Most Wednesdays (or thereabouts) I’ve been recording a Curiosity Journal to recap the previous week using these tag words: reading, playing, learning, reacting and writing. Sometimes I mix up the order, just to keep you on your toes.
My husband and I saved for several years to take a vacation, just the two of us. We were dreaming of an exotic, tropical location for our 20th wedding anniversary, but when our 20th rolled around, all our plans fell apart. We couldn’t manage to do anything for the 21st, either.
Now it is our 22nd year of marriage, and though that anniversary doesn’t end in a zero or five, it turned out to be the year we could arrange for something.
So we dipped into that special savings and took a trip to a beach. Just the two of us.
This trip didn’t land us on an exotic Caribbean island, but we did manage to secure tickets to southwest Florida where we found a hotel on Sanibel.
And as the days warmed to 80 degrees on that Florida beach, just the two of us would stretch out on lounge chairs without any kids asking if they can buy a Dr. Pepper at the vending machine or click on the hotel television to watch Cartoon Network.
And though the trip wasn’t picture perfect (see “Learning” below), we decided it was nevertheless just right, because it involved God’s creation spread out like a vision every morning, two bars of Endangered Species chocolate, uninterrupted time to chat or read, and amazing food—all for us to relish…just the two of us.
On the trip, I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, where I revisited some of her observations that struck me between the eyes when my kids were little and I was feeling my way through parenthood like a blind woman groping for braille.
In the quiet, isolated, pre-blogging world when I lived the early years of motherhood, I landed on Lindbergh’s words that felt right and true, reassuring me I was not alone:
With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married woman. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. (Lindbergh 29)
She continues in that same paragraph:
The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls—woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. (29)
At that stage of life when days stretched long and full, I craved time and space for creative, contemplative pursuits, but I was surrounded by distractions of little ones and their needs—blessed distractions, but distractions from the activities that had once satisfied my spiritual and creative self. I felt I lived a little off-center, mind-full instead of mindful. Lindbergh’s words helped me recognize and be aware of the pulls.
As she ponders simplifying life, she remarks:
I remember again, ironically, that today more of us in America than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication of life. And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication…if one accidentally finds [simplicity]…one finds also the serenity it brings. (33)
I craved a simple, creative, quiet life and the serenity I was sure it would bring. But I also wanted to live a full and devoted life as a stay-at-home mom. Lindbergh felt like a kindred spirit, and I took hope from her words, feeling understood for the first time. Her words contributed to my journey toward the slower, simpler life I wrote about both in The Contemplative Mom (to be re-released Summer 2013; available used for now) and Not So Fast (currently available from any bookseller).
What a delight to read Gift from the Sea again when my kids are so much older and I’m in a new stage of life…and to read it on Sanibel, just across the causeway from Captiva, where Lindbergh first wrote those words in 1955.
Get Organised published another of my experiments. This one, about my gamble with tucking active paperwork out of sight, has worked well.
Any vacation can throw a curve ball. On the next-to-last day of my husband’s and my Sanibel trip, we pulled up the weather report and saw an alert that read:
FLORIDA RED TIDE
A PATCHY HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM OF KARENIA BREVIS
ALSO KNOWN AS FLORIDA RED TIDE
HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED ALONG PORTIONS OF THE SOUTHWEST FLORIDA COAST. OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS
REPORTS OF DEAD FISH HAVE BEEN RECEIVED FROM CHARLOTTE AND SARASOTA COUNTIES AND REPORTS OF RESPIRATORY IRRITATION HAVE BEEN RECEIVED FROM LEE COUNTY. NOAA RESPIRATORY IMPACT FORECAST: SOUTHERN CHARLOTTE AND NORTHERN LEE COUNTIES: BAY REGIONS
PATCHY HIGH RESPIRATORY IMPACTS ARE POSSIBLE SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
MAY EXPERIENCE RESPIRATORY SYMPTOMS WHEN AN ALGAL BLOOM OF THE RED TIDE ORGANISM IS PRESENT ALONG THE COAST AND WINDS BLOW THE AEROSOL IT PRODUCES ON SHORE. SYMPTOMS ARE GENERALLY TEMPORARY
I skimmed the alert and went on with my day, but when we walked the beach on a windy evening, my sinus cavities felt swollen and I started coughing, coughing, coughing. My husband and I researched Red Tide, and I was experiencing some of the symptoms cited at some of the websites:
Some people experience respiratory irritation (coughing, sneezing, tearing and an itchy throat) when the Florida red tide organism, K. brevis, is present and winds blow onshore…The Florida Department of Health advises people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, to avoid red tide areas.
So we left the breezy beach and headed to the room, where I used my rescue inhaler and my breathing returned to normal. We looked at the weather advisory more closely, and my husband read the last line out loud: “‘Symptoms are generally temporary.’ That’s reassuring, isn’t it?”
While my husband and I settled onto fluffy, blue-striped, hotel-supplied beach towels spread out on hotel lounge chairs on Sanibel beach, we noticed a woman who sat on the sand a few feet away from us, sifting through a pile of shells. She looked to be happy as a clam, picking out a single shell from the mass now and then before running her hand across and through, waiting for another to catch her fancy.
