Endless Summer: A Place in the Sun

Summer is my favorite time of year. An invitation to breathe, relax, explore. After living in Morocco and the Dominican Republic, I don’t dread winter as I once did. I appreciate changing seasons.  And yet… when the cicadas’ song crescendos from a low hum heralding summer in May to a hiss screeching summer’s end in September, I have trouble letting go.

This is my salute to the longest day of summer where I escaped to a beach house in Asilah, south of Tangier. The ocean is where I feel God’s power most intensely, especially on the northern African coast. 

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Road between Asilah and Tangier

I returned to Marrakesh in June to see students I’d taught graduate, reconnect with old friends, and collapse for a reset. Sleeping on a mattress on the floor at my friend’s place grounded me again.

My first year back in the US had been harder than expected. Everything had changed. I’d come back focused on writing my memoir about the time away, feeling positive about getting a full time university position for which I’d applied, and expecting to buy a home near work and my daughter. When the position didn’t happen, I continued job searching though thankful for adjunct positions in the fall and an interim position in the spring. Housing prices in Nashville kept rising; my kids were busy with lives of their own (as it should be but as a Stage 5 Clinger I felt lonely at times no less); and Mom became ill and moved from Kentucky into my apartment with me. At times we both felt lost (more on podcast), but God, as always, never let go. 

Mom made a miraculous recovery and celebrated her birthday in April in a new apartment. We’re all so happy she’s finally living in Nashville. One day after the summer term ended, I boarded a plane. I met my Spanish friend, Moni, in Madrid, then headed to Marrakesh.

After resting until mid-month, I headed north with my Aussie friend, Kate. We stayed in the old city of Asilah, the cleanest town I’d ever seen in Morocco.  Whitewashed in preparation for the annual Moussem Culturel International d’Asilah, a mural/art festival, the medina was as quiet, pristine, surreal as a movie set.  

Below was the Airbnb respite —a dream writing space. I felt protected within the 15th century ramparts built by colonial Portuguese. I fed on seafood. I felt free. From the rooftop I watched the waves rumble. On the second floor, I wrote as the sun rose and fell with the tide.  I didn’t know then that I’d teach full time for a university this fall. That I’d have benefits again and a schedule that would give me time to write.  But I knew the One telling me not to fear. I recognized the way He moves–the way He moved me while I lived in Morocco. The unforced rhythm of grace. I remembered a promise that led me here in 2014. A promise extended to all…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”—Matthew 11:28-30 

Smoother than Nora Jones, He’d again called, “Come away with me.” I did, and though I had no idea what fall would bring, He knew. And it was enough. I knew my only job at that moment was to give thanks in the summer sun.

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Photos of me by Kate Woods at https://www.moroccobespoke.com/. Other photos by me.

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Asilah Rooftop
Asilah’s white and blue rooftops reminded me of breezy shoreline escapes in Greece.

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These guys, sure-footed as cats, played and sat along the fortress wall watching the sun set and a friend swimming below.
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A really good day

 

 

St. John’s Eve in Vigo: Midsummer Night’s Dream

He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.–Isaiah 61:3

Trust your heart if the seas catch fire; live by love though the stars walk backward.—E. E. Cummings

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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When I met my friend, Monica, in Nashville many years ago, she invited me to her hometown, Vigo, Spain. She visited me last fall in Morocco, and I met Alessandro and her in Tarifa in March, but I saved my visit to their city for this week. I wanted to be here on June 23 for La Noche de San Juan (St. John’s Eve). This year it finally happened. As we picnicked in the sand before bonfires blazing, flames dancing to the tide’s tempo, I joined a celebration observed throughout Spain and in much of Europe and Latin America– a night to remember and release what we need to forget.

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St. John’s Eve and Day June 24 commemorates the birth of John the Baptist, born six months before Jesus that first Christmas. John said he baptized Christ with water but his cousin would baptize believers with fire and the Holy Spirit. The event of water and fire coincides with Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, which begins my favorite season—summer—a time of freedom. In Italy celebration for Saint John, patron saint of Genoa, Florence and Turin, lasts from July 21-24. Likewise, last Saturday when Monica and I met in Porto, Portugal, the city was starting what some say is the world’s biggest celebration with live music echoing through the hills surrounding the Douro River.

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Moni, Ale, and Vesa, a UK student studying/living with them in Vigo

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Staring into the flames and glowing embers that warmed us, I thought of fire as a symbol of passion and a means of purification. I thought of the healing powers of the sea’s salt and was warmed by old friendships and the night’s invitation to new beginnings. By tradition some jump over bonfires for good luck or swim in the ocean after midnight for cleansing, renewal, and energy. Students burn school notebooks to celebrate the end of the school year.   Participants of all ages write on a slip of paper what they want to purge from their lives—something holding them back or pulling them down– and throw it on the fire. I watched as the flames turned the napkin I’d written on into black, curling crepe paper, then devoured it completely. I thought of God’s promise in Isaiah 61:3 to make beauty from ashes. He has, and He will.

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