African Violet

Over the years I have tried to coax blossoms out of African Violets in every place I lived, which includes a lot of states, cities and houses. Since officially moving to Georgia this past September (and even earlier to buy the house,  get things started), I once again picked up an African Violet for $3.49 at my favorite grocery store. It had three blooms on it.

Today it is bursting full of 17 flowers, with more peeking out from underneath the leaves. It reminds me of the Old Woman in the Shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do. Personally, I am glad this is an abundance of flowers and not children. My two children are plenty, thank you.

Yet each morning I add ¼ cup of water directly to the top of the plant, or sometimes just beneath the leaves, touching them all as I have been cautioned over and over again to never do ~ yet I do for some instinctive reason. I almost talk to the plant, but am not quite at that point yet, although I do say, “Good morning, Violet.” I planted it into a pot my granddaughter, Tate, decorated for my mother. It sits on our kitchen window sill in a small dish of my mother’s china. I think this plant knows it has a big job to do in helping us all remember Mama Parks, herself born in Georgia 100 years ago this August, but she didn’t live quite that long.

This period in our new home has been a time of waiting, and for what I am not sure. To belong? To feel needed? What about having a purpose? Or returning to my roots? I already feel all of these things. My husband and I are welcomed each morning with so many birds chirping I’m sure it must sound like Africa ~ some place away from noise and a lot of people. Except for the birds and the neighbor’s rooster early mornings, it’s quiet here, and these are noises we like. Doors and windows are open for cool air until the days get hot. It’s different from other places we’ve lived. Yet my African Violet is happy here and so is my heart.

When we left the Pacific Northwest after being there more than 30 years, I felt as if I were leaving the nest, yet suddenly here I am in Georgia, feeling I have finally come home. My husband joked recently that he was adjusting to Georgia better than me. I laughed. It’s just that he has a large yard to play in with a riding lawn mower, a garden already filled with budding fruits and vegetables, thanks to a long growing season, and the natural preserve he’s creating in the back. He’s also learning to kayak Georgia rivers, and working at a new P/T time he enjoys, driving a semi for an Athens, GA events management crew that sets up everything needed for major bicycle races around the country. (Google that at USA Crits). He’s one happy & busy guy.

Sometimes we have a green light in our lives before we realize it. A bell rings suddenly in our hearts and tells us it’s time to go, leave, move on, get packing, start the process and don’t stop until you get where you are supposed to be. That bell rang for both of us at the same time and we have finally come to the place where we know we were meant to be. It’s an awfully good feeling ~ that of coming home!

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I see now, having become a bit of a birder myself lately with my husband, that I have widened my perspectives to see that each and every creature on this earth has jobs to do. When you get right down to it, few jobs and work tasks are any more important than others in keeping this world going.

We frequently ask ourselves what can we do?  Sometimes it seems that so few people care, but I am coming around to the notion that many care, we just don’t all care about the same thing at the same time. Believing each one of us can make a small difference may be the most important notion of all.

We’ve all had moments we’ll remember forever, being present to catch a magnificent bird in flight, or see a glacier melting before our eyes, even if only on TV.  We speak in soft tones about memorable sunsets we’ve seen, maybe when we were young and in the throes of first love, or even much older, sitting on a rock or standing on a bridge for a good view, often with others waiting quietly for it to happen. And then it does. Well remember it forever as ‘a moment in time’ not to be forgotten.

Sometimes here we stand astonished to see the first daffodils poke tiny heads through the soil one at a time in the spring, such brave little souls pushing out to bloom after a cold winter, yet still battling bone- chilling cold.  Before the grass turns green and flowers bloom with abandon, we can remind ourselves that Mother Nature never disappoints.

At our house, in addition to sunsets we can’t forget and daffodils that surprise us in their sudden yellow splendor, my husband and I find ourselves transfixed at the early morning sights of Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal, a pair of Mourning Doves & too many Yellow Finches to count at feeders in the back yard. I know for a fact that we wish we could talk to them, and sometimes do, convinced they are speaking back to us.

