Sunday, March 29, 2020

Twelve: Not Knowing When

March 20.
The county will be closing our beach tonight at midnight; coronavirus precaution. Chris, Natalie and I are here for one last time. For how long? People have been saying the uncertainty is the hardest part. So true.
 The sun is in the west and the yellow-flag waves bubble up onshore, mesmerizing to watch. A breeze blows off the Gulf and carries a salty mist with it and I soak it all in.
Olivia and Jacob are home, so our house is wonderfully full. I have missed my kids and am so grateful to have them back. We are all aware that being quarantined together in a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom house could be a recipe for disaster; it could also be fun, and maybe even a productive opportunity to help each other get things done. Hey, a girl can dream!

I'm reading the Handbook to Higher Consciousness by Ken Keyes, and it's so good I have to write about it, even though doing so veers me away from any talk of the coronavirus. So be it.
One of its amazing insights is to realize when I'm "addicted" to something and change the way I think about it. We aren't necessarily talking about drugs and alcohol. For example, I've realized I'm addicted to the idea that Courage Without Grace must be picked up by an agent and published. I want it so bad, it hurts, which makes my desire an addiction.
I have so much anxiousness around the whole publishing process that I can't see clearly. Can I change my addiction to a mere preference? I certainly prefer that Courage be published, but can I still be happy if it isn't?
Keyes points out that when we see everything as a preference, we lose our intense negative feelings and gain clarity and effectiveness. I would like that a lot. And in this moment, sitting here by the sea, I'm sure I can be happy no matter what.
The sun has gone behind a cloud, and it's turning chilly. We're talking about dinner and it's time to go home. We'll leave here not knowing when we'll be back, and I want to cry.
And for the record, I'd like to add I prefer the beach stay open, and that the coronavirus just go the hell away.
Photo credits: Chris Zokan

Friday, March 27, 2020

Eleven: Wim Hof, Baby!

March 15. Good Lord, what a week.
Natalie is home for an extended spring break (yay!) because of the coronavirus (boo!) and we are at our favorite spot on the beach.
It's a green flag day, green water that is COLD, but it's seventy degrees out, and we're wearing bathing suits for the first time this year.
Such beautiful water, calmly rolling up to the shore for one foamy white splash, but... the flies! My goodness! They are awful! The little pests aren't stopping us, or the other spring breakers, but we'll no doubt cut our visit short.

I heard about Wim Hof on Netflix's controversial "Goop Lab" (no apologies, lol) and love what I've learned about his method so far. Check him out here: Wim Hof Method. Following the crazy Dutchman's lead of cold showers and ice baths, I jump in the 66-degree ocean. It feels SO. GOOD. It's so invigorating I want to whoop and holler, and call out, "I'm alive!" I don't do it, though. Natalie has joined me, and I don't want to embarrass her.

Laughing, we crawl out of the water to warm up in the sun. Back in our chairs, I don't want to think about the coronavirus. The U.S. seems to be collectively holding its breath for tomorrow. The true numbers of how many have the virus will be known when the masses get tested.

For now, we shoo away flies, soak in the sun, and relish the cool fresh feeling from our first ocean swim of 2020. A wave comes up over the small rise in front of me, rolling a few shells with it. The water is within inches of our chairs. I guess it's time to head home.

Photo Credits: Natalie Zokan

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Ten: And So It Begins

This cold and beautiful March morning was stolen straight out of January, with its quiet lake-like waves gently rippling to the shore. I sit beside it, somewhat distracted.


I ask Google how many US counties have coronavirus. It's March 8, and the numbers are still low. But out of 3,142 counties/county equivalents, Santa Rosa is one of them. A resident in his 70s died from COVID-19. Did our paths cross?
I shake my thoughts from the hot topic of the day and think about my week. Big changes are afoot.
I no longer work in Milton, driving over a half-hour to and from home. My territory is now my town. Come Monday I'll drive five minutes to my first store and go from there.
This saves money on gas, saves wear and tear on my car, and so much time. Also, I'm ready to focus on other things. Dare  I say I'm ready for a change? I will miss my drive on Scenic Highway in Pensacola, though: read Commute Delight here
Another development involves Courage Without Grace, my current manuscript. A beta reader returned her copy with excellent feedback, and two more wait in the wings, so it's time. I query agents next, starting this week of new beginnings.
As groups of sandpipers skitter by, as people search for shells along the shore, as a lone surfer rides the small swells, I breathe in  deep and try to soak in the beauty. A flock of seagulls sits on a sandbar looking out to the ocean, calling. Surrounded by water, they create a strange site.
I'm distracted again. A couple walks a little too close to my chair, and I watch them, wondering ...

Photo credits: Chris Zokan

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Nine: Leap Year Day

Sitting on the sand at Seaside with many, many women. Turns out it's the Aloe Vera-- I mean, Vera Bradley -- Run tomorrow and the place is packed.
But we don't care.
Natalie is home for the weekend! She wanted to come here, no doubt for the memories. We've been visiting 30A for decades. She's grown up vacationing here.
We rode bikes on the paths, we ate at Pizza by the Sea, we walked through the Shops of Seaside, and now we sit on the beach and breathe in the sea, the sand, the sun.
So deeply satisfying to have her here. To share stories of the past month, to have long, easy, conversations, to just be together.

