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

 

 

We Bought a House! With an Inside Barn Door!

We bought a house!
It’s kind of in the country (or country-ish, as we’ve been saying).

So now we have a city and a country house. Not on purpose though. We actually need to sell the city house. Anyone looking for a big house in the capital city of Virginia?

It’s got refinished hardwood floors…

refinished hardwood floors

HGTV moment when we discovered we had hardwood under the vinyl in our foyer. #InstantCharacter
So in addition to the downsizing and the painting I mentioned last time I posted, we’ve been updating, renovating, cleaning, and moving.

And there’s been lots and lots of road trips, if you count driving 45 miles round trip between houses as a road trip (or the 60 miles round-trip to the large metro shopping area). Oh and if you count the many times I’ve accidentally passed our new exit. Because I’m not used to driving so many highway miles just to go home, I get in a zone, like I’m headed to Key West or something. And every time I do that, it’s a 12 mile mistake…with no beach or mojito.

birds in a snowstormWas probably thinking about Key West when I painted this canvas.

But our new house is cool. It’s smaller and has one less bathroom to clean, Yay!

Plus, IT HAS A BARN DOOR.

INSIDE!

barn door decorIt’s like my Pinterest boards came to life!

I’ve posted about my fascination with barns, I love them. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s like my main character Grace from my Chasing Normal series said:

There’s just something so stable about barns. 😉

So lately we’ve been living life like an episode of Property Brothers meets Fixer Upper. And it’s been fun and exciting, but a MAJOR change.

Dear hub likes to say, There’s no crying in moving/renovating. Oh but there’s been tears. Happy. Sad. All kinds. So much is different. After 20 years in the same house, we’re in a new one.
And get this, I have an outside mailbox.
Ok so most people probably do. But in our old house we had one of those mail slots in our front door, so basically I tripped over the mail every day.

Now I forget that I need to check the mail box.
Oh and I don’t know if this is a country-ish thing, but we have this spider that can play dead. And she’s living in our mailbox. She rolls onto her back when I open the mailbox. Of course I told her she can’t live in the mailbox and carefully prodded her with a leaf until she left.

But the next day I met her kids.
So I don’t get the mail if the sun has gone down.

sunset at homeSunset behind our new country-ish neighborhood.

And considering I broke a finger when I was 18 during a spider encounter, I’d say this is PROGRESS.
And progress is good.

So is having my kids home for the holidays.

kids at home

A Happy Thanksgiving photo op.

And planning a real road trip—we’re going to New York City in a couple of weeks to visit dear daughter and have some family fun.

Plus I’m making time to be creative. I’ve got a new book coming out soon and I’ve been doodling.

polar bear penguin dreidel spin smaller

A doodle for Hanukkah

And painting. And decorating. And baking. And button gluing (turns out this is meditation for me).

vintage button tree

I just like to make stuff.
That’s one thing that hasn’t changed at all.

What’s new with you?

Also, if you go outside to get your mail, are mailbox tenants something to be expected?

Happy Thursday!

xo

The Cheesy Finish to My Summer Road Trip and a Bit of Greige

Hey all!
Um, please excuse the paint.

Greige paint

Nine shades of greige

We’re sort of swimming in a sea of greige right now.

According to our realtor (and more importantly, Pinterest), greige is the BEST paint color to sell your house. So we’re awash in neutral.

Anyway, back to where I left off weeks ago. Which was that pretty cool Pacific Northwest road trip we took in early June. For weeks I’ve been blogging in my head about it (and other topics my mind would like to figure out, like how I might sell dust bunny crafts on Etsy, bc I’ve found OODLES of dust bunnies behind bookcases my friends), but as cool as you all are you probably can’t read my mind (this is a good thing, it’s dusty in there).

So without further ado, here’s the last bit of our trip.

Oregon Coast highway

The Oregon coast highway 101

The BEST part of this day was waking up knowing that the only thing on our agenda was getting from point A to point B, with miles of awesome stops and discovery along the way.

oregon beach sand monster

Sea monster on the beach…or driftwood?

oregon coast views

The views on the other side of the road were spectacular too.

netarts bay oregon oysters

Netarts Bay. Loads of clams and crabs. And muck. 

Dear mystery couple in the muck,

I’m sorry for taking your picture.

And for being entertained by you.

And for using you as entertainment here.

That’s all. xo

nye beach oregon

This is Nye Beach.

It’s like a million miles to the water’s edge here, but we stopped at plenty of beaches along the way. Including one with dozens of ladybugs on the sand.

Unexpected. And pretty cool.

ladybugs at the beach oregon

Ladybugs are my jam.

tillamook cheese factory

We like factory tours. Tillamook was delightfully cheesy.

gluten free grilled cheese tillamook oregon

A Tillamook grilled cheese sandwich with gluten free bread. Yay!

Have you ever found something unexpected or interesting at the beach? Or been to a factory tour?

Happy Friday!

xo

 

 

Finding the Big and Tiny on the Avenue of the Giants

Since we got home from our Pacific Northwest vacation last month, I’ve basically been busy in a “middle place”.

