The Curious Case of Cumberland Island

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.

hiking cumberland island national park

Welcome!

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.

Cumberland island tree trail

We hiked the island. Trails led to ruins, wildlife.

The forest opened to marsh lands. Marsh turned to dunes, and then the unspoiled beach.

The ocean.

white horse Cumberland island

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.

woodpecker cumberland island

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.

birds in a row Cumberland seashore

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

and exploration

but then there’s these wide open spaces of needing to be needed.

cumberland island horse tree swing

And yeah, I want to fill those too.

But well, time, and exploration.

Cumberland Island wild horse grazing

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.

Anyway…

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.

seagull cumberland island fly

 

Do you make up stories about strangers? What do you think happened to her shoes?

HAPPY MONDAY!

xo

 

 

Curiosity and Peeking Behind Closed Doors

 

Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.

~Emily Dickinson

 

My sister and I used to babysit a lot when we were teenagers, and one of the perks (other than looking after cute cherubs of course) was scoping out the fridge or pantry.   After our respective babysitting gigs, my sister and I would then compare the loot we snacked on.

Me:  They totally had Chef Boyardee.

My sister:  Well, I got Twinkies and Dr. Pepper.  

Me:  Well . . .

My sister:  They had cable.

Me: Fine you win.

It was like it was the day after Halloween and we were unloading our bags.  Other people’s fridges ended up being ranked like candy bar sizes.

Back then it was mostly a snack thing, but I still have a curiosity about other people’s fridges.

 

When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.

 ~Walt Disney

 

Like medicine cabinets, fridges are revealing.  And personal.  You not only see what people eat (or maybe don’t eat), but how they cook and clean.

Do you see specialty oils and sauces, or ketchup packets?

Lots of home cooked leftovers or takeout containers?

Packages labeled organic?  Lots of brand names?

Is the fridge full or bare?

Is it organized, clean?

Speaking of clean.  I don’t pay much attention to that if I sneak a peek into a fridge, because I hate cleaning the fridge.  I mean I do it, but I dislike it so much that I line the shelves with foil after I clean it so I can make the clean last twice as long (I remove the foil once it’s dirty and then have a clean shelf for at least a little while).

And in case you’re thinking this is a bizarre topic–I’m not the only one who wonders, what’s in your fridge?

One quick search on the internet and you might land on a site called Fridgewatcher. Or Fridge Raiders. Or Fridge Food.

Either way there are pics of fridge interiors all over the internet. Even celebrity fridges, like George Clooney.

But Rob Lowe doesn’t seem to have bared his (while you wait for that, you can get yourself a Rob Lowe sexy fridge magnet on Amazon).

And since I’m going to ask you the personal question of what’s in your fridge, I figure it’s only fair to show you mine:

what's in your fridge coleen patrick 2_opt

I considered editing the photo with a sepia tone, if only to remind my husband that this fridge is 17 years old (hint hint).  Except he would then just remind me of our fridge’s special features.  Like the top shelf”s left corner–it will freeze solid any food I put there, especially eggs.

Fridge diving! It’s all the rage.  And it’s good for your brain too!

Because when you are curious, you are in the moment, you are engaging and you are learning.  Bonus–it’s excellent for creativity (makes for a better writer!)

Oh and I’m sure it must lower your blood pressure, right?

All that from a fridge.

 

I’ve often entertained paranoid suspicions about my fridge and what it’s been doing to my poetry when I’m not looking, but I never even considered that my fan was thinking about me.

~George Murray

 

Just don’t get me started on what’s inside your purse or wallet. . .

So what’s in your fridge?

I’m curious!


Steal Like an Artist or Wait for the Idea Fairy?

 

If you spend a significant amount of time creating–whether it’s writing stories, painting, or whipping up a unique batch of Brazilian cinnamon snickerdoodles, then you’ve probably heard this question:

Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t have a profound answer for that question.  If there is an idea fairy, she doesn’t come to my house.  Probably because of the way I handled those mornings when my kids noticed the tooth fairy hadn’t picked up their tooth.

Well kids, looks like there’s a fairy that needs a little sprinkling of punctual pixie dust, right? Let’s scoot on out of your room so we don’t embarrass her when she finally shows up.

Yea, I’m probably on a fairy Do Not Call list or something.

Anyway, I don’t think the idea thing is magic.  Sure those ideas show up in my head, but I know they get there via bits and pieces filtered in from my kids, the people having a conversation next to me in Panera, the TV, YouTube, the bakery in Whole Foods, the mall, the teenagers in the cafeteria at my son’s school when I spy volunteer.

Ideas come from a mash-up of pieces of my life, especially the curious bits.

Or as Austin Kleon says in his new book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

“I steal them.”

 

 

Okay that sounds like plagiarism, but the book is mostly about unlocking creativity.

But as it says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun.  So then what is originality?

  

“Undetected plagiarism.” ~William Ralph Inge

Hmm.

So what if you’re at the Whole Foods bakery, lured in by the smell of baking bread and as you get closer, you smell cinnamon.

That can’t be regular cinnamon, you think gripping the handle of your shopping cart.

You look beyond the glass counter, hoping for answers.

It’s Samba cinnamon, the person robed in angelic white informs you.  Harvested only once a year during Carnival.

How festive!  So then you’re thinking, What if I make bread? No–cookies, yes cookies.  Cookies rolled in Samba cinnamon and sugar.  No–crunchy Turbinado sugar!

Before you know it you are sipping Darjeeling with a batch of warm Samba cinnamon infused cookies.  Did you make snickerdoodles?  Sort of.  It’s similar, but pumped up by the intoxicating addition of a South American spice.

It’s better.  You created something perhaps, original?

Maybe.

It sure is nice knowing  you can roll with your curiosity rather than waiting for the Creative Genius Idea Fairy.

 

“All creative work builds on what came before . . . If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.” ~Austin Kleon

 

Where do you think ideas come from?  Do you steal like an artist?