The Vast Expanse of Beach and Sea

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Utah Beach, Normandy, France.

My father landed D-Day +3 on Utah Beach and survived the Second World War. Five years ago, my husband and I took a long awaited trip to France. One of the places we went was to Normandy. As I stood on this beach (the only one of the five landing beaches we were allowed to walk on), I tried to take in not only its sheer beauty, but also the enormity of what had happened here in 1944. I bent down, scooping up a large handful of sand, and held it, thinking of all the soldiers who had landed here to help liberate France and Europe. Many lost their lives in the process.

Everywhere we went in Normandy, we saw plaques, statues and museums to commemorate the beginning of the end of the war and the breaking of the Nazi’s death grip on France. I couldn’t help but be humbled by France’s gratitude.

I think the beauty, vastness and history of this beach has something to impart to us in our own troubled time. The scourge of COVID 19, like WW II, leaves us in a world with the stark differentiation of before and after. Our world has changed, never to be quite the same. I take comfort not only from the memory of the soldiers who landed on this beach, but also from the people of France. They endured great hardship and privation, yet emerged into a world they could rebuild. For me, it helps put the current #ShelterInPlace directive in perspective. Added to that I realize that while this is difficult, I am among the lucky in that my income and housing are not affected while I remain confined to my apartment, and I have access to enough food. All of that makes me think, “This is hard, but I can do this. I may at times be teary or grumpy about it, or overwhelmed, or scared, but I can do this. I must do this. It is a small price to pay to keep myself and others safe.

Posted for Tina’s Lens-Artists Challenge #90 – Distance.

Waiting

For the turning of the tide.

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Life is filled with longings, hopes, dreams, and waiting. Always waiting it seems. When my husband and I were young and newly married, it seemed we waited a lot. Waited for the next pay check, waited to start a family, waited to be more financially more secure. Waited for things to be easier. We didn’t stop living, but we were so conditioned and focused toward working toward a future goal, a better life, that I think often we didn’t savor what we did have in the moment. We were happy and deeply in love but were always looking forward, forward, to when times might get easier.

But I wonder now, a year after my husband of 44 years has died, if we also lost a little in the process. This holiday season, I have been missing him terribly and thinking back to those early years together when so many things seemed like a struggle that we sometimes forgot to live in the present. I think back now and wish that I could have appreciated a little more then, what was then.

On this Christmas afternoon just past, as it stretched into the fourth night of Hanukah for my young grandchildren, my heart was aching for those early years of marriage and children and hope. Yet the sorrow was vying with the fact that I knew that I was in the process of making new memories with them. I hope they will remember the Hanukah/Christmas that I began to teach the 7 year old how to use a sewing machine and helped the 4½ year old make a unicorn purse and string a heart necklace.

I hope that they will remember. Because now it seems that time is moving in reverse. I used to dwell in the future. But now if I dwell too much in the past, I will still not be able to  fully live in the present. Surely there is a balance to be had, of looking forward and hoping, while holding onto the memories and love of the past. And not losing either.

The tide comes in and nourishes the seaweed on the rock, then temporarily withdraws, allowing the seaweed access to light and air. It seems so simple when looked at like that. But it is anything but simple. It is, in fact, a complex ebbing and flowing that has taken eons for nature to perfect. How do I learn to manage that, keeping the delicate balance between holding and letting go?

Veterans Day 2019

Here in the States, November 11 is Veterans Day. Originally it was established as Armistice Day, the day Germany formally surrendered at the end of WW I: November 11, 1918. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day, to honor U.S. veterans and victims of all wars.

In 2015 my husband and I took a long awaited trip to France. One of the places we visited was the American Cemetery in Normandy. The cemetery covers 172.5 acres and contains the remains of 9,388 American soldiers. There are graves of Army Air Corps crews shot down over France as early as 1942, and graves of 4 American women. But most of the graves are of those soldiers who died during the Invasion of Normandy.

It is a sobering place, as you look out over row upon row upon row of crosses and stars of David. My husband said, “There is such sadness here.” My thought was of all those men, overwhelmingly young, who would never have a chance to have a career, or fall in love, or get married, or live to see their children grow up. They would never see their lives open up before them.

Here is a closeup of an infinitely small section.

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The American Cemetery at Normandy                                                                Image: ©Hannah Keene

Posted for the Ragtag Daily Prompt: Bravery.