We have an Eastern Blue Bird that has come several times to visit early on cool mornings, to pose for us on our back deck railing, turning to look straight at us as if to say, “Look.  See? Can you believe the beauty of my coloring? Don’t I lift your spirits?” “Yes,” we whisper, through the glass on the French door to our deck. “Well,” it continues,”Here I am. I’m ready for my photograph. Are you?” The answer is usually, “No. Of course not.” Instead we ask each where we left the camera last. Why isn’t it on the kitchen counter next to our bird books? But it isn’t. Instead, we hold our breaths to soak in the bravery of this small bird, willing to interact with us for a short time. Such a little bird, sending us such joy.

Lately I’ve begun to look beyond our birds and see cats, dogs, rabbits, squirrels, bees and butterflies, even wasps, spiders, worms, ants and more, understanding quickly how we all have jobs to do on this planet. Our work is cut out for us if we use our talents well. I am thankful I was not made a vulcher, a snake, or even a hornet, though I now have more respect for them, as well.

For people like me, who struggle to appreciate dangerous animals or scary ones – grizzly bears come to mind – we can look lovingly at the earth’s bumble bees and not recoil in fear when they buzz by our ears on summer days. We can nurture plants like Lantana and Butterfly Bushes that draws bees and butterflies.  We can feed the birds, especially during the winter months when berries are in small supply. We can think about and appreciate that we all have our jobs to do, even if it’s only to plant crops and  tend the birds in our own yards. We all have places on earth where we are needed.

We can think back to the birds at our feeders, or migrating birds that rest in wild places along their journeys. It reminds us to be ever grateful that our world is filled with purpose, the way it is supposed to be in spite of dysfunctional places around this planet.

I have never one day in my life worked as hard as a hummingbird beating its wings frantically so many times per second,  or a Bar-Tailed Godwit, migrating between Alaska to New Zealand and back, in full seven to eight day non-stop mind-boggling flights, as reported by National Geographic Magazine in its January 2018 issue – Why Birds Matter and  Why They Are Worth Protecting. This lead article, written by Jonathan Franzen with photography by Joel Satore, has gone a long way in making me realize that our birds have been designed with purpose, just like the rest of us, as well as our landscapes and climates.

It really does make me want to do my small part to help keep this world turning, whether it’s protecting our lakes and streams, cleaning up our oceans, or participating in clean air issues, and let’s not forget about the whales, or all of the endangered birds listed by the Audubon Society. If only each one of us could concentrate on saving our environment, rather than spending every waking moment on wars, hatred, and the hot beds of politics. Each of us. Our own small parts. Just think about that. Think what each one of us can do. How amazing would that be?








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The River Birch

The River Birch

Some years ago my husband planted trees all over our back yard in Spokane, WA, turning it into what I called a Zen garden. There was shade on hot summer days, beautiful snowy branches in the winter, and a magnificent fall to rival colorful leaves any other place on earth. One of my favorite things to do on cold winter mornings was to check out in the front yard for deer hoof prints in the snow.

A few years ago one Christmas Eve, daughter, husband and their little son, Asher, who was four at the time, were visiting. We decided we all needed a short walk in the snow after dinner. Asher spotted deer hoof prints in the driveway and insisted they were reindeer hooves from Santa’s sleigh. He was insistent on going back in the house so he could go quickly to bed, in the hopes that Santa would be back with his reindeer to leave toys, of course.

Even when I did not know how much I loved living in the Pacific Northwest, it continued to grow on me, especially the River Birch I loved so dearly. The peeling leaves of the trunk filled me with wonder every summer, as it grew more stately, sending long branches over the neighbor’s fences every fall.

