As I write this, two young goats by the names Dill and Tuna are eating grass with abandon, a watermelon rind just got tossed into the compost bucket, and two towels hang on the line. Vermont once more; us, returned. Not far — at the closest reaches of my memory — lies the ocean. Yesterday morning I sat atop the sand, before my own eyes were awake and before her majesty, the Atlantic Ocean, was awoken. Slowly, with grace and without an iota of pretense, a flaming globe crested the horizon and warmly kissed the edges of the sea. Illuminating everything in its path, the sun awoke us both. With haste and gratitude I realized my role as a child to the ocean, a child to the sun, a child to the sand, a child to the undulations and currents and life-giving force that were happening unnoticed and unabated in that moment. I sat at the edge of my country, holding hands with the mother that grew me, waking up face-to-face with the mother that is responsible for life on this planet. Confronted with so much wonder, all I could think was, “thanks be to God.”

From pockets of Ohio, Vermont, and Massachusetts, our family converged in North Carolina. Back to the same place we visited for several consecutive years during my childhood. Even now the location remains a bit hazy, a bit mythical. This faraway place — humid as humid gets and warmer than us Northerners are used to — sits unchanged with the minor exception of the pier, which washed away during a hurricane. In a similar way, being together as a family, it was as if nothing had ever changed. In ten years many things have changed, of course. One of us has entered a convent, three of us are married or getting married, one of us runs an upscale restaurant and lives in two starkly different locales during the year. Four children have been added into the mix, plus four partners. We have gone from seven to fifteen. Otherwise, nothing has changed. All of the cuddling and request for company (i.e. “come into the bathroom with me”) remains, as does the unquenchable desire to pummel a sibling underwater or onto a sofa. We still stand around the kitchen to snack until the snacks are gone, and we likewise continue to view our parents as ultimate beacons of goodness and joy. The Vacation About Nothing, as it was named, was about as relaxing a week on planet Earth could be. To be so enveloped in the charisma and calm of the people you love most in the world: in a word, heaven.