I'm deeply grateful for the Gulf of Mexico, our happy place, for its ability to take me to that peace in my soul where all is always well.
The sun glistens brightly off the water and the breeze is strong, making the surf loud enough to drown the voices of people nearby. I take the first deep breath of the day, and the second.
I didn't listen to my intentions yet, so I do it now.
I've recorded myself saying words that conjure images of how I want my life to look. Laughter. Ease. Fun. Kindness. Connection. Beautiful music. Purpose. Clarity. Prosperity. Peace. Lightness. Exhilaration. Beauty. Nature. Enthusiasm. Family. Friends. Confidence. Excellent health.
When I feel the words, I'm one step closer to living them all day, every day.
Today, I smile at Family. Nature. Fun. I would add the word gratitude, but appreciation is at the core of every single word, especially today.
Photo credits: Chris Zokan

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Eight: Mardi Gras!

Not until I moved to the Florida panhandle twenty-eight years ago did I hear about Mardi Gras parades. But once I got here, I fell in love with them.  Chris and I rode our bikes over the Bob Sikes Bridge for this year's Pensacola Beach's parade, held on a beautiful, cool Sunday afternoon. 
The brightly costumed people on the fifty or so floats threw beads and Moon Pies and frisbees, but the best part of the street party was, and always will be, the music. 
One after another, the floats cranked out upbeat songs that had me dancing and singing with the crowd, all of us ready to, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" There's nothing like a street party on the beach to get the good times rolling.

Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!
 Photo credits: Chris Zokan

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Seven: Namaste

What a gorgeous day. I'm sitting close to the dunes at our favorite spot, Walkover Number 22D, and I'm watching the tourists walk by in shorts and T-shirts. I have on boots, mittens, a coat.
I'm so grateful to live here. I take a deep, doubly deep breath, and sigh.
The waves roll in steadily today, some breaking one hundred or so yards out and crawling in while others build up to make a big splash on the shoreline.
And that delicious sun, close to setting in a clear sky ...
I've just done some yoga, enjoying watching my twenty-foot shadow on the sea oats,. Chris is pacing the water line, camera in hand.
I learned from Deepak Chopra to practice lovingkindness to others by thinking "Namaste" as I see them. Namaste: the spirit in me honors the spirit in you. The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.
I notice seventeen others along the shore and say "Namaste" to each one in my heart. There's enough room here for all of us.
A surge of love for humanity fills me as the sun sets.
We saw a beautiful little dachshund puppy today, Piper, and it made us miss TigerLily so much. Piper had Tiger's sweet eyes. But time waits for no one.
Pets come and go, life ebbs and flows, the sun rises and sets, and this is as good as it gets. It's certainly good enough today.
Namaste, everyone. Namaste.

Photo credits: Chris Zokan

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Six: Sunset/Full Moon Ride

I had been wanting to go on the Sunset/Full Moon Ride at Ft. Pickens National Seashore for months, but always seemed to miss it, until this Sunday. Chris and I packed up our bikes and arrived at the entrance to the park at 4:30, ready to ride, excited for an adventure.

And how fun it was, riding to the fort! Those seven-plus miles of beautiful road, happy riders alongside, the sunset ahead, the promise of a full moon behind. Granted, the sun set without fanfare, but the night felt cool, the wind blew at our backs, and we rode among the dunes, sea oats, tall pines, and gnarled oaks, enjoying the scenery at a leisurely pace.
At the fort, with the sun officially down, we headed back. And it got dark. Quick. The wind, which had pushed us along, now felt like a wall.
No matter. We had nothing but time, and the promise of a full moon rise. Riding in the dark was actually magical, otherworldly.
But then ... my blood-sugar dropped. Chris and I love to ride bikes, and 15 miles isn't daunting. But we aren't the best at preparing for situations. I didn't even have water. But I did have Tic Tacs, and I ate twelve of them, along with much of Chris' water.
We still had five miles to go, and was afraid I might pass out. I put my head down and focused on my breathing and the white line painted on the side of the road. Every once in a while I looked up to check on the moon, finally deciding, in those minutes that passed by like hours, that there would be no moon for me tonight.
But then, the magic kicked in again. I looked up and saw a strange orange dome sitting on Pensacola Beach, like a lit-up party tent at a big event. But this party tent started floating. Soon, a huge orange ball sat on the horizon, and Chris and I marveled at the beauty. Three miles to go.
I put my head down again and only pedalled, and pedalled, and pedalled.
At the last mile, I just couldn't do it anymore. Chris, my hero, my knight in shining armor, reached his hand out to me and pulled me the rest of the way.
I fell into the car, gulped down my water, and scavenged for food, coming up with a Gatorade chew. I would survive.
As we drove home, we pondered the question of whether we would take part in the Sunset/Full Moon Ride again. There's a good chance we will. But there's a 100 percent chance that we will be packing snacks.

Photo Credits: Chris Zokan