After living in the Pacific NW for over 30 years, my grown son and daughter finally talked us into moving to GA to be closer to daughter and her family.  We moved in September after months of careful planning which included selling our house in January, a Georgia house hunting trip in April, signing papers on a new house in June, and moving in September. We told friends goodbye and climbed into the car with conviction in our hearts for the trek across the country from Washington State, land of the ever greens, to Georgia, land of the peaches.

I knew I’d miss lots about the Pacific Northwest, including the pristine rivers my husband kayaked, but I had no idea how much the magnificent river birch in our back yard meant to me until one day in Georgia when I stopped at a nearby shop where my Honda Civic was being repaired. The mechanic and I chatted briefly and he asked me where I was from. “Spokane, WA,” I told him. He had family there and asked, “What was your zip code there?” Without warning I burst into tears  – big, racking, sobbing tears. I could not speak other than to mumble through my tears, “I am sorry, I  am so sorry. ” He grabbed a box of Kleenex and shoved them towards me with a worried look on his face. When I could speak I said, “I didn’t know that asking what my zip code had been would trigger such tears.” Then I told him, through more tears, how much I loved my beautiful river birch in our yard in Spokane, and that I would never have another one like it. I told him I realized in that moment that I had been grieving that magnificent river birch, and felt almost as if I’d left a child behind.

My husband came into the shop as I was in the middle of my tears. He told me later he had no idea I had missed our river birch so much., then drove me to a beautiful plant nursery in a nearby Georgia town and bought us a new strong, stately river birch that is now in the center of our front yard. It will be full of leaves and glorious in no time at all, but it will never be the same. It will be a beautiful river birch, in Georgia, but it can never take the place of our beautiful tree in Spokane. One day it’ll all be OK, but it will never be the same. What I know now is that some memories will always die harder than others, and this is one of them!

When people ask why we moved to Georgia from Washington State, we tell them, “Daughter and grandson in Georgia.” This explains why we moved. But it can’t begin to explain what we left behind, and that is a deep, abiding love for the Pacific Northwest, with quail walking along the top of our fence in the back yard, robins nesting in the rose trellis outside my office window, and those rivers clean and clear to the very bottom. We feel blessed to have been part of the Pacific Northwest for as long as we were there.

We now have cardinals, mourning doves and blue birds at our feeder in the back yard here in Georgia, but not one quail has crossed our path, we have not seen one wild turkey, and ducks and geese, honking overhead and flying further south in the fall, are few and far between.

The weather here is basically warm all winter, compared to freezing temperatures in Spokane, yet I long for days when I could wrap up in my winter parka, furry mittens, hat and snow boots to trek down to the mailbox on the corner. Usually I’d spy quail or wild turkeys on the way. Always there was the sound of snow crunching underfoot. I miss the sounds of snow blowers in driveways, miss seeing men red in the face from plowing, and mail trucks that are late due to the latest large snowfall. I miss finding the first Johnny Jump Ups and Pansies in the Spring, and the first tulip bulbs poking their heads through the soil.  Even those deer hoof prints outside our dining room window make me misty eyed to remember.

But we go on, old school as we are. Making do. Living here to watch our grandson play Georgia hockey and soccer, to help my daughter with her busy schedule when needed, and so much more. I tell myself analytically that I need people around me, that the trees and birds I loved so much never actually talked to me, but on quiet mornings when alone, I know deep down that they did. They taught me a lot of things I needed to learn about living, learning, and blooming where I am planted.  Now, with any luck at all, my new river birch will teach me about letting go.


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Gardening Journal

Eighteen years ago I began a gardening journal. In it I was able to capture when flowers bloomed, when they didn’t, or when I found a robin’s nest at the top of our rose trellis. Some plants would thrive in our yard, others would shrivel and die. We managed to go on after their loss, and somehow my journal offered relief from the grief when we lost people we loved, as well. Without realizing it, my journal taught me resilience.

Sometimes I wrote with great flourish, noting when the bleeding hearts poked their heads through the soil, or when my husband planted the ash, the river birch or the blue spruce in the back yard. Sometimes the writing would lapse for months, sometimes years. I loved to read through it on rainy afternoons.

