Where the Water Begins

We recently went to Miami and the Keys to visit David’s family and vacation. After a busy and enjoyable weekend with family, we cruised south to Key Largo.

What is it about being near the ocean? Where the land gives way to water?

Maybe it has something to do with the idea of transition, of shifting to new places, both physically and intellectually.

For me, and probably for many of us, it brings a sense of freedom. When I was a kid, my family would take regular summer trips to the Texas coast. Oh the excitement I felt as we crossed over the bridge in Corpus Christi! The salty air, the singing seagulls. And there it was—the water!! I’d spend several glorious days frolicking on the beach, playing with my brother and exploring all the interesting shells and critters that washed ashore.

Summer 82

As adults, sometimes the freedom is as simple as being in vacation mode, especially for those of us who don’t live by the water.

“Adios job, laundry, home improvement projects! We’re going to the beach!!”

But I feel there’s something more, too. By the ocean, where the breeze chases the horizon, my thoughts feel less tethered. To habit, to worry, to routine. And I’ve always been entranced by the sound of waves. It’s a sound that has existed since the beginning of time. The wondrous simplicity of this both humbles and soothes me.

“To me the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim, the rocks, the motion of the waves, the ships with men in them. What stranger miracles are there?”~Walt Whitman

We stayed bayside in Key Largo, and this was calming in its own way. Our “resort” was more of a small, meticulously kept inn with a beautiful botanic garden throughout and a quaint sandy beach with hammocks. The main sounds were the palm trees playing in the breeze. I love palm trees. Tall and sturdy with a wild party on top!

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(In case you’re curious, the name of the resort was Kona Kai and I highly recommend.)

When I was volunteering at the elementary school library this week, I spotted a book of poetry by good ‘ol Shel Silverstein. I randomly flipped it open to a page and found “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” I had forgotten some of the lines….about the moon-bird who cools in the peppermint wind and following the arrows, “for the children, they mark, and the children, they know…”. Something about it seemed to fit quite well with this post about where the water begins.

Here’s to beach time! May it always cast a spell.

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bay at dusk

pelican

glide

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Santa Fe

We spent last weekend in Santa Fe for a quick getaway and change of pace. It’s a pleasant 1-hour drive from Albuquerque, with rolling desert scenery that never seems to get old to me. I miss Fort Worth, in more ways than one, but I’m thankful for this time in such a different environment. I like that you can jump in the car and be out of the city in minutes, various mountain/river/naturally beautiful locales a relatively short ride away. Breath deepens, shoulders drop, mind opens with the landscape.

We’ve been to Santa Fe a few times before but never during the holidays. Sure, there’s the touristy feel here and there and lots of weekend visitors; but Santa Fe really is a neat place. Great art, food, and outdoor activities, all with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as the backdrop. And during the holidays, the city is especially cozy and welcoming, right down to the crackling fires and chili ristras hung with care amidst the twinkling lights and greenery. We even lucked out and saw a little snow. I think if I lived in a place like Denver or the Upper Midwest, I might get sick of the stuff; but so far, falling snow is magic every time. It started before bed, and I stood at our balcony door for probably a good half hour, watching the snow twirl under the street light. Morning was quiet and white and lovely.

I think what stands out most to me about this simple weekend away is feeling absorbed in these moments. So often, it seems easy to jet off to this or that….this question, that thought, those things we need to do. Lately, I also find myself more troubled by this troubled world. I try to limit how much news I read or watch, and I know for every terribly sad story there are so many other uplifting ones that don’t receive the same attention. My point is, our heads and hearts have a lot to process, a lot to try to answer. At least mine do. And I feel whatever quiets the chatter and moves the soul to presence is a gift, an answer in its own way. This past weekend, it was Santa Fe all decked out, time with Dave, my new camera, art, and softly twirling snow.

