"I'm going to jog on the beach," I announce, leaving the house at 6 pm this Sunday evening.
Actually, I don't give a hoot about jogging.
My real goals are solitude, beauty, and the presence of God.
I'd like to go sit on a mountain top for an hour, but starting from sea level in Santa Monica, I can't do that and be back in time to serve dinner at 8 pm.
I used to go sit on the beach, but I'd feel guilty as the joggers whizzed past, so I've joined them.
I avoid the sidewalk crowded with bikes, runners, and walkers. On the sand, dodging waves, I'm alone except for a few others I pass.
I've had a lot of human interaction today, driving to Claremont with three other women, participating in a women's liturgy, and driving my friends back, then talking to my husband and two daughters at home.
I need some alone time, but to announce that while walking out the door would feel anti-social. Jogging, I say. Everyone approves of exercise.
The beach give me beauty as well as solitude. The sky is luminous, wide and open with a band of pink deepening to red where the sun has set.
It's low tide with a huge area of flat wet sand for running, wider than Wilshire Boulevard.
Sixteen pelicans fly southeast. Venus appears in the darkening sky. Beneath a line scribbled across the low sky to the north, the Santa Monica Mountains are solid blue-gray as if filled in by chalk.
Where there's solitude and beauty, God's presence is usually not hard to feel.
Often I catch hold of some Bible verse and repeat it as I jog. For tonight, Psalm 42 will do:
As the deer longs for the flowing stream, so longs my soul for you, O God.
Then I'm driving home again, taking chicken out of the oven, trying to pry my daughters from television and the computer, John from a playoff game for the World Series, so we can eat together and then retreat to our separate worlds.