This September we moved to Georgia from Washington State to be closer to my daughter and grandson. I unpacked my gardening journal one afternoon in October, and wrote a short entry, then picked it up to reread today. It spoke to me of moving to a new house once again, with a yard as brown and dismal as the one in Spokane ten years ago. I was out of sorts then, with barely anything alive in the yard. But soon my husband planted trees and flowers that took my breath away.

And yet here we were again, facing an empty yard, or at least not knowing what might have been planted by the previous owners.  Certainly not enough to nourish our lagging spirits, even though we have planted one maple and two apple trees already, and my husband has engineered two amazing garden beds out back with raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, peas and radishes already planted, with warm weather vegetables on their way.

But the grass is brown. Trees are bare. Birds are not happy about it, either. And then an amazing  thing happened overnight. The weather warmed, it rained, daffodils popped up all over the place, iris shoots appeared, and the tall camellia by the back deck bloomed.

My husband brought home a 13 ft. river birch and by afternoon it was tall and stately in the middle of our front yard. He then took it upon himself to uproot three spirea plants from a front flower bed and planted them around  one corner of the garden beds in back. As if that weren’t enough, the next morning he was out with his shovel early, in a light misting rain, and had tackled the dismantling of a dozen large loropetalum bushes in the front yard, so massive I could not see a parked car in the driveway from the front door. Two of them are now planted behind the spirea in the back yard. He said he could move two a day. I suggested one a week. It’s a big job!

It  occurred to me this morning that I should note all of this in the garden journal I began so many years ago. There will be so much more to write about here with a tea olive taller than me, an ever-blooming gardenia, the camellia that just won’t quit, and several dead  and neglected plant stumps. As I think about it, I realize this journal is a reflection of my life. It has taught me many things about loss and letting go. Most importantly, it has taught me that a journal is personal and always speaks truth. The one thing I know in spades is that our journals never lie.





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Early on New Year’s day I took this picture of the small blue pot of Ivy on the kitchen counter, next to the sink. Each morning as I fill the Keurig for a cup of coffee, I give a little water to the ivy. New Year’s morning I transplanted a sister piece of the small batch of ivy, which had been rooting in a clear glass vase on the window sill, a fitting thing to do on a New Year’s Morning, I thought. It took a while to root, as my Mother would have said, as the window faces north rather than a southern window on the other side of the house.

We’ve only been in this house four months, and the ivy I rooted on the window sill gave out abundant roots in the two months it had been sitting in the glass vase, under my daily watchful eye.  Rooting a small stem of a plant, the way my mother did, always fills me with wonder, being able to coax life out of a plant. When I was a child there was always a piece of greenery in a glass vase on a small table in our living room.  Even though this glass vase I use now was my mother’s, she used a different vase, a small cut glass pitcher I loved, but one that was broken years ago.

Yet she and I never talked about plants or flowers, or our love of gardening. I find this strange because as a little girl I’d wake summer mornings and wander outside bare foot in my night gown, in Pensacola, Florida, looking for my mother. I usually found her sitting in the grass beside a flower bed, weeding before it got hot, she’d tell me.  Now, so many years later, I understand that sense of being one with the earth, of giving the flower beds whatever they need to grow and thrive. In a sense they needed her, as mine now need me, or my husband.  They need weeding. They don’t care who does it.

Knowing my mother, she would wake up the way I do now, wondering each morning if the ivy had any new leaves, or if the gardenias in the back yard had decided to bloom.  We had camellias that bloomed year round in our Pensacola yard, as they do here for us in our new Georgia yard. There are always rose-colored camellias or ivory colored gardenias to put in a vase. But it’s different with the ivy. The ivy brings back so many memories of my mother and her life. I know now that my mother thought of her gardens when she woke each morning, to push other problems aside. She would tend her gardens until the rest of the house woke up and life called out to her, reminding her of problems she could not resolve.