First Snow

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found –
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

–Mary Oliver

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To Pay Attention

I’ve always liked to take pictures. I remember once when I was young, maybe 10 or so, I borrowed my mom’s basic camera and trekked around our yard, snapping what I believed to be artsy shots of various suburban flora and fauna. This was of course before the more capable digital cameras we have today. So, after developing that roll of photos, my confused mom asked about all the blurry scenes. Her patience was only a little dimmed by the wasted film. 🙂

As I’ve traveled more over the years, I’ve continued to take pictures. Armed with no real training and only a point-and-shoot camera, I claim no expertise. I just like to capture scenes that move me in some way or speak to the essence of a place. There is so much to see in this world, so much to remember. I’m reminded of the lines of a poem by Mary Oliver: “How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly, looking at everything and calling out…To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” I think there is also something about the juxtaposition inherent in photography that attracts me—are we in the moment, enjoying it, or are we trying to capture it in the next good shot? Taking photos reminds me to drink in the moments (camera-less) with as much spirit as I try to capture them digitally.

Soon I hope to upgrade from my point-and-shoot to a digital SLR camera. New Mexico beckons to have its picture taken, so no time like the present to step up my hobby a bit. In the meantime, I’m posting a sampling of my favorite photos from the last 7 years or so. Locations include Spain, Portugal, Tuscany, Massachusetts, San Francisco, Texas and New Mexico.

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Lessons from a Three-Legged Down Dog

Until today, I hadn’t been to a yoga class for over 3 months. It was a gentle class (that was the actual name, “gentle yoga,” which seemed like the perfect way to ease back in). Though we aren’t positive what caused the ligament damage on the top of my right foot, it likely occurred because of some combination of overuse and hitting it or dropping something on it. Considering the books and carts and equipment in the library where I worked, I can imagine numerous scenarios.

I stopped wearing the boot after about 6 weeks, but it was immediately clear that my foot and ankle were going to need more time to heal and strengthen. The normal, rolling walking motion was replaced with a kind of drop-foot gait, and my doc and therapist literally had to help me learn to walk normally again. Some of it was a mental game (the subconscious and the body want to “protect” us), and some of it was simple mechanics. Apparently, ligament damage can be trickier to heal than a broken bone. They asked me not to go to yoga for a while longer, until–for example–I could walk around the block without much pain. That is only just recently happening.

During all these weeks, I have doggedly pulled out my yoga mat at home, piecing together stretches and poses and core work…trying to move however I could, albeit very carefully. Because while my foot was broke, there ain’t much wrong with the rest of me, by golly!! Sometimes I have simply sat on my mat and breathed.

Those are the positive moments. My Zen moments. To be fully accurate, there have also been cuss words, a few tears, and worries over possible longer-term arthritis in that foot (thank you, David, for your patience with me). I like to move….when I was younger, it was dance, then yoga, and also walking or biking or hiking. When my doctor brought in the x-ray, his first words were, “You must be a high-energy person.” These activities bring me joy and help me deal with life. So not being able to use my right foot was a real bummer. I also felt guilt over not being at school to finish the year, doing what I could from home instead. It was my last year at the school where I worked for 11 years. I went out with a…limp. But when I start wallowing and feeling sorry for myself, another voice kicks in—“Come on, get over yourself!!! It’s just a foot—and it will get better!! Do what you can.” And I’ve pulled out my mat, or read a book, or simply stayed open to slowing down.

Thus, I find yoga in all this—for what is yoga if not a returning to the moment, a returning to what is, a returning to gratitude? Otherwise, I don’t feel like I’ve learned much more than poses during these years of practice.

Then my foot starts to hurt and I grumble. Ha! 🙂 That’s my point—it’s an ongoing process. And I try to return. Re-turn, gently, my thoughts and perspective. I also have enormous, renewed gratitude for feet and all things grounding, especially in times of change. With fall approaching and summer ending and many transitions for myself and those around me, I end today with this hope–may we save some love and energy for all that grounds us.

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