This August, my husband started a tradition that will live on forever. Instead of buying “stuff” for my birthday, we started bringing our picnic dinner to the beach at 4 pm every day and enjoyed the quiet, afternoon sun at WoodNeck. We extended our respite through sunset–and that was something else.
Every day we saw the sun go down at a slightly different time and often in a dramatically different way. Sometimes it was a hot ball of fire slowly slipping through a cloudless horizon. Other times, the clouds filtered reflections creating a light and color show that was exquisite and exciting. The “after sunset show” was so often a surprising, exhilarating encore. We soaked it all up. It was joyful– and it’s not over. We repeated this ritual every day, not only through August, but through September and now in October when it’s not too cold or windy.
Truth be told, a few days ago we did bundle up with sweat pants, woolen socks, hats, finger-less mittens and ate grilled swordfish on top of salad and warm rice. A bottle of red wine and a thermos of hot coffee were at hand. I can see us doing this for a very long time… maybe not every day… but it will happen again soon, and it will be grand! Here are just a few snapshots that capture a small part of the magic.
We start this day with a morning walk to WoodNeck Beach– always a wise decision. The weather is perfect, the birds are singing, and there is always so much to quietly observe. Daisies grow so much better along the path than in my garden. Waterlilies float on the marsh, not close enough to photograph, but beautiful to see. Sandalwood and honeysuckle fragrance waft in the salty breeze. The poison ivy is bushy and shiny– it almost looks pretty– until you think about it a bit more. Sand crabs dig perfectly circular holes leaving lumpy trails of debris behind. The beach is empty and beautiful with the tide going out and the damp sand is easy to walk on. A few sun salutations are in order. Then we walk into a plover family: mama, dad, and four little ones just born yesterday. They scamper on the sand and are uninterrupted by man or beast. In 26 days, they will be gone. The little ones learn to feed themselves and who knows which ones will return next year. The lifeguard chair is turned on its side still, but it won’t be long before more folks arrive and soak up the rays, play in the sand and go for a swim.
Many of you who know me are aware of that fact that, until a year or so ago, my favorite form of exercise was lifting my fork from the plate to my mouth. Ok, maybe not that bad… maybe it was aerobically turning the pages of a good book….Or speed/power knitting. Then I discovered yoga and would now be lost without it. It centers me; my back doesn’t hurt, and I’ve lost my fear of falling over. Yoga has made an impact both on and off the mat.
Then, quite by mistake, a week ago, I arrived at the yoga studio for a 9 AM Vinyasa class. Something was quite different. The mats were going the “wrong” way. There were strange flexible rings in the front of the room and pile of elastic exercise bands that brought back memories of physical therapy and a demanding personal trainer. There was no “yoga” music in the background and many of the people in the class had real muscles.
My regular yoga teacher, Michelle, quietly told me that this was a Pilates class—the first one offered. I clearly didn’t check the latest schedule. So I looked her in the eye and said…“Well, can I do this Pilates stuff?” Without pause, she replied, “Of course, get in there.” So I did.
Learning something completely new and physically demanding at the ripe, young age of 61 might have scared me off. But it didn’t. I told the instructor, Monica, this was my first Pilates class ever… she was encouraging and her cues were crystal clear. I could follow her directions and make this Pilates thing work. The stretches we did were different than warm ups in yoga. Each move was more intense, took me out of my comfort zone and had to be repeated multiple times. I stopped worrying if I could do it, and just followed the teacher. Before I knew it, I was pulsing mini sit-ups without fears or tears.
Was it fun—no, not really! It was challenging, and I could feel that I was working my body in a different way than in my yoga practice or when taking long walks. I had to overcome the awkwardness of not really knowing what I was doing—and learn something new. It meant giving up the pretense of control and taking baby steps into the unknown. At the end of class, I was thrilled and amazed that “I did it!” I fully expected to hurt and have multiple Charlie-horses simultaneously—so I took an hour long soak in a hot Epson salt bath—and David did bring me a small (ok, medium) glass of brandy while I sat and soaked until my finger tips looked like white prunes. It was heavenly! I laid back and realized that I walked into a Pilates class unexpectedly and didn’t run away… instead I was looking forward to next Friday’s class.
How could this happen: One self-care action follows another and another and another. An entourage of wise, compassionate, skilled yoga teachers (Thank you and hugs to Kirsten, Megan, Michelle and Sandy McA) move me forward on and off the mat. They teach me yoga and so much more. I meditate and quiet my overactive mind. Most importantly, I delete toxic people and excessive commitments from my life. This all opens up room for new opportunities and new growth. I remember years ago, Danny Rothenberg told me that I ought to consider leaving more open space in my life. He made the comparison to Chinese checkers. “You need some open spots in order to jump ahead. You have too many marbles on the board.” It has taken me years to follow up on his advice.
So the benefits of life with “fewer marbles on the board” are numerous. Yes, I’m a regular Pilates and yoga student now, and I’m in much better shape than I was a year ago. I have learned the value of subtracting obstacles from my life in order to add more of the good stuff. It does come back to simplicity and having a “short list” of what is important. My hubby, David, has been talking about the value of a “short list” forever. I’m getting there.
My exploring has taken hold. I’m trying to notice what was previously missed. Woods Hole is the perfect place to do this. We’ve been in this community for more than 25 years, and there’s always something going on to stir my brains. This walk was no exception.