As for me, I wake up each morning now, as I am sure she did, ready to open the back door to the cool morning and sit down to weed a flower bed, trim pots of ivy, or dead head a few azalea bushes, thinking of my mother and the life she lived. I wonder each morning  if she was ever really happy. Did our family let her down? Or were her expectations unrealistic? My brother never had his own company; I never became a novelist. My father stayed, unhappily, but died early, leaving her alone the last fifty years of her life to manage the house, yard and my little brother after I’d married and moved. The only constants in her life were her flowers.

As I watched her each morning in the garden, it never once occurred to me if she might have been thinking of her mother the way I do now. It never occurred to me that she had ever read Whitman, remembering that he always had ‘large & melodious thoughts’ while walking under certain large trees. It seemed only a communion with nature when I read that line in college, a line I’ve never forgotten. Never once did I connect this love of nature to my mother, and yet here I am, thinking ‘large and melodious thoughts’ as I transplant a newly-rooted piece of ivy into the pot that already holds another piece I’d transplanted early on when we moved here. I touch the sparkling rocks I placed beside the ivy, rocks my husband brought back from one of his first kayaking mornings here in a nearby lake, and realize I am fortunate to still have my husband here, sharing our new yard in Georgia.

Recently I read a blog post by Julie Christine Johnson, with comments of each of the books she’d read this year. I, of course, am miserable at remembering details accurately (my friends will tell you this is nothing new) but she spoke of a book that mentioned a ‘third thing’ that seems necessary for anyone in a relationship to be truly happy.  There are always two things which unite a couple, of course – but to thrive and be truly happy about sharing lives together they need a third thing they can fall into and love together. For us it’s our yard – the trees, our garden and occasional flower beds, the way we make plans for them, tend them, plan their futures, the way couples plan for their children. Dinner table discussions between us revolve around fencing – to fence or not to fence, what to plant for a wind break around the back garden, which is being planned in a starkly open yard with no trees yet for company, at least none that give relief yet from wind or brutal sun.

And so it goes around here. The yard. Our first love together, especially for a second marriage. Of course I have my children, friends, writing, while he has his shop, tools, kayaking; we have each other, but the love of our shared lives centers around the yard, that third thing we love together. I realize my husband will care as much as I do if the ivy roots in the glass vase on the kitchen window sill and for that I am thankful. My mother never had a husband who cared about the things she cared about.  My bother never cared, either, nor her parents.  I never knew any of them to root small stems of plants on the window sill.  But she had me as excited about her plants as she was, yet we never talked about the ivy, gardenias, camellias, her dreams or her love of gardening.

Sometimes when I look at this blue pot of ivy on the window sill, I am filled with both love and sadness for my mother and for myself, on many levels.  I see different shadows when I look at it, depending on the light from the window. I see shadows that remind me of a past and a sadness that still lives in my heart.  I also see sunlight slanted towards the window, reaching for the light, and realize that we all have a choice as to how we will view our lives – dwelling on the shadows or seeking the light, wherever it leads us. I am sad for my mother’s life. It was not a happy one, and for years I asked myself what more I could have done for her. But now I know it was her choice to dwell on the shadows. I do not want to make that same mistake. Each morning I say a prayer for her soul to rest in peace and to know how deeply she was loved. Then I check the glass vase and rejoice at the light it casts into our lives now. I hope I can always have a plant rooting there, on the window sill, beside the sparking rocks in that sweet blue pot. It tells me all I need to know about life.







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Hope Springs Eternal

Frankly, I have no idea where this phrase comes from ~ Hope Springs Eternal ~ but it sure fits the bill for my husband and me these days. We just sold our house (in 6 days and to the first couple who looked at the home we’d labored over for the past 10 ½ years).

