Connection

ocean-connectionNestling his toes into the sand, Adam allowed the surf to encroach upon his space. The ebb and flow of the water was therapeutic despite its chilly temperature. He always came here when he needed time to think.

Adam had dedicated everything to Rachel and their relationship. And now, two days before their five year anniversary, she ended it most callously through a text message. She had decided to move in a new direction. In other words, I found someone new.

Adam was what most would consider a social outcast, holed up in his apartment paying more attention to his laptop screen than the world around him. When Rachel entered his life, everything changed. A new world had opened up that changed something at Adam’s core. Now, he felt like receding back into that sheltered corner of his mind where vulnerability and risk could be kept at a safe distance.

The morphing color from the setting sun, apricot to crimson, reminded Adam of a childhood memory. While the red balloon was inflated with helium, Adam finished scrawling his message on the paper. He allowed his imagination to wander. The belief that this vessel could travel across the ocean to some foreign land was a manifestation of the energetic hopefulness of youth. His balloon never made it far, but that never stopped him from believing in something more.

Lifting a handful of sand, Adam allowed it to trickle between his fingers. Where has the time gone? The thought came from his rational mind, but was quickly accompanied by a rumination from his emotional mind. Where has the hope gone? He wanted a return to his youthful dreams. The reality of adulthood was getting in his way.

As the water crested over into a wave that Adam would never forget, the surf enveloped him with its comforting arms. The bottle that washed up with this wave began to recede back into the ocean. Instinctively, Adam grabbed it. The top was corked with something inside.

The Asahi beer label had been peeled off and placed inside with a small heart-shaped pebble. Adam smiled, remembering that Asahi meant morning sun. Through the promise of a new day, a spark was ignited allowing Adam to recapture the boundless hope of his younger days.

On a similar stretch of sand, a continent away, a young woman sits, watching the sun peek above the horizon. The hope of something more had vacated her life too. She hoped that dropping that bottle in the surf, watching it be carried away, would bring her some solace. She had visited this shore countless days, for months, anticipating some sign from afar. The sunlight that filtered through the clouds and passed into her eyes on this day seemed to carry with it something more, the smile of another. The smile on her face spread wide. As if tethered by a strand of sunlight stretched across the miles, two souls were forever connected through the promise of hope and a shared smile.

Take flight

bahamas

Author’s Note: This is the final chapter of a story previously published. If you would like to read the first part, please visit Sizzle.

It was the jarring memory from eleven years in the past that put Bryan on edge. It involved his sister and her disappearance in a single engine plane while en route to the Bahamas. The wreckage was never located, if there was any in the first place. There was no closure to a tormenting time in Bryan’s life. He was left with unanswered questions and a debilitating apprehension that required any separation of his feet from the earth below him.

“I appreciate the offer, but no thanks,” replied Bryan. He felt guilty turning down the opportunity to extend their relationship beyond the final fifteen minutes of his last cooking class, but this was too far out of his comfort zone. Way too far. Bryan didn’t know, however, that Ted was not only outgoing and personable, he was also quite persuasive.

“C’mon dude, it’d be a blast. Listen, you come with me and I’ll dress up to the nines to attend one of your fancy jazz concerts,” retorted Ted.

Bryan, feeling fidgety even allowing himself to consider the offer, attempted to voice his concern, “It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just …”

Ted sensed the body language being communicated by Bryan. He didn’t allow the silence to hang in the air for too long, “You scared?” he asked. Although it wasn’t part of his normal character, Ted didn’t look at Bryan as he said it so as not to appear too condescending.

“Yes … and no, I don’t know,” replied Bryan, who was confused himself by the response.

“Flip the shrimp, man, they’re gonna burn,” admonished Ted. Bryan had gotten so caught up in his emotions and repressed memories that he lost track of the prawns beginning to char in the skillet for the second time.

Returning to the methodical routine of stirring, listening to the sizzling oscillate in volume as the shrimp were moved from one side of the skillet to the other, Bryan suddenly felt an inviting calmness wash over him. He shared exactly why he rejected Ted’s offer, right down to the very last painful detail. It wasn’t something that Bryan ever felt comfortable doing, spilling his guts, but it felt good, and therapeutic.

Who knows whether it was Ted’s decision to be a sounding board in what he would usually consider an uncomfortable baring of the soul, or if it was a few teaspoons of compassion that he had intuitively added to the recipe of his own soul. Whatever it was, Ted’s compelling argument aimed at Bryan kicked into high gear.

