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ALIEN WOODS and foam

Perhaps reflecting on home is a normal part of travel. It’s paradoxical, isn’t it? We yearn to get away, explore exotic locations, and leave behind the mundane routines of road1.jpgeveryday, only to discover our pillows are softer, our mosquitoes more civil, and the routines we fled recall a strange sort of stability.Â

I’ve traveled more in the last three weeks than I have in the last ten years. First, it was to Dallas, Texas for a four day stint at the ACFW conference. Then it was back home and on to Cabo San Lucas for an eight-day anniversary tour. If you’re counting, that’s three time zones, 4200 miles, four plane flights and a quart of Imodium. What makes this the more profound is my abject devotion to a sedentary life. I am an avowed homebody.Â

So without fail, during those twelve days I reflected upon home.

Cabo San Lucas is a transient culture — a bizarre mixture of locals, transplants, seasonal citizens and plain old tourists. Cruise ships are a permanent fixture in the harbor, as are water taxis and jet skis skidding through the Sea of Cortez, delivering passengers in transit. The city radiates from this bay into chaotic streets, open air shops, nightclubs and unlimited eateries. You can snorkel, parasail, fish for marlin, eat lobster and shoot tequila.

But everyone seems lost somewhere between destinations.

I’m one of those tourists who despises tourism. Our vacations are incomplete without me ranting about rude sightseers, overcrowded sights, overpriced wares and those who hawk them. One such tirade occurred at Lover’s Beach. A craggy peninsula called Land’s End serves as the visual marker that divides the Gulf of California from the Pacific Ocean. Surrounded by turquoise water and crowned by the famous Arch, this tiny strip of rock is wrapped by a corset of brilliant white sand. It can only be reached by boat and, as we discovered, there are hundreds to choose from. We caught the first skiff to Lover’s Beach on Friday morning and, to our surprise, had the entire beach to ourselves.

It was a surreal moment. Two hundred yards of crystalline dunes swaddled by a cerulean liquid blanket, overshadowed by lithic spires against cobalt sky. I think we did more gasping than talking. We waded ashore, found a spot on the Pacific side and sat side by side absorbing our surroundings and gazing into the sea.

Just when I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, a kayak tour landed on the beach, and I already learned a lot about kayaking from this website. Behind it, two water taxis on a beeline from a nearby cruise ship, pulled into the cove to unload its passengers. Next, a ponga with Mexican vendors came ashore, erected a soda stand and began hawking jewelry and ceramic whistles. In a matter of minutes, our tropical hideway was transformed into a human zoo.Â

It was one of many reminders that we were far, far from home.

As much as I despise tourists, I am one. We all are. We’re part of the crowd on the seashore, fighting for dwindling real estate, elbowing our way into Paradise. Like it or not, we leave debris, oil slicks, and urine puddles on our way to Shangri-La; we seek solace, only to defile it upon our arrival. The horde on Lover’s Beach was a sore reminder of our terminal state.

Anyway, we made it back safe, as you can tell. But even though I sit at my desk in California, unpacked and fully re-immersed in “mundane routine,” I find myself still yearning for Home. I wonder that, as long I live here on earth, I will never stop being a tourist. Perhaps this is why the Bible calls us “aliens and strangers,” and the most transient of all species.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. house1.jpgAnd they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV).

“A better country.” Yes, that’s where I want to live. In a place without metal detectors, language barriers and exotic bacteria. But until I arrive there, I’m just a tourist.

C.S. Lewis, in a rare poetic episode, put it this way:

I shall arise and leave both friends and home
And over many lands a pilgrim go
   Through alien woods and foam,

Seeking the last steep edges of the earth
Whence I may leep into that gulf of light
Wherein, before my narrowing Self had birth,
   Part of me lived aright.

Clothes can be hanged and toothbrushes returned to their rack, but a part of me cannot be unpacked. Not yet. Not until I “leep into that gulf of light” and travel to that “better country.” And until then, I’m but a pilgrim and all places are just “alien woods and foam.”


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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Gina Holmes October 10, 2006, 12:54 AM

    Well put!

  • janet October 10, 2006, 1:22 PM

    eterity is in our hearts. It’ll be good to be Home when we get there.

  • Ane Mulligan October 10, 2006, 5:29 PM

    I enjoyed seeing Cabo San Lucas through your eyes, Mike. But like you, I’m a homebody who loves to travel, yet as soon as I’m gone more than about 5 days, I long for the comforts of home.

    I’ve traveled a good bit, but there are so many more places I long to see. The coast of Maine is one. I want to rent a biog motorhome and take off for a month … but can I stand to be away from home that long? Or do you feel like you’ve taken home with you in a motorhome?

    Though we long for eternity, I want to use up this life the Lord gifted me with. I don’t want to be so heavenly-minded I’m no earthly good.

  • Melody October 11, 2006, 3:02 AM

    Hey Dad, that is so awesome that the tourist invaded your little hide away, I’m kind of glad though because I would hate to hear the rest of that story if they didn’t, especially after seeing the pictures. That’s Nasty! But I do agree with you, I feel the same way on vacation too, it’s nice to get home. I end up missing Champ (my dog)after about 1 day. MeMe

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