We are planning a move to GA from WA State.  From the land of the evergreens and the  Pacific Ocean, the snows and wildlife, to the hot, sandy climate of Georgia.   But you see, that is where my daughter lives with her husband and child. Moving closer to my daughter and grandson, and away from son, daughter-in-law and two grown granddaughters, both graduating from WSU, is the name of the game now. Both of my grown children (Allison and Phil) want my husband and me closer to Allison, near Athens, GA where the UGA is located, and where her husband works.

And so it is that we are now living in a two bedroom, two bath apartment, after giving up the five bedroom home with three gas fireplaces and a three-car garage.  My husband is not through kayaking in the Pacific NW yet, he says, and also wants to work here until at least the end of October, which is how we have found ourselves pulled from the raging river of transition and deposited here in the same city, in this small apartment.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful. Small but wonderful. So little cleaning needed. My days of solid housework hopefully gone forever. His days of brutal yard work, gone in a flash. Tools, yard things, patio table and chairs and so much more (including two expensive kayaks and nine boxes of china), are all stored in the garage that came with the apartment. Our cars are braving the elements outside, which so far has been a tiny amount of snow and now rain. Just rain and more rain, which we will have in GA, too.

But for now we have many things in wrong places, like the picture of our china cabinet at the top of this article. Instead of seeing my mother’s sweet floral china patterns in the glass doors, we see boxes of of Oatmeal, Grape Nuts, corn starch, baking soda and unsweetened chocolate; cans of green beans, red kidney beans, garbanzos, applesauce; and packages of egg noodles, Jello and spaghetti. In the open area, where my mother’s silver service used to sit, we have the cookie jar, nuts, and baking canisters.

I tell friends the baking supplies like pecans, walnuts and cran-raisins are in the drawer, while the booze sits in the underneath section, with an occasional tall vase or pitcher. Things in wrong places. That’s the only way to think of it. For some reason it doesn’t seem funny for me to be searching inside the china cabinet for Cream of Mushroom soup for a crock pot meal, but it does strike my funny bone to see my husband making his way around the dining room table in the small eating space, carrying his cereal bowl with him, and opening the door to the china cabinet for his morning cereal.

As I go about business here these final days, I realize I had visions, at first,  of feeling blessed to be able to visit the same stores we have for the last twenty-something years ~ Albertson’s, just six minutes away from us, and Walgreens, the PO, cleaners, Starbucks and the Rocket Bakery for coffee and chats with friends.  Instead, I find I am getting tired of once favorite places, ready to leave, get the show on the road, move on, move out, move to GA and begin to find our new ways there. New friends, new shops, new routes to and from town and back.

I am eager to look in a drawer in the kitchen to find silverware, gleaming and ready for us to use, instead of the large round glass container in which our silverware now resides. Drawers here are too narrow for the draw dividers in our house.  But it is all working.  Sort of. I told hubby yesterday as he left for work, “I love this apartment and could live here forever, alone, but I could not live here very long at all with another person, including you.”  I think he probably feels the same way. He just nodded.

To me this is a sign that a month of this has already been enough, even though we do have everything we need right at our fingertips. We just do not have the ‘other stuff’ we packed up to find eight months later when we finally get to GA.  I miss my large ironing board, hanging on a hook in our laundry room at the house, although it is standing up in the storage closet off the small balcony of this apartment. A friend suggested I give that away. “You don’t need an ironing board anymore.” What?  Stop that. Nobody is taking my ironing board away from me.”

I have brought my gardening shoes, the trowel, even my new gardening gloves, and why? I have only one pot to tend in front of the apartment. No strawberry patch to weed. No blue flowering vinca to weed, no clematis to trim. If I want to see the tulips we planted in our yard I’ll just have to drive by the house one day to see if all of the tulips survived our oh-so-cold-winter this year. They seemed like my children for years. I put them to bed in the fall and waited for them to wake up in the Spring, refreshed, ready for their time in the sun.

