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

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

TigerLily Christina Zokan

I'm looking out a this beautiful ocean today. The sky is an unbelievably blue dome and  the sun refracts light onto the green expanse of sea. I take a deep breath. The breeze caresses my face, the surf rolling gently in. Goodbye TigerLily.
I've been dreading this beach trip since January 29. TigerLily, our beautiful, wonderful, endlessly playful twelve-and-a-half year old dachshund, died in her sleep in the early hours of that wretched, wretched day.
The amount of tears we cried shocked me, unnerved me. And the irony? We have another dachshund who is SIXTEEN. Over 111 in dog years. Bayleigh hobbles; she sleeps mostly, she is bony and myopic and deaf. And maybe I wished for her to cross that rainbow bridge to end her misery. But death swept into our house and took the cuddly adorable perennial puppy of a dog instead.
At first we couldn't believe it. She had been so lively. Granted, she'd turned into a finicky eater and some days couldn't keep her meal down. The day before she died, we decided to take her to the vet if she wasn't better. How we wish we had taken her sooner!
But as days have slowly crawled by, her death seemed inevitable. The truth, cold and hard, is that everyone has a death day. She lived eighty-seven dog years, and was deeply loved. Our family has grown closer in our grief, contacting each other daily to discuss Tiger and her sister Bayleigh.
With TigerLily gone, the centenarian seems to have revived with our sudden attention to her. There is a certain beauty with age, and we value her life deeply.
But I still miss my precious puppy, and I've found a way to cope. Whenever I think of her, I picture her in my arms, happily licking my face and wagging her tail. I'm playing with her impossibly soft floppy ears, and I'm happy.
It's easy to remember that wonderful feeling, and it's getting easier. She loved me, she loved us all. She's in puppy heaven and when I have my death day, I know she'll be in my arms again. Meanwhile, I hold tight to Rumi's words, "Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form." And this gorgeous beach day just might be one of those forms.

Photo credits: Chris Zokan

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Long and Winding Road

We're in the Fort Pickens Gulf Islands National Seashore this afternoon. I love Fort Pickens. Driving through the gate on the west end of Pensacola Beach is like traveling to another world. A desert world of white sand dunes, low shrubs, and a calming, insistent rumble: the nearby tide.

 And the memories! Many of them include my parents. When they visited--so many years ago--we would come here just to drive the desolate road. This place reminded us of the highway between Barranquilla and Santa Marta. I left Northern Colombia after the first grade, but I still remember that impossibly long drive along the skinny, salty Caribbean Transverse.

Unlike Northern Colombia, it's cold here as the sun sets on this near cloudless day. Somehow we've managed to end up at a busy beach. At least seven people surround us, all with cameras.
I'm aware that no matter where I sit along the shore I'll be in someone's photo. I'd like to say I don't give a damn, but by now you and I both know that's not true. Pelicans bob on the frigid water. Those crazy birds, photo bombing with glee.
I've been missing my girls lately. When they lived at home, we had plans every Saturday night; we did what they did. But as empty nesters, this trip to the beach is our big outing for the day. And not too shabby, I'd say.
But  Chris and I want to come up with connections for times like this. After our kitchen remodel, we'll invite friends over for dinner. And I want to get a group of women together to take a class on charcuterie-making. Chris' personal training business, Performance Studio, is taking off, and that's creating a community, which is all fine and good.
But what I really want is to get in my car and drive inland until I reach a daughter.
Photo credits: Chris Zokan

Saturday, February 1, 2020


Sitting in the Margaritaville lobby, feeling very self-conscious. Does EVERYONE know we don't belong here? We walked in off the street to enjoy the beach from a warmer vantage point. It's freezing today. An ice-in-the-birdbath day.
I hunker down on a seat by the bay window and pretend to talk on my phone. Chris nonchalantly wanders outside and beckons me to join him. Finally, I do.

Although the sun is behind a haze, it's not windy. The Gulf is a lovely emerald green today, with white waves rolling in. Watching them, I quit caring about what the Margaritaville staff might think. Lord knows I've spent enough at their delicious restaurant, Frank and Lola's. I'm just grateful to be at the beach -- my beach.
I've been deep into my work on Grace. I'm not sure its good, but I love it anyway. I love the characters, the palmreading, the motorcycle riding. I love the songs of the 80s, I love Washington, DC.
This will be the last time I go through it for awhile. I'll bless it, send it out, and forget about it.
I'm already working on a new manuscript, something Chris and I wrote together. It's completely different from Josie's story, more of a sci-fi action/adventure. Chris can get me to do things I wouldn't normally do.
We start feeling the chill, so we walk to the car. This time we bypass the lobby, but we'll be back.