and fulfillment?
Before an answer comes, I realize how much this jetty is like the Copper Beech Institute–a safe place to seek refuge from the sometimes relentless waves that crash upon our shores. Here at the Institute we come to rest, to grow, and to wonder the things we wonder when we take a moment to breathe.
“Dad, come look quick! I found a crab,” an elated voice interrupts my thoughts.
A child delighting in a crab. Sometimes life seems so simple…because sometimes it is.
I look forward to welcoming you to this “jetty” which is the Copper Beech Institute very soon.
Wishing you a summer of ease,
Dr. Brandon Nappi is founder and executive director of Copper Beech Institute, the nation’s newest retreat center for mindfulness and contemplative practice. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 transformational retreats and courses, as well as mindfulness practice and mindfulness at work offerings to help you awaken to the beauty of your life.