There’s been some pulling books out of the brain writing.

Books mind writing - Allocation of Memory Landis art

Saw this artwork – Allocation of Memory by Malia Landis – in a Eureka, California bookstore.

But there’s been more working at the library and house stuff. Did I mention we’ve started the process to downsize from the big house we’ve lived in for 20 years to a smaller one? #emptynestchanges

Northern California road

Yup, another winding, somewhat foggy journey.

But like the road above, the journey has got some cool stuff to discover.

California Redwoods panoramic perspective

Avenue of the Giants, California

Ever since we visited the Redwoods, the idea of big vs. small has been on my mind.

Especially because lately there’s been so much living in the in between space. There’s the daily work  that has to happen–and even the stuff that perhaps doesn’t (the part where I become one with my TV).

shelter cove California crab

A crab at Shelter Cove beach in California (Sometimes I’m crabby and like to hide too). 

The middle, at least for me, is not really the place where I do creative stuff. But sometimes I really like when I have work that makes me feel mindless. Where I can take a break from thinking, I suppose.

Drive thru tree Redwoods California

Drive thru tree. Do not try this at home.

But then there’s that big and small thing. I love when I discover and enjoy those really small things. Maybe it’s a great cup of coffee. A new book. Or maybe, you happen upon a quirky realtor at an open house, who drives a mini Cooper (complete with British flags covering the side mirrors) and tells you a funny story (in an accent of course) and just makes you laugh.

tiny snail avenue of the Giants California

Or you find a TINY snail on a leaf in the middle of all those giant Redwoods.

Then there’s the big. For me the Big Picture is made up of the dreams and hopes and awesomeness (read: whatever is your personal fairy dust)  that honestly make me feel like ME.

California redwood

When I first walked through the forest of gigantic trees, I thought, It’s nice to be tiny. I could breathe (and it wasn’t just the woodsy freshness). In that moment, I wasn’t in charge. And honestly, I felt relief.

I can just be.

But then lately, as I step away from the middle place and participate in my BIG: write, doodle, find the story in a photo.

Create.

I feel relief too. And I need to make the time for my big stuff–as well as note all the good in the tiny joys

snail California Redwoods

Another Redwoods snail

–because then, not only can I just be,

I can just be me. 🙂

Note: The Avenue of the Giants has a picnic spot and Los Bagels in Eureka, California is a great spot to grab a gluten-free lunch before driving down.

gluten free man hole cover cookie Los Bagels California

They have giant gluten-free cookies too!

What tiny joys make you smile? Have you experienced the Redwoods? 

Happy Monday!

xo

 

The Surprising Taste of Change (and NYC)

Did you know that if you rub essential peppermint oil on the soft middle of the bottom of your foot that you will eventually taste that peppermint in your mouth?
This was news to me. I heard this random tidbit in yoga class, and while I haven’t tried it yet, I keep thinking about that unexpected, surprising minty sensation (and also wondered if they make chocolate peanut butter essential oils).

 Emack Bolio's ice cream cones_opt

Surprising cereal and marshmallow coated cones at Emack & Bolio’s, New York City

2014 was a big year of change here at my house. Everything seemed to challenge my role in Life As I Knew It. My kids moved out, my mom got sick (thankfully she is better). Most of the change, like my kids moving out, I expected, even planned for, imagined. I knew there would be sadness, excitement, new freedoms and the like. But what I didn’t expect was to find myself constantly questioning my purpose the moment my kids left.

 

my kids

 Together at 2nd Ave Deli in NYC. 

For so many years, my family has been my priority. Everything else I did was “just work”.

It's only a play 2_opt

  Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, NYC

Sure that work was important, necessary, enjoyable, etc., but never assigned the significance of what I did for my family.

So this new questioning, it’s a strange taste, and it’s got me feeling pretty damn insecure.

central park rainy day_opt

 

 A misty Central Park, NYC

In many ways I feel like a teenager again. New independence, lots of insecurity, and even more indecision, but then there’s also an excitement that I can fill and assign priority to these wide open spaces however I see fit.

And sometimes that unexpected result is something sweet. I had no idea that the research I would do on art and doodling for my character Grace Callahan in my young adult book, The Art of Chasing Normal, would lead to my own drawing finding a way into a really awesome art book.

In the key of doodle north light books_opt

 North Light has tons of really fun and inspirational art books. Check it out!

With change, though, there’s a lot of heart work to do. I’m figuring it out, and I know there will be more strange and unexpected minty sensations along the way.

But for me, it helps to believe, that even when we feel vulnerable and stripped to the bone, there’s still something strong and fierce (in the best possible way) inside of  us.

T Rex AMNH NYC_opt

 American Museum of Natural History, New York City

Wishing you the best for 2015!

HAPPY NEW YEAR,

A View From My Heart: Sunrise and Snow Cones

 

 

On a trip to Virginia Beach last December, I got up early and watched the sun rise.

sunrise virginia beach

I still think about how cool it was to sit on the dark beach and watch the sun peek above the horizon.