“Hey, it’s safer than driving. There are less planes in the air than there are cars on a highway. And you can be sure as hell that there are plenty of drivers on the road that shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car. Every pilot has to go through a flight review every two years.”

Sensing that Bryan was getting closer to favorable reception of his argument, but not quite there yet, he continued on, playing to the intellectual mind of his cooking partner, “These planes are awesome gliders. They have a five to one glide ratio. That means if we’re five thousand feet in the air and we lose the engine – highly unlikely mind you – we have a twenty five mile radius to find a place to put her down safely – in a field, on the beach, even on a back road. Hey, I’m that good, you know it,” he said with a devilish grin.

tux-with-bow-tieBryan was still quiet, but Ted could see he was on the cusp of winning over his friend’s allegiance. So, he went for the knockout punch. “Hey, you do this, and I’ll even wear a bow tie to the jazz concert.”

The smile that spread across Bryan’s face sealed the deal. It didn’t mean it was going to be easy, but Bryan could not pass up the opportunity to see Ted in a bow tie. He’d have his camera at the ready to preserve that moment, for sure.

It was a crisp, fall Saturday morning, uncharacteristic for this time of year in Florida. Ted was going through his pre-flight calculations when Bryan came through the hangar door. The look on Bryan’s face was as if he had just come face to face with a banshee preying on his soul to strip him of his very existence. He knew it was unreasonable, but he couldn’t help how he felt.

As Ted completed the walk-around of his aircraft, he explained everything that he was doing to assuage the fear radiating from Bryan’s skin – checking the oil and fuel level, confirming the operation of flaps, ailerons, and elevators, insuring proper inflation in the landing gear tires. Ted was extra vigilant to be sure that he was following every protocol, and to give Bryan time to warm up to what was coming next.

As Ted pushed the window open and yelled, “Clear prop!”, he started the engine and contacted the tower for clearance. He glanced over at Bryan and spoke to him through the headsets on their heads, “Hey, lighten up bro. Remember, this is supposed to be fun.” Bryan feigned a smile.

As they sat perched at the end of a runway, like a bird resting on a twig, they awaited clearance for takeoff. “November four-niner-one foxtrot tango, you are cleared for takeoff, departure to the south approved,” came the announcement from the tower controller.

“Here we go,” said Ted as he advanced the throttle slowly to full power. Everything began to escalate in intensity – the noise, the vibration, the heartbeat. Bryan’s entire body was tensing up in protest, holding on to the door handle, half thinking he could still open it and jump out without too much injury.

And then … his feet were no longer connected to the earth below him. The noise level diminished, the vibration levels receded, and it felt as if he was being carried gently into the heavens above him, ever so closer to his sister. Despite the reduced levels of noise and vibration, Bryan’s heartbeat did not follow suit.

It didn’t remain elevated out of fear. Rather, the feelings tugging at his heart transformed from ones of fear to ones of awe and inspiration. The landscape unfolding before him left Bryan breathless. The Atlantic Ocean looked like a sheet of glass, the rising sun just peeking over the tips of the cumulus clouds sitting on the horizon.

Inexplicably and uncontrollably, one word came from Bryan’s lips through the headset, “Wow.”

Ted peeked over and saw the more relaxed look on his passenger’s face, “Yeah, I think that’s what everyone says the first time they experience this. Let me tell you, it’s rather addictive, in a good way of course.”

sunrise-atlantic-oceanWe’re born alone, we live alone, and we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. ~ Orson Welles

This was no illusion. Bryan was sure of it. And even if it was some deceptive imagery from an alternate universe, even if none of this was really real, he couldn’t possibly deny the presence of the emotions coursing through his veins. Yep, this was good enough for him. Well, almost good enough. He still couldn’t wait to see Ted in a bow tie. There was no way he was going to let him wriggle out of that one. It was another memory – in what appeared to be an unlikely friendship – that would make his life one worth remembering, alone or not.

Sunrise

legal-tableSince his recent promotion, Patrick had been burning more than his share of midnight oil at the firm. Case upon case was piling up on the docket. If he was ever going to make partner status in this lifetime, he needed to buck up and deal with the luxury of getting four hours of sleep each night. The first several weeks of his new work regime carried on without incident. Adrenaline and carefully coordinate shots of caffeine provided by the firm’s espresso machine served him well. Like the sludgy oil in your car, however, you can only ignore it for so long before it revolts, the engine seizing up in protest. Patrick’s body did just that while seated at a conference table in an otherwise ordinary status meeting with his associates.

