Once or twice a year, my church holds an outdoor service at the beach to celebrate creation and our duty to care for it. This year, the service coincided with the beginning of climate strike week, the special recognition of the crisis our planet is facing. Being at the beach that day made me feel especially keenly how much we have to lose--the blue ocean, the flying pelicans, the tough ice plant. As the service made clear, we have a moral duty to care for creation, regardless of political persuasion.
The planet was really showing off its beauty that day. You can never count on weather at the beach. The last time we held a service there, it was cloudy throughout the morning, as you can see in the picture of me in the MVP Hat from that day. This time, though, the weather was so sunny and warm that I didn’t even need my denim jacket. I kicked off my sandals and strummed in the ukulele trio providing the service music. This black ribbon and straw hat, which I bought at a department store years ago, had the perfect, relaxed vibe.
As part of the service, we shared some meaningful times we’d spent at the beach. The pastor spoke about a time a pod of whales was so close to the pier that people were abandoning their cars on Highway 1 and running to the ocean to look. My husband described body surfing with his teenage best friend. I told how I'd grown up celebrating my birthday at the beach, about getting there early in the morning to secure a parking spot and a picnic table.
At the end of the service, as I was packing up my uke, people started calling to each other and pointing. Some whales had come in near shore, spouting white mist to the sky. I saw a flash of water-slicked back. A woman beside me gasped as she spotted a whale tail.
Maybe these whales will be the stories next beach church, when we again celebrate our precious planet.
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Ann Hillesland writes fiction and nonfiction and collects hats. In this blog she vows to wear (not just model, but wear out of the house) every one of her hats, blogging about their histories and their meanings for her.