On the Shores of Paradise….

What a vacation playground!  Better than Jamaica…better than the Bahamas.  There was no one here but me.  No obnoxious tourists with their gaudy beach towels and snip-snapping cameras.

Just sun and sky and sand and surf.   And it was all for free….

The blue Kentucky waters shimmered in the late afternoon sunlight.  I sank to the sand, immersed in the sights and sounds about me….The rusty creak of crickets in the woods.   The flip and flash of fish in the waters along the shores.  The quiet sunning of turtles on a nearby log.

Ah…Life just doesn’t get any better than this.

Eventually, I roused myself and set about gathering wood for a campfire.  The sun was beginning to sink beyond the distant island.   Darkness wasn’t but an hour away.   I’d need firewood if I was going to camp here tonight.  And I did fully intend to camp here.

I had no worried relatives looking over my shoulder, telling me this deserted beach wasn’t a safe place for a lone woman to spend the night. I had no grumpy teenage-daughter with me to fuss about the lack of a vanity mirror and accessories.

I felt blissfully free of all responsibilities…free of all the trappings of modern life.

There was no tent, but that didn’t matter.  Tents only block out the moonlight and the view of shooting stars.  I had a sleeping bag and a pile of firewood…marshmallows, chocolates and crackers for S’mores.  I had a scented little candle called “Aroma Dreams”…  What more did I need?

It started getting dark.  I knew, then, what I needed. I needed some means to protect myself.

Something big flew by overhead.  I watched as a buzzard landed in a dead tree nearby.  Another one landed, then another.  Buzzards with their black-caped wings and ugly little heads.  They stared down at me in the dimness, hump-backed and watchful.

Their grim presence made me feel uneasy.

Here I was in a deserted location in the wilds of Kentucky.  No one knew where I was except for a few scruffy-looking fishermen who had stared at me from their boats earlier in the day. What if those Good Ol’ Southern Boys turned into Bad Ol’ Boys at night?  What if they came looking for me in the darkness?

I stared though the gloom at the pinpoints of light across the cove.  It was the only visible signs of civilization around.  Except for two little toads playing leapfrog across my campsite, I was utterly alone.  Well…not utterly.  I knew that I had an angel or two hanging around.  The Bible says the Angel of the Lord encampeth about them that fear Him!  Surely there were several angels hanging out in this Paradise.

I forced myself to relax. I was Eve in my own little Garden of Eden and I intended to enjoy my vacation.

Striking a match, I held it to my woodpile.  Smoke curled skyward and a flame caught on some kindling.  I watched it climb higher and higher.  Then I fetched my marshmallows and chocolate, and soon the smell of toasting S’mores filled the night air…  Sweet chocolate breezes and the tang of wood-smoke.  Firelight flickered across the beach.  Lightning bugs danced in the darkness beyond the camp, like restless stars  in their own dark galaxy.

I struck another match and lit the wick of my “Aroma Dreams”.  The candle released a new scent into the darkness.  Ah—musky, dusky solitude.  It made me feel sleepy.  Warm.  Dreamy.  I curled up in my sleeping bag and soon found myself drifting off.  An owl hooted.  Frogs croaked.  Far away, the voice of a loon echoed across the dark waters.

Drowsiness overtook me, and I slept.

Hours later, I awakened with a start as my aroma dreams ended abruptly.  My candle had gone out.  In the darkness to the south, coyotes were howling.  A fish flopped in the water…And somewhere nearby, I could hear the stealthy movements of something  large.  Leaves rustled, then were silent.

I sat up slowly and stared into the darkness.  The campfire was just embers, and although the moon had risen, it did little to illuminate the tree-shrouded beach. The rustling continued.  The sound was big…much too big.

Rustling. Silence.  Rustling.  Silence.

It all seemed surreal to me.  This kind of stuff happens to other people.  Foolish folks who have no common sense.  This couldn’t be happening to me.  My eyes strained to see through the dimness.  Was it an animal or human?  Even a big animal is better than people who act like animals.  The very thought sent chills coursing through me, and I quietly lay back down, pulling the sleeping bag up over my head.

That always helps.

I wondered what my angels were doing now.  I hoped they hadn’t gotten bored and wandered off somewhere.  Surely not.  They were probably lounging by the campfire, I told myself.  That thought calmed me.

“…The angels of the Lord encampeth about them that fear Him.”

Evidently, angels don’t mind camping out. They could surely handle anything in the woods.  And what they couldn’t take care of, the Lord Himself would handle.

I made myself relax.

Eventually the rustlings grew less frequent.  The silences grew longer.  At last, my heartbeat slowed and my eyes closed.  I drifted off…Back into the sweet oblivion of chocolate breezes with the tang of wood-smoke.

The faint hint of morning came slowly.  I awakened to the first twitter of birds in the treetops. Chit-chat and a lot of gossip.   Soon, a pale shard of daylight pried open the eastern rim—the dawn of a new day.  Daybreak wasn’t in any hurry to arrive.  A rusty-sounding rooster worked on it for awhile from his coop across the cove.  Then abruptly, the sun responded and a glorious pink filled the sky.                              .

The gossipers in the tree-tops ceased their chatter and flew off to find their quota of grubs for the day.   I stretched and yawned—glad that I had no quotas to fill, no schedules to keep.  The buzzards looked down on me disapprovingly from their dead tree, then gathered up their black-winged capes and flopped away to places unknown.  I was glad to see them go.

An outboard motor roared to life across the cove, the sound ricocheting across the lake.  I crawled out of my sleeping bag.  I had survived the night.

I stretched and yawned and poked at the fire.    I lounged.  I played.  I splashed in the surf.

It was then that it occurred to me.               .

I mustn’t be selfish.  I couldn’t lounge about endlessly.    There’s work to do…. people to think of.  House-bound invalids.  Folks who live in nursing homes…who don’t get to go on vacation.  People who never get to enjoy S’mores and chocolate breezes and the tang of wood-smoke.  Who never get to hear the haunting voice of a loon across dark waters.

I thought about my dear friend, Bobby, and my co-worker, Rose and her sister Tressie…wonderful folks who escape their routines by adventuring along with me.

And I thought about you, my dear reader.

I sat for a moment, staring across the shimmering waters at the little island where the waves danced and played.   I pulled out a pen and found my notebook.

Slowly, carefully, I began to write.

What a vacation playground!

Better than Jamaica…better than the Bahamas.

There was no one here but me….

Just me, and a thousand wonderful friends….


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