He was focusing on the details of a domestic violence case slated for prosecution the following week while simultaneously disseminating his planned strategy. In the next moment, Patrick opened his eyelids to the unexpected view of a much different environment: a white sanitized hospital room with his wife, Samantha, gazing out the window, an apprehensive look on her face.

“Hey beautiful,” he said to Samantha in a hoarse voice. The oxygen tube in his nose and the drugs dripping through the intravenous feed in his right hand were slowly bringing him back to this earthly world. Samantha quickly approached the bedside taking Patrick’s hand, “Pat, you had me so worried.” An impulsive tear ran down her cheek.

“What happened?” Patrick’s question arose from a confused mental state as he continued to absorb the details of his new surroundings.

“You had a heart attack,” stammered Samantha, the tears beginning to flow a bit more freely as she began to understand the gravity of the situation. “Honey, something has to change,” she pleaded. “This can’t go on. We can’t afford to have something happen to you.” By we, Samantha was referring to herself as well as the two young girls at home with grandma right now, ages four and seven.

Patrick had many redeeming and admirable qualities. The stubbornness that served him so well in his professional life did not do so in his personal and family life. It was this obstinance that left him lying horizontal in a hospital bed instead of sitting crisscross applesauce on the living room floor with his two daughters and their dolls. His body had provided a final warning, waving a white flag in surrender to the overwhelming stimuli of his self-induced professional responsibilities. The urgent message was signed, sealed, and delivered. Tossed into the trash like junk mail in the past, it was finally being read and received by Patrick.

“I know, I know,” said Patrick. “I need to change things. I promise I’ll go see the doctor when I get out of here.” And so it came to be that Patrick visited his doctor the following week for the first time in at least five years. Sitting in the exam room awaiting his family physician, Dr. Kreb, to enter, he couldn’t even remember if he was a she or vice versa. It had been so long, he knew that there would be no recognition between the two of them.

As the doctor knocked and entered the room, he (so it was a male after all) flipped through the pages of Patrick’s medical records while greeting his latest patient. “How’s it going today, what can I do for you?” Patrick was thinking that he should already know the answer to this question. He was admitted to the hospital but three days ago. Patrick’s emergency visit should have shown up in his file. Doesn’t everything end up in these files, he thought as he grasped for some release of internal tension and anxiety, recalling a Seinfeld episode from many years ago?

“Well, I guess the better phrasing is what I can do for myself,” retorted Patrick. As the doctor returned to the front page, he finally understood the reason for his visit. “Yes,” said the doctor. “I see we’ve been pushing our limits a bit too far, eh?” Although Patrick had a wry sense of humor, he didn’t appreciate any levity in this particular situation, at least not the kind doled out by his doctor.

wake-up-alarm-clock“I suppose you could say this is my wake-up call. I’ve hit the snooze button a few too many times and I know now that it’s time to finally get out of bed.” Patrick spoke in a self-deprecating tone as he began to sense how his cumulative actions over the previous year had led him to this present moment. He wished that he could simply take a pill and make this ill-fated situation disappear. Deep down, however, he knew this was impossible and was dreading the recommendations that would be forthcoming from the medical professional. It would be more invasive than the surgery that he didn’t need.

The doctor spoke in a very matter-of-fact tone, reading from the notes he had made, as if he was rattling off a list of items to pick up at the grocery store on the way home. “First, you need to cut back on the amount of stress you are creating in your life. That means no more eighty hour work weeks. You need to cut it back to forty hours like the rest of the human population.” Looking over the rims of his bifocals to be sure his patient was paying attention; he continued “Second, you need to find a way to manage the excessive amounts of stress that you have already invited into your life. Find an activity or a hobby that gives you some time for renewal and rejuvenation: set aside some time to listen to music you enjoy, meditate, or take a daily walk on the beach. Your choice, just be sure to find something.”

The first piece of his treatment was going to be difficult to embrace. His work had become an addiction for Patrick. Cutting back to half the hours would be akin to going cold turkey. It was not going to be pretty. In fact, he surmised that it would introduce even more stress in the short term. Despite his apprehension, however, he knew it was necessary. Besides, if he didn’t follow through with the doctor’s advice, he was either headed for another heart attack or a divorce, maybe both.

