This week in our new summer series we again invite you to Strawberry Cove in Magnolia, MA ~ Lars and Elisabeth’s New England coastal home. The featured photo is a view from their home, and what a delight it is to experience it through Elisabeth’s eyes as we savor all of her descriptive details of this landscape that shaped her heart and writing. To hear more about Elisabeth’s life at Strawberry Cove, we recommend this delightful Gateway To Joy series.
“The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places,” wrote the psalmist, and my gratitude echoes his words. Strawberry Cove is a cul de sac with seven houses, just off Hesperus Avenue in the little town of Magnolia (too small to be on the map), in Massachusetts. Most of you older ones know Longfellow’s poem, “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” the story of the schooner Hesperus, that “sailed the wintry sea,” and was wrecked on the rock named Norman’s Woe, lying beyond my vision to the east as I sit at my desk. (If you are an Anne of Green Gables fan of the 1985 miniseries, Miss Amelia Evans recited this poem at the White Sands Hotel just before Anne gave her recitation of the Lady of Shallot!).
I look down a grassy bank, humpy with the ceaseless industry of countless woodchucks over countless years. They dig a vast labyrinth of tunnels, piling huge mounds of earth on the bank. I enjoy watching them—obese furry brown creatures with blunt snouts, short tails, and short legs with powerful digging forepaws. They waddle or scurry or lazily sun themselves. They used to be my friends. I thought they were awfully cute until they began neatly nipping off every single petunia in our teensy garden. Some of the charm now seems to have perished.
At the bottom of the bank are great sheets of rock and a jumble of awesome red-brown boulders surrounding a lovely little tide pool, so crystal clear that I can see straight to its dark red and bright green floor. Once I spotted an Atlantic salmon that had got himself marooned there when the tide ebbed.
Our house, which faces due south from Cape Ann, sits about sixty feet above a wide expanse of what I call ocean (it has waves and swells and seagulls and seagoing vessels of all sizes) but is more accurately named Massachusetts Bay. It glitters and flashes in the sunlight. A billion diamonds dance. The lobster buoys swing and dip on the swells, and on summer weekends we see the little red flags which mark the presence of scuba divers beneath. Early in the morning we hear the soft thub-thub of the lobster boats as they slip into the Cove. We watch the lobster men pull their “pots” (traps), remove the catch, and fling the rotten bait to the wheeling flocks of screaming gulls who always trail them.
The ocean tempers the climate in both winter and summer. It is ten degrees warmer in winter and cooler in summer than it was in Hamilton, where we used to live, twelve miles inland. So we seldom have more than a dozen or so really hot days. On one or two of these I may venture down to the rocks with my snorkel. It must be high tide and fairly calm, otherwise one is flung against wicked barnacles, making it hazardous either to get in or out of the water.
The water is bone-chilling, but oh, what exquisite mysteries I discover as I put my goggled face into the water! I am instantly in a different world, a magic one, a silent one, and I forget the ice water and gaze at the swaying forests of seaweed, the sunlit colors of starfish and rock, the shining silver of an occasional fish. It is not to be compared, of course, with the Great Barrier Reef where I once snorkeled. The cold North Atlantic is not a tropical paradise, but it holds more beauty than one can fully bear.
We have a picture window in the living room. Over it is a wooden motto, made for me by one of Amy Carmichael’s “babies,” an old lady who spent her days there in Dohnavur, India, beautifully lettering Scripture texts. This one has Psalm 95:5, “The sea is His and He made it,” a simple and completely staggering statement.
God made it. He dried it up with a rebuke. He rolled it back. He spoke to it and the waves calmed. He stirs it up like a pot of ointment (Jb 41:31). He causes it to teem with creatures beyond number [Ps 104:25). He confounded Job with questions such as,
“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?… Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (Jb 38:8-11, 16,NIV)
Our Lord Jesus loved the sea. He sat by it and taught the people beside it. He once cooked breakfast on the shore. To me it is a daily gift, a joy, a ceaseless reminder of the majesty and beauty of my Heavenly Father. And shall I write of those winter storms? Sometime, perhaps. Those are something else!
**Excerpt originally appeared in the July/August 1995 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.