Paradise found … in 30 days


This has nothing to do with Fayette County, religion in Fayette County, churches in Fayette County or the religion section in The Citizen.

It is simply to recount with awe and wonder the month-long vacation God and I took, along with my grandson, in Fernandina Beach, Fla., last month.

Fernandina Beach is on tiny little Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville and just a stone’s throw south of Cumberland Island, Ga. It truly is paradise.

One cannot look at the immensity, the power, the splendor and magnificence of the Atlantic Ocean without knowing that God is right there beside you saying, “See. Look what I made for you.”

That is what I looked at for 32 days … all day … every day … and still didn’t get enough.

He also said, “And I can make it do many things.” He did that also … everything from a nor’easter and 59 degree weather to calm and placid and 85-degree weather. But, of course, God can do anything. And I captured it all with my little iPhone.

The trip was the culmination of a “bubble” of an idea I had about three years ago. I never dreamed I could pull it off.

Mom, my sister Kay, her husband Bobby, and I had taken a short trip to Florida in the fall of 2010, and ended up spending three days in St. Augustine. It had been years since I had been to the beach on the Atlantic (my preference as opposed to the Gulf) and I had sorely missed it. How wonderful it would be, I thought as I was walking down the beach one day, to spend two weeks … no, three … heck, a month, as long as we’re dreaming … on the Atlantic Coast in Florida. But, where?

My acquaintance with Florida had started when I was about five with a trip to Fernandina Beach … right up the coast from where we were. It was my first sight of the ocean and I was fascinated. We were caught in a hurricane and had to evacuate but I really didn’t want to go — even though the waves were up over the road, our car was covered with sand, and, even with my dad carrying me, I could feel the blowing sand stinging my legs like a million needles.

We went back to Fernandina several times over the years until someone discovered Panama City, then Destin, then St. George, and slowly, Fernandina became a distant memory … a memory until my college gang started planning a trip to Florida last year to “mimic” one we had taken to Panama City in 1960 while we were still students at North Georgia College.

A little web searching and we found a lovely condo in Fernandina Beach (well, I did push a little in that direction) and headed down there in October for five days of senior citizen frolicking in the sun.

In the meantime, I had Google-driven all over the island and knew it as well as I know Newnan. I was hooked — hooked on the pirate tales, the history, the lifestyle and the relaxed atmosphere of island living.

When I came home I subscribed to their newspaper.

In late October, I bought a new car, knowing my 15-year-old van would not appreciate a grueling 5.5 hour drive to Florida.

In December, I took the leap, found a lovely condo unit right next door to the one our senior “gang” had stayed in, and put down my deposit for the entire month of April.

It finally came. Accompanied by my 19-year-old grandson, Jordan, I left April 1 and for the next 30 days, I knew I had died and gone to heaven. The sound of the surf never stopped, except when we took a trip into town. It was the last thing I heard before I went to sleep and the first thing I heard in the morning.

Watching Jordan on his “boogie board”was a joy, especially when I used the binoculars and could see the big smile on his face, even when the waves beat him to pieces. We were so close I could do this from the huge porch overlooking the beach, a place I stayed much of the time.

We took the Amelia River Cruise to Cumberland and learned all about the Carnegies — a story unto itself. We walked out on the half-mile-long fishing pier at Ft. Clinch State Park and watched the waves beat huge fans of sea spray on the jetties. And we ate seafood … did we ever eat seafood.

And we did a lot of nothing. After all, that’s what vacations are for.

Thanks to modern technology, I was able to continue my duties as religion editor without missing a beat. I took my trusty Mac, set it up in the dining room, and did my work. Most of you don’t even know I was gone.

Thanks to Cal for allowing me the time off (sort of) and to John Munford for laying out my pages while I was gone.

I hope to go back in October.

Are you ready for another vacation, God?

Well, here we go…