As difficult as the work schedule aspect of his treatment would be, the doctor had stumbled upon a perfect activity for Patrick to help alleviate some of his existing stress. This part would be much easier. He had moved from the Midwest after law school to be closer to the beach. And yet, here he was less than ten minutes from the Atlantic Ocean and he could count on his one hand the number of times he had been there in the past ten years.

atlantic-ocean-beachOne of those times, perhaps the most memorable of his life, occurred on his first date with Samantha. With the pale moonlight casting a glow over the endless sea, the two of them stood with their foreheads touching, gazing into each other’s eyes as the lapping waves tickled their toes, sinking their feet into the sand as if setting strong roots for their future together. Maybe that’s why he didn’t return as often. Maybe he never wanted to risk tainting the perfection of that fond memory. Patrick would be strolling on that same beach more often now because he relished the reminiscence of that first date. He planned to relieve stress by taking a daily walk on the beach each morning before commuting into the office.

He had walked on this beach and sat on these dunes dozens of times in the past several months. The most spectacular part of this new practice was watching the sun begin to peek above the horizon as night transitioned to dawn. Each sunrise was different. Every one portrayed a different mood and told a different story. Some narratives were filled with gray clouds and a dull light that cast a somber ambiance. Other renditions were characterized by brilliant hues of vibrant pink, blue, and orange that was manifested by the smile of encouragement and hope on Patrick’s face.

turtle trekThis Friday morning’s sunrise was neither melancholy nor effervescent. And yet, it was like none he had ever seen. As Patrick sat on the dunes, forearms resting on his knees, he eagerly awaited the story line beginning to unfold as the diluting darkness of night gave way to the refreshing light of day. From the corner of his eye, in his peripheral vision, Patrick noticed what looked like a shadow, a vague form of something meandering down the sand towards the water’s edge. As the rising sun began to cast more light on the scene, he spotted the trail of sea turtles trekking vigorously towards the safety of the deep ocean waters. This was only the first of many obstacles that they would need to surmount in their young lives, but it was the most pressing at the moment. They were devoting every ounce of energy and focus into the here and now, and Patrick was overfilled with gratitude, being able to witness this magical transformation, this beginning of a new life.

It led Patrick naturally to contemplate the direction of his own focus. Each and every morning, he would sit here on this beach and focus on what was out over the horizon, awaiting a grand spectacle to make its presence known from a distance. He wondered how many other things, like these fledgling turtles, that he missed right before his eyes.

His daily routine should have carried Patrick south towards his office and the final eight hours of his new forty hour work week. It was those eight hours, after all, that would help propel Patrick closer to becoming a partner, that vision looming just out over the horizon. Instead, he turned north, headed home to his own fledgling turtles, all the while planning a perfectly splendid party involving imaginary tea, pretend scones, and the three most important people in his life.

Just keep swimming

courage-is-not-the-absence-of-fearSitting cross-legged on the floor of my son’s room, I stare at the pile of cards nestled in the palm of my hand. My pile is but a sliver compared to his, but that does not concern me. I always have a firm grasp on hope. The next card from our individual decks reveal a stalemate, a two of hearts versus a two of spades. As if flipping cards rapidly will conjure up the winning one expeditiously, three cards from each of our hands go face down. Snap, snap, snap. Revealing my final card face up, the mischievous grin across the battlefield seals my fate. Another game of War is in the books and I have been conquered yet again. It seems that my son always has the upper hand when we play this game, quite literally. I understand what it means to have the cards seemingly stacked against you. As it turns out, I would discover a lot more on this particular subject.

Life has a mysterious way of drawing parallels between an entertaining game and real life situations. Like that card game, battles rage around and within us. In a somewhat callous fashion, the world delivers a stage where these conflicts become the focus of our attention. The unfolding drama of these productions tug at the emotions of our heart like a puppet string, pulling one moment on the strand of melancholy, and the next instant on the thread of joy. I felt like Gepetto’s creation this past weekend, experiencing the pull on each of these strings within a twenty four hour period.

sunset-cocoa-beachWith our son out of town on a scouting campout, the weekend ours alone to define, my wife and I seized the opportunity to do something off the cuff. Fat Kahuna’s is a restaurant on Cocoa Beach, tiny in size, but reputedly big in flavor and atmosphere. With a half hour wait on this Saturday evening, we strolled out to the beach, admiring the breathtaking performance being choreographed between the sun, sea, and clouds. It was a carefree and relaxed atmosphere that we carried into the restaurant. The entire experience, including the meal comprised of calamari, seared ahi tuna, and coconut shrimp, was simply delightful. Sitting across the table from my wife, I had a view of carved tikis along with pictures of the South Pacific islands. Her line of sight faced the window, looking out to the street. We were less than four feet apart, but looking into two completely different worlds.

