Last week the hub and I drove to Georgia and took a ferry from St. Mary’s to Cumberland Island National Seashore.
We were greeted by a boulevard of trees.
The island is mysterious and kind of dreamy with it’s gnarled oak trees and Spanish moss, mansion ruins, unspoiled beaches—and wild horses.
We stopped to take a few photos, others disappeared into the maritime forest in groups and pairs.
Except an older woman, setting off solo, down the boulevard of trees.
Something about this woman had me looking over my shoulder for the rest of her party. But I didn’t see anyone else. She lagged behind them, taking it all in, I supposed.
We hiked the island. Trails led to ruins, wildlife.
The forest opened to marsh lands. Marsh turned to dunes, and then the unspoiled beach.
And there was the woman. Sitting on the beach. Alone. She had a book, or a journal. This time I noticed she looked to be about my mom’s age.
And again I was curious that she was by herself.
I wondered about her. And for a moment I considered myself in her shoes.
Because there are two familiar thoughts that I peck around at lately: freedom and need.
Pileated Woodpecker on Cumberland Island
Right now I feel like I’m in the thick of the “empty nest” transition.
There’s a lot of freedom in my life right now. Great, yes, but also unnerving to go from so much mothering responsibility to so little.
And I’ll admit my first instinct was just to jump right in and fill those spaces.
But I’ve started to realize the freedom has more to do with figuring out my identity now and where I want to fit…
and that takes time
but then there’s these wide open spaces of needing to be needed.
And yeah, I want to fill those too.
But well, time, and exploration.
At the end of the day, after an exhausting, but exhilarating hike, I saw the woman again. At the ferry dock.
She was barefoot.
She got up and I overheard her ask someone about the bathrooms. When they didn’t know I pointed her in the direction. She then proceeded to carefully pick her way over the gravel and sticks.
It took her awhile and I wondered why she didn’t put her shoes on.
And I wasn’t the only curious one. Someone said something about her feet and the rocks, but I couldn’t hear the woman’s response. Only this from the other curious hiker:
“Well, sounds like there’s a story there!”
Curiouser and curiouser.
And here, my practical, yet need-to-make-you-smile-over-something-silly side, compels me to add that I also suddenly wondered how she got to the ferry dock without shoes. You only have to hike for 5 minutes to realize that the almost 200 wild horses on the island consider every footpath and sandy trail as not only their home but their bathroom.
Rocks and sticks aren’t the only landmines. Cumberland Island is very natural.
We got on the ferry and I only saw a glimpse of her after that: she
boarded the ferry barefoot, no shoes in hand.
I don’t know why I was so curious about this woman. I thought of my earlier emotions. Those conflicting feelings of freedom and need that came to mind when I considered a moment in her shoes.
Now her missing shoes.
And I came up with different stories. The first was imagining my heavy thoughts weighing her shoes down until she could no longer carry them.
Because I like to look for answers. And make things connect.
Or find meaning.
But some days I just like to take a hike and see wild horses in their element, and get a laugh out of hearing my husband yell, “Poop!” over his shoulder to warn me of another landmine as we walk.
Besides, maybe those shoes were in her bag
and she just wanted to be barefoot.
Do you make up stories about strangers? What do you think happened to her shoes?