For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It's always our self we find in the sea.
For the past few weeks, I've felt like a jumping bean, hopping from one project to the next, never quite finishing one before moving on to another, mentally filling to overflowing a shelf labeled "Later".
I had lost my balance, knocking it aside somewhere in my zeal to conquer my dreams, get organized, and make money, all at the same time. No matter how hard I tried to breathe, to focus on each moment, I couldn't stop that little hyper bean inside of me that couldn't just enjoy the present but had to continually jump ahead, or sideways, or backwards.
Then Thursday afternoon I stepped onto Mustang Island.
One look at the waves rolling in, rolling out... one deep breath of the salty air...one note of the symphony of crashing waves and cries of seagulls...
That's all it took for the stillness to return, as if the waves and the air loosened the knots and cleansed my spirit. The symphony soothed me... a lullaby chasing away the helter-skelter bits of thought in my brain.
I find myself at the extremity of a long beach. How gladly does the spirit leap forth, and suddenly enlarge its sense of being to the full extent of the broad, blue, sunny deep! A greeting and a homage to the Sea! I descend over its margin, and dip my hand into the wave that meets me, and bathe my brow. That far-resounding roar is the Ocean's voice of welcome. His salt breath brings a blessing along with it. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Foot-prints on the Sea-shore"
That's why my friends and I run away every year to the sea. This was our 12th annual retreat, a time to reconnect with these friends, but also with myself.
To think of nothing, but to see and experience everything.
Year before last, we encountered Laura Bush on the beach and discovered Stoney LaRue. Last year my high school Divas joined us, and although the numbers made it tougher for me to spend time with everyone as much as I hoped, priceless memories were made.
This year I had no expectations, especially considering the highs of the past two. I only craved simplicity and silence. I hoped for sun, but would have smiled at raindrops.
But it didn't rain. Thursday afternoon's storm clouds cleared out and blue skies ruled the rest of the weekend. Thanks to this year's drought, there were no mosquitos. And on our one night of dancing, we had plenty of dance partners for a change, including some who knew how to spin me around country-style.
This year, I didn't worry about running every morning or about waking at the crack of dawn to photograph the sunrise each day, although I did manage each of them once.
This year I read. I wandered with my camera. I prayed. I met an artist, Marilyn Lindholm, who asked for one of my photographs of a rainbow umbrella and invited me along on a photo-staging of wine glasses and driftwood.
I spent hours listening to the waves, watching porpoises, seagulls and cute little seabirds, drinking Bloody Mary's and talking about life with fifteen other wonderful women, including my sweet sister Brenda, healed enough from her hip surgery six months ago to drive herself to the coast. She even made it down to the beach and the swimming pool. (Thank you for all your prayers for her.)
Hanging on to the stillness will be a challenge, I know. I felt that restlessness waking up with me Monday morning with just one glance at my to-do list. But if I close my eyes I can hear the waves, reaching in, pulling out, reminding me to hang on to the rhythm of life, and leave the rest behind.
It helps to have some photos. I haven't finished going through the ones I took, but here are a few...
A magical moment... My friend Cheryl spotted this little Yellow Warbler cowering in a corner of the boardwalk. He hopped on her finger and stayed put for an extended photo shoot. She thought he was injured and was trying to decide how to take care of him when suddenly, whoosh! he was gone, flying out over the dunes.
Schools of fish teamed just offshore, so the pelicans and seagulls (and even a few porpoises) were going nuts.
There's always at least one woman who feels a need to give everyone something - this year it was Mary Kay and her niece, Tiffany. I've given up protesting.
We always treat ourselves to dinner out one night - can't beat fresh seafood straight from the gulf!
A table for 16, please...
Me and my sweet sister... (note the 'character scar' on my nose, my souvenir from our little wreck a couple of weeks ago.)
Where I lived for two full days...
In my normal life I can barely sit still through a movie, yet I had no problem lying for hours on a hard plastic lounge chair. Go figure.
Mary Kay, the University of Texas Longhorns #1 Fan! (We stomped Iowa State!)
These precious little girls kept us all sighing over their cuteness on Saturday. I took dozens of photos and I don't even know them!
You can imagine how many photos of sea birds I took - I'll post most of them on Confessions later (uh-oh... "later" is already popping up.)
There were almost as many dogs as birds at the beach this time! Total exaggeration, of course, but there were a lot. I loved this trio of ladies... Lucy, and, um, ah, I can't remember the other two but they started with 'L's.
Our traditional photo of the whole group just before final hugs and heading back to the real world, mostly in different directions.