New Friends


So you probably know that I’ve been on vacation with my younger sister. We just spent a week in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

It was perfect.

I know, I know. Gag me and all that.

But seriously. It was about 80 degrees and perfectly sunny EVERY DAY. We ate fresh seafood. We walked on the beach every morning. We collected (I am not kidding) about 600 perfect seashells. We swam and floated and splashed in the Gulf of Mexico for hours.

And one of the best parts for me was meeting so many friendly and welcoming people. I met some new people, unknown to either my sister or myself. They were interesting, funny, and fun to talk with.

I also had the pleasure of meeting some people that my sister has known for decades. That was very cool, because at long last I had faces to match to so many of her stories. And I was instantly welcomed into the “family” of her long time buddies.

So special. Such a blessing.

And I mean that. Really and truly! My circle has grown this week, and that is always a wonderful development.

But you know what?

The best interaction that I had all week was with a bird.

We were walking along the shore one evening, gathering shells and watching the sun set. We came to a wooden pier, stretching into the gulf.

As we looked out toward the setting sun, I noticed a beautiful egret fishing on the rocks.

Perfection. Fishing on the rocks along the Gulf of Mexico.

I walked toward her, snapping picture after picture to capture her perfect white feathers in the light of the setting sun.

And then I noticed, further along, a beautiful heron. A great blue heron, standing on the railing of the pier. He was scanning the water below him, just as intent on catching his dinner as the egret was.

I slowly walked toward him, fully expecting him to take flight when I got too close.

But to my amazement, instead of flying off, he turned his head to watch my approach.

“Approach. But do it carefully.”

He was absolutely calm, watching me with his bright yellow eyes. As I held up my phone and started to take pictures, I swear that he lifted his head and posed.

He was regal. He was the one in charge.

He seemed, in a strange way, to be watching me as closely as I was watching him.

I could hardly breathe. I have never been so close to a heron! I have never been so close to a large bird.

He was gorgeous.

I kept moving forward, my phone help up in front of my eye.

The heron watched, but never gave the slightest sign of unease. His feet stayed steady on the post beneath him. His feathers were smooth, gray, supremely unruffled.

I took one picture after another.

Slowly, I moved past my royal subject. Now the sun’s setting light held him in perfect glowing relief. I took several more shots, unable to believe my luck.

And I’m not kidding. He turned his head, showing himself in perfect profile.

“Be sure to capture my best side.”

It was starting to feel a little bit surreal, standing so close to such an amazing bird, watching him in all of his elegant glory. Watching him as he watched me.

Finally I had taken as many photos as I thought I might need. I put my phone in my pocket.

For some reason that I don’t fully understand, I placed my right hand on my chest, and gave a tiny bow.

‘Thank you, sir,” I said.

And you know what he did?

I’m not kidding.

He dipped that magnificent head toward me, acknowledging my thanks and recognizing his own superiority.

I will forever be in awe of that moment.

Ancient Thoughts


We humans like to believe that we are sophisticated, advanced, modern. We like to believe that we have left our ancient selves behind. We are no longer tied to the changing faces of the natural world, we tell ourselves. We live in a world of technology and science and modern advances.

Why is it, then, that when the sun sets into the western ocean, so many humans gather on the shore to watch in awe? What is that sense of wonder that comes over us as we watch the golden orb sinking into the ocean?

I don’t know.

All I know is that every time I see the sun set, I want to capture it, to photograph it, to paint it, or to find the words to describe the magic that it seems to be showing us.

We humans like to tell ourselves that we are creatures of reason, of rational thinking, of fact. We do our best to believe that we are subject to the laws of physics, but not to the laws of magic.

We think that we have left behind the primitive worship that our ancestors gave to the forces of nature.

But.

When we step into the arms of the ocean, we humans lose that sense of rationality. The rocking, soothing, calming waves remind us, I think, of cradles and rocking chairs and the loving arms of our parents.

We are magically soothed.

Humans flock to the sea. From every far flung corner of every continent, it seems, we rush toward the sea when we need to rest, to be calm, to find a sense of peace.

Doesn’t that seem to be the most primitive drive? To find ourselves back in the place from where our earliest ancestors emerged? To return to a salt water origin that we all knew before we were born?

There’s just something magical about watching the sun reflect off of the ocean. There is a kind of healing and rebalancing that happens when we find ourselves afloat in the ocean. It’s elemental.

I can’t describe it. I keep trying, but I can’t.

All I know is that there is magic here. Magic that reminds us that we aren’t, after all, so far from our true origins. We haven’t come so far from the first humans who stood on beaches like this one.

We still want to watch the sun set and moon rise. We want to feel the salt wind in our faces. We find ourselves compelled to gather up the most perfect and beautiful of sea shells.

I love this about us. I love the fact that just beneath our carefully applied surfaces, we’re still only one small step away from our most primitive and basic origins.

We still live, whether we like it or not, in a world that is ruled by magic.

Perfect, beautiful, natural

Two Old Nuts in the Sun


Holy Heaven, my friends.

I could so get used to this life.

I’m writing tonight from gorgeous St. Pete Beach in Florida.

I’m here with my sister, my first true friend. Born only 20 months after me, Liz was something of a twin to me when we were little. As the big sister, I protected her from scary invisible monsters and bossy neighbor kids.

As the little sister, she gave me a sense of power by obeying my every command.

Then we both grew up, and began to lead our different, separate lives. Time passed and we had different paths to follow. We were no longer in touch every day, and no longer held key roles in each others’ lives.

Nevertheless, she has always been there for me, my husband, my children. I hope I’ve done the same for her.

The years have rolled on. We aren’t those two cute almost twin girls with our matching outfits and matching ponytails. We are no longer those two young women in our new marriages.

Now we’re two aging ladies who have been through joys and struggles. We’re gray. We’re not as svelte as we used to be. We’re quirky.

Now we’re just two old nuts.

Liz lost her husband not long ago. He was the absolute love of her life, her other half. He was her partner in everything.

For 23 years, the two of them spent winter vacations on St. Pete Beach, always staying at the same resort motel. They made dozens of friends and thousands of memories. This place became a cherished second home for both of them.

I’m here because Liz needed to come back to this place. She wanted to make some new memories and to regain a little of the happiness she knew here. She needed a side kick, as it were, and I’m lucky enough to be in that role.

So here we are. Swimming in the salty waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Collecting shells, watching the sunsets, drinking wine.

There are some happy ghosts here for Liz, to be sure. But I think that there are also some new laughs.

In the end, we are just two old nuts strolling along the tide line with our very first friend.