Thursday, 24 May 2018

It is So Much More Than a Beach

There are times when less is more. 

There are times when listening is better than talking.

There are times when silence is better than words.

I will offer only a few soundbites from our day trip to Normandy with stops at Juno Beach, site of the Canadian Forces’ landing on D-Day, Gold Beach, and Beny-Sur-Mer. It seems more appropriate that way.

*The Centre at Juno Beach is a must visit. It is stunning in its depth and breadth and is staffed by dedicated young Canadians working towards university degrees. The explanations, films, artifacts, and even the building itself are extensive and chilling.

*I loved that all of the people on our tour were Canadian. It made the journey to Juno all the more poignant. There was no having to explain Canadian history or roles in the conflict. My guess is that the Americans touring Omaha or Utah Beaches felt a similar kinship.

*The walk along the beaches themselves was mind-altering. We arrived at low tide, about the same time as the Allied Forces did, and were stunned by the amount of distance needed to travel from water up the sand to higher ground. There was a quiet stillness everywhere and even while some kids were laughing and splashing in the water taking kayak and paddleboard lessons, there was an understanding that we were walking on sacred soil.

*We spent a long while just walking Juno Beach. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

*I hated the gift shop. I realize that much of the continued funding for the centre relies on tourist purchases but the silk scarf festooned with poppies or the onesie adorned with “D-Day, June 6, 1944” was far too much for my taste. I loathe the commercialization of war and death.

*We visited the Canadian cemetery at Beny-Sur-Mer. It is an immaculate place that overlooks Juno. I had gathered some stones from our walk on the beach and placed them on the Jewish headstones. I’m not sure how many of those soldiers still have any family but I wanted somebody to know we were there.

*It was a day well-spent in France. I honestly can’t think of a better way.

They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning 
We will remember them.

We will remember them.

~Laurence Binyon

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