So when the hub and I went to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach last weekend

back bay national wildlife refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

I realized I had the opportunity to see the sunrise at the beach again.

So I set my alarm, but when I woke up there was no yellow streaked sky. No fiery sun.

Just a whole lot of clouds.

And I was puzzled.

Sure I’ve seen lots of overcast days, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that there could be clouds blocking the horizon at sunrise.

I don’t know why. Maybe because it was so spectacular last December, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

But there it was, a hazy, muted sky.

It was just different. And for a moment, kind of empty without the sun all up in my face.

And as I stood there I started to identify with that bit of emptiness, that difference.

Some days it’s really strange  to realize that in one year both of my kids left for school (the con of having 2 kids fifteen months apart), but then it’s not so strange, because while it’s oh so bittersweet to move on from that really great part of my life,

there’s still so much life as usual,

the work and the fun

and I’m learning a new routine, a new focus

and climbing mountains with my husband

humpback rock view_opt

 My view from Humpback Rock in the Blue Ridge mountains

And finding my heart can be in more than one place

fossil beach york river state park_opt

Fossil Beach at York River State Park 

And planning visits to see our kids in NYC and Colonial Williamsburg

family hike

And getting to see things from their point of view

And tasting new and surprising things

sno to go snowcones_opt

Snow cone + soft serve = Sno To G0 (in Williamsburg, VA)

(and realizing that in some situations you can eat the yellow snow.)

But most of all, I’m seeing that a different sunrise, can still be a pretty awesome view.

hazy sunrise virginia beach

A hazy, beautiful Virginia Beach morning

What view are you enjoying?

Happy Friday!

 

Historic Weekends, an Empty Nest (and Overripe Bananas)

Last weekend was historic.

silly selfies Coleen Patrick_opt

 

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary (w/ silly selfies, because that’s how we roll)…

on the very same day that we took our youngest child to college.

*sigh*

Thomas Jefferson statue Williamsburg_opt

But seriously, we couldn’t be more proud.

He’s studying at Thomas Jefferson’s alma mater.

(Although, apparently, it’s cooler to mention alumnus, Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show)

This part wasn’t easy though. 

college goodbye empty nest_opt

We knew it wouldn’t be, having done the goodbye thing with our daughter only 364 days before.

*sigh*

untethered colonial williamsburg_opt

This pic sums up the strange mix of emptiness and freedom

I think we all felt (not that anyone is a horse in this scenario).

But the whole leaving my youngest at college didn’t really hit me until the middle of the weekend,

at 3am to be exact,

I sat up in bed, in the middle of a the dark hotel room

startled from a dream where I was in a room with doors

running around trying to lock them.

Unsettling.

(Before you think my dreams are visionary, let me add that there was also a gecko in an envelope in there somewhere.)

The next day, after one more round of parent orientation, we stopped at a park

and rented a jon boat.

Hub fished.

I read.

oar boat drifting _opt

We drifted for a couple of hours.

Wrapped up in beginnings and endings

tangled roots growing toward sun_opt

we let our emotions untangle a bit. 

chain heart drifting on boat_opt

And then we headed home. Just the two of us.

*sigh*

But home comforted

colonial shops williamsburg_opt

and reminded us there’s so much more ahead

(and that the bananas on the kitchen counter were going to keep on ripening no matter what)

homemade banana bread care packages

Which was perfect for baking some banana bread for care packages. 🙂

 

What’s your favorite thing to put in a care package (or to receive)? Anything historic happening in your neck of the woods?

Happy Friday!

Just A Little More Time Please

For the last few months I’ve been working on a project that I really want to finish.

I’m frustrated with myself, because I was supposed to be done in March.

i love to draw

Back to the drawing board.

Oh, I’ve got a bunch of excuses reasons why I’m not done. For one, this project is pushing at the limits of my technological skills.

I took a Photoshop class this spring, but I still have some boundary stretching to do in the tech department.

 

photoshop learning fun

A Grand Illusion

I’d say, don’t try this at home, but you can if you’ve got Photoshop!

Anyway, I’m not done. But all around me things are finishing.

Today was my baby’s son’s last day of high school. It was also my last official day as a parent volunteer at his school.

high school mascot dragon

I sold school t-shirts, but they never made me wear the dragon costume. 🙂

Two days ago I made the 4,449th cheese sandwich (approximately) to go in my kid’s lunch box.

For the last time.

Because a Lunch Box Provided By Your Mom is not one of the choices for his college meal plan (I checked).

For the last nine months, there’s been his last cross country meet, last all district (and this year all state) chorus concerts, last music awards picnic, last piano lesson and recital, last prom, and lots of senior events that continue the You’re Finished theme.

But I’m not finished.

Not yet.

I just need a little more time.

 

Are you checking stuff off your To Do List? Tell me, I’d love some inspiration. Or a hug. Or a donut. And speaking of donuts…

donuts in richmond VA

Happy National Donut Day!!

xo

 

 

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