Again, things in wrong places. My tulip’s are in another woman’s garden. The rose bush we planted for my mother after she died has been left there to adorn someone else’s yard, to offer solace from the patio to these new homeowners, as it did me for several years. We’ll have to find a good spot for a new rose in Georgia, hopefully a pink one, my mother’s favorite color.

So many things in wrong places, including me. But again ~ Hope Springs Eternal. I can already see myself under a warm Georgia sun, slipping into my old gardening shoes, pulling on my new gardening gloves, picking up the trowel and planting a new rose bush for my mother, and then planting a new Cecile Brunner climbing rose on the trellis.

Did I say trellis? What trellis?  Will there be one?  We’ll just have to make sure of that, won’t we?  My trellis, where three robin families have had nests in the last four years, now lives in someone else’s yard in WA State, not in GA where we’ll be moving.  A trellis is not something you move, or our ten year old red sugar maple out front, or the ash and the river birch in the back yard. I am missing the trees. Givers of life, always. Givers of creative thoughts and ideas. Givers of everything I want in a new home in Georgia, including shade for the quail I hope we find in our new yard there.

I can see now that I must monitor everything that goes into the moving van for Georgia, to make sure my husband’s yard tools are included, along with the various metal sculptures ~ angels and flowers ~ and his spades, hoe, rakes, and shovels.  Yes. We will have a tree-planting marathon once we relocate.  Then I think it will feel like home to me, no matter how far it is to the grocery store, Walgreens, PO or even Starbucks.

Every time I am fed up with a shopping center, unexpected traffic, or a particular store here, I think I am tossing that place out of my life and filing that hole with a sense of hope for the new places in GA that we will love every bit as much. I think this is the way it’s supposed to work! I so hope it’s true that hope does spring eternal. I’ve got a lot riding on that!





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Pensacola beach, early morning


It’s amazing to me how one single letter can change the meaning of a word, or evoke completely different memories from one person to another. By adding the ‘S’ onto Ocean Blue, it becomes Ocean Blues (a color of a paint chip used as a writing class prompt this morning).  Adding the S gave the color number such a different meaning – 50 Shades of Blue comes to mind, or many shades of personal blues.

For me, the picture forming in my mind as I write this is a memory of walking along the wet, sandy and firm beach at the water’s edge by the Gulf of Mexico in Pensacola, one overcast day with my High School friend June, long after we’d both married and had kids. I snapped a quick picture of the beach at the water’s edge and managed to capture a picture of my own footprints in the sand.

When I returned home from my short Florida vacation and had the photos developed (before we all had digital cameras) I realized the footprints in the picture were mine. At age 30-something, after marriage, moving away and having two children of my own, these were the very same footprints I’d left years before as a teen, and would remain the same footprints I’d left that afternoon. In fact, these would be the same indentions I’d leave in this very sand, no matter how long I lived.

Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel titled You Can’t Go Home Again (which actually spoke to the illusion of prosperity and the unfair passing of time), and I understand what he meant, but there is something special knowing my footprints are still there, washed by the foam at the water’s edge like a seashell.

Sitting at my table in Denver, Colorado that afternoon, looking through vacation pictures, it seemed as if my footprints still lived there quietly at the beach I loved so much, and still do. The illusion of prosperity and the unfair passing of time (themes from Wolfe’s novel) circulated through in my mind.

But as for me, philosophical questions put aside, I know without a doubt  that you can take a girl away from the beach, but you can’t take the beach away from the girl. There are seashells forever in my heart, and my footprints still live on in the sands at Pensacola beach. And I have the photo to prove it.

The photo with this post is one of early-morning Pensacola Beach sand, taken in June 2012, and is not the photo I remembered with my footprints so clearly visible. That photo is tucked away in a photo box from long ago. One of these days I’ll open up that box and find that one stunning photo, so full of memories. I might even frame it.

After all, my footprints live on in this picture, as much as they live on with the seashells and waves of the Gulf Coast.  To me this speaks strongly of belonging.

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