“That looks like someone I know,” I said to my husband. “A writer. I’ve met her at several writing conferences. Her dad ran the Christian bookstore in the town where I grew up.”
“Is it her, or does it just look like her?”
“I’ve only seen her in person a few times, but it sure does look like her.”
“It can’t be.”
“But if it is, wouldn’t that be amazing?”
“But if it isn’t, wouldn’t you be embarrassed?”
“I know! I’ll use her name really loud.” I raised my volume. “Hey, that looks like Cindy Crosby!” No reaction from the lady by the shells. “Seriously, that looks so much like Cindy!” Nothing.
My husband shrugged. “See? It just looked like her. Now leave that poor woman alone.”
“She does look happy. I’ll stop being silly.” I pulled out Gift from the Sea, which I was determined to finish before we left the island, and directed my attention to the book.
Days later, however, in the airport while waiting to board, I flipped open my computer and pulled up Facebook. Cindy Crosby, one of my Facebook friends, had just updated her profile picture to a beautiful view of the Gulf of Mexico, featuring the same blue hotel lounge chairs and blue-striped towels we had used all week.
I left a comment that I knew exactly where she was because I had just been there, and sure enough. It was Cindy Crosby all along, sifting through shells, relishing those moments in God’s creation. It’s a small, small, perfectly lovely world, isn’t it?
* * * * *
Work Cited: Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Gift from the Sea. New York: Pantheon Books, 1975. Print.
Images by Ann Kroeker.
So good to know you were there! If only I had realized you were a few chairs over. 🙂 It was an amazing place to be, red tide and all, wasn’t it? And “Gifts from the Sea” is the perfect read for Sanibel. Thanks for bringing back memories of sun, waves, and tides in an 18 degree Chicago winter’s day…. Cindy 🙂
I’ll bet you loved Ding Darling, being a naturalist and park ranger!
It’s cold here, too. Close your eyes, and maybe you can imagine the sand again…
Lynn Hopper says
It shouldn’t be a coincidence that you two know each other, but I just wasn’t expecting it! However, I am delighted that you do, two of my favorite authors, and people. I’m sorry you failed to connect at Sanibel, but sooner or later you will both be visiting Plainfield at the same time! Hope I’m there, too!
Perhaps we will!
Hazel Moon says
I am happy you coule escape for a season – – just the two of you. Cindy may have had ear plugs listening to music and did not hear you – – or she was too engrossed in her sea shells. Nice Trip
Thank you, Hazel–Cindy and I decided she was simply in a state of bliss, enjoying her time by the water sorting sea shells, just as you said. The waves do make a swishy, splashy racket when the crash in, so that might have drowned out my “Cindy!”
Megan Willome says
Why did I think Lindbergh wrote on some cold New England coast? Wishful thinking, I suppose.
So happy you got away AND that your book is being re-released. It’s one of Dena’s favorites.
Lindbergh lived in Connecticut, but had this cottage on Captiva (and another on Hawaii–they were rock stars of their time, you know). The way she describes the cottage in the book, it sounds like bare minimum in terms of amenities. Now Captiva is a place of mansions for the super-wealthy, though it is simply their third home. We couldn’t even figure out how to park and walk around on Captiva, so we drove through and snapped random pictures, few of which turned out as anything other than a blur of pillars and palm trees.
I’m so glad to see your smiling face under that beach bonnet ;). Your words are making me want to kidnap my husband for a secret getaway. Maybe not all the way to Sanibel…but somewhere. I felt relaxed walking the beach with you–red tide and all.
Ann Kroeker says
Sanibel is a long, long way down Florida. If you wait until warmer weather, I’ll bet many beaches on the east coast will be stunning. We went that far south in search of warm temps in February, but wait until May and then head to one of the Carolinas. I’ll bet they are beautiful that time of year!
My very favorite place to go in early May is on the Florida panhandle (not convenient for you, but a straight shot down I-65 for us). Either Grayton Beach, Panama City Beach, Destin, or even Gulf Shores. Of course, our family has always been camping, but it is to-die-for-gorgeous that time of year. The week of May 5. Stunning. And the beaches are a soft white sand unlike any other. I collect sand every time I go to a beach and pour them into glass containers, so believe me, I know. I’ve compared.
Hope you get that outing!
Oh my! How I had forgotten about Gift from the Sea. I know that I no longer have my copy….I will get it on the Nook or go search for a copy. Back 20 years ago or so I use to gift copies!
We use to live in New Orleans (pre Katrina) and loved April in Gulf Port or Gulf Shores. Not many were around and it was relaxing.
Have a super day! I pop into your blog about once a week but don’t usually comment ;0
I found a copy at Goodwill–a nice hardbound edition. My mom had given me an old paperback years ago. I kind of thought I might continue searching for them and have one for each of my daughters to give them later, when they are entering motherhood. I might have a daughter-in-law someday, too, so I guess I need to find five: four to give and one to keep! 🙂
April on the Gulf. Sounds divine!
So glad you took time to comment!
You are welcome! I bought a paper back off of Amazon. 😉