As we departed the establishment, our focus swiftly changed course. Away from the charming experience we had just savored, and towards the homeless man who had humbly entered the restaurant, offering to clean dishes in exchange for a meal. My wife shares “No one deserves to be hungry, let’s go offer to buy him something to eat.” Without a moment’s hesitation, I said “Let’s go.” With a purposeful gait, we trimmed the distance between us. “Excuse me”, I called out to get his attention. He turned around, somewhat confused. Upon offering to buy him a sandwich, he just nodded, with a questioning look on his face, as if to uncover our ulterior motive. Once we entered the adjacent Subway restaurant, he opened up, sharing his name and story, always interleaving words of sincere appreciation for our thoughtfulness. I remember being called upon as two little angels, for providing a hot meal on an evening that wasn’t even his birthday. When a foot long steak and cheese sandwich from Subway looks like a gourmet meal, when you learn that the same sand between your toes will serve as both a bed and a pillow for another human being on this evening, you gain an entirely new perspective on the term compassion.

Perseverance, secret of all triumphs. ~Victor Hugo

On the following afternoon, my son finds himself slipping into the aquatic pool at the local YMCA. I take for granted that I know how to swim. Learning to do so at such a young age, the ability to swim was always present, like the ability to breathe. My son was not afforded that same luxury. Beset with numerous ear infections and surgeries throughout his younger years, he was refused admission to enter the world below the water’s surface.

Now, as an eleven year old, he is undertaking a Herculean task. Coordinate movement of arms and legs. Take periodic breaths. Swim in a straight line. And forget all about the fact that you are in water that stands taller than you ever will. If there ever was an accurate depiction of jumping into the deep end, this would be it. In so many different ways. Less than a month ago, he was anxious if his head was underwater. Today, he is in a pool next to his Scoutmaster, bravely preparing to attempt the swim test required for advancement to the rank of second class scout.

Rolling over onto his back, he tentatively begins the backstroke. Although his goggles obscure his eyes, I can sense the battle raging inside. With one stroke, he exudes fear and uncertainty. In the next stroke, sheer determination to triumph. I never completely understood why my parents were more anxious than me throughout the pursuit of my personal endeavors. I know now. I could have cared less whether my son earned second class rank on that day. What I cared about was his desire to overcome fear, to vanquish those internal demons, leaving them in his wake as he determinedly took one stroke, one kick, then another, over and over again.

Within a few short strokes of the finish, my wife exclaims in a trembling voice, “Dave, he’s going to make it!” In that moment, my heartbeat fluttered. As his hand reached back to touch the wall, he stood on his feet and looked around, almost surprised at where he found himself. The far side of fear, the near side of personal pride. The beaming smile on his face etched an indelible mark on my heart.

Just-Keep-SwimmingAs I think back to these two experiences over that twenty four hour period, I could scarcely fathom just how different they were from each other. One person fighting to survive, another one wrestling with personal achievement. And as disparate as these struggles are in principle, a common thread emerges. The desire to prevail. We all find ourselves, at times, adrift in the sea of adversity, metaphorical waves crashing around us. This past weekend awakened within me the notion that the best we can do is to take a deep breath, swim one stroke, and then another, and then one more. Just keep swimming.

Standing tall

Lighthouse at TwilightThe sea may be placid and tranquil, an undisturbed canvas upon which passing ships etch their story. Or it may be a cauldron of immense proportions, filled with turbulence and turmoil, writing a story of its own as it summons payment by those same vessels for crossing through her waters. Through it all, the beacon of light perched over the horizon radiates a signal of calming influence. Never moving itself nor asking for anything in return, the lighthouse perseveres against the forces of nature, securing a pact between land and sea as a conduit for safe passage.

Is it the manner in which it majestically towers above the landscape? Is it the memory of a simpler time in our human existence? Is it the story of adventure, mystery, and quiet contemplation that is held within its walls? Is it the sense of hope that its light resolutely displays for the entire world to see? What is