This trek started with the goal of capturing the last three skeins of yarn spun from very happy sheep off the coast of Woods Hole. Only a total of 19 were available at the Woods Hole Historical Society Shop in the spring. This was a quest for the perfect yarn to make my daughter Molly’s shawl for Christmas. The sheep are certifiably happy and treated with respect; the yarn is a delicious cocoa color and should have great stitch definition. This stop was only the beginning.
Had to stop at Pie In The Sky and pretend that the rum-raisin bread pudding is a healthy snack. Needless to say, there’s always a new baked goodie that calls to me from this place. I remember when Molly would buy an entire fruit pie and devour it herself with fork and spoon in hand. Kate picked up the bike path at the boat dock behind the store and roller bladed home after Science School. This truly is a little hole in the wall place that never disappoints.
Out of this window the boat waits to go to the Vineyard, people scramble to find parking spaces and this area has a pulse all of its own.
There’s a line of small rose bushes that border the parking lot and always seem to be in bloom. Their blossoms are small and fragile. I’m not one to remember plant names, but they remind me of the floribunda roses my Dad used to love. Easy to grow and always a treat to look at.
Woods Hole is returning to its post-tourist pace. Amen! The scientists, artists and fisherman have the place to themselves.
We managed to get through the guarded gate at Penzance Point and continue our walk almost out to the point. These estates are manicured, pedicured and well-groomed. Yet, that fussy stuff doesn’t impress me. It’s the smaller, simple stuff that catches my eye.
Looking down I found mushrooms with a pattern and texture that made me pay attention. I’d love to turn the photo into fabric for a quilt! That would indeed be mixed media.
Nearby, the gunk on this stone seemed to glow and was soft to the touch. No cement here, just balance and smart architecture.
These poor sculpted bushes did not impress me…
…but this single, late blooming hydrangea will stay in my head for quite awhile.
Traffic around town has lightened up.
No one’s chair or blanket is within ear shot at the beach.
And our pizza, antipasto and wings from Stone L’Oven is delivered in less than 25 minutes.
Yes, Fall is coming to the Cape.
It’s cool enough to throw on a light sweater in the morning and wonderfully breezy enough to keep the windows open all day. It smells like “back to school” but I’m not going!
I love this time of year. It’s when I make my own agenda of what I want to “cover” this non-semester and where I want to spend my energy. Looks like I’ve got a larger than usual pile of books, project bags full of knitting, writing that’s waiting to be done, and an exercise program that I’m looking forward to making a habit. I am so tempted to buy a new notebook, pencil case, and book bag, but I know I don’t need any of that. I have a Staples warehouse in my basement and a resolution to not buy the unnecessary. These are the seeds for the new season.
Being a perpetual student excites me. Going to the library or on-line to find answers to big or little questions is good for my brain and my soul. After reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, I was curious to see what the art pieces looked like as well as learn more about the author, Edmund de Waal, and his family. Working on my own writing has me looking at what other writers have to say about writing. Brainpickings has been a rich resource about writing and all kinds of curiosities. I can learn as much or as little as I choose. I’m the barometer, the metronome, and the rubric.
I’ve been toying with Keri Smith’s book How to be an Explorer of the World. The basic premise is to sharpen your observation skills as well as your creative documentation of what is observed. I like the invitation to find patterns in my observations, and the problem solving that goes along with it. What I don’t like is Smith’s expectation that I “collect stuff” in generous quantities…i.e. pick up 30 items of interest on your daily, random walk today. The last thing(s) I need in my life is more stuff… so I’m going to have to re-create that part of the assignment or maybe not do it (the nuns are turning over in their graves). Slowing down to notice objects, actions, behavior, ideas, questions and possible answers is a worthwhile endeavor.
Taking more photographs is a way to capture a memory, a thought, a feeling without having clutter to contend with. I like that too. It’s amazing how having an iPhone has increased my opportunity to practice taking photos. It’s always handy. I can point and click. No trip to the drug store to get film developed; it is an open invitation to practice, practice, practice taking lots of shots.
This time of year reminds me of New Years; one parcel of time is winding up, the other winding down. But after a bit, I realized that Spring is a period of renewal for me, too. Guess these observations say more about me than I realized.
For several years, we’ve been graced with a bird nest and accompanying family. It’s always in the same location: on the secure light box fixture, with the deck above for added shelter. It’s nestled close to the house in a part of the yard that’s usually quiet.
When their construction begins, they pull the moss from the path and leave a trail of small twigs and plant debris. I always hope they’ll find the yarn scraps I’ve purposely left behind and include them in their building– that doesn’t always happen.
This year they arrived late, and the whole process happened quite quickly. Before we knew it, the nest was built and eggs were awaiting. Three, to be exact.
Next, we saw little perky beaks in action. The adult birds were making regular food trips from the yard to the nest, again and again. The three were fluffy and active. Mom and Dad looked exhausted. I can relate!
The little ones filled the nest and finally posed for a photograph. It’s a challenge to get the camera between the underside of the deck, while getting them in focus, and having adequate lighting. Thanks to David, we got several good pix.
This morning we went to check on the gang, and they were gone. All that’s left is an empty nest for the next brood. In the meantime, the little birds are learning how to live out in the real world. Maybe there will be another family soon, or we might have to wait until next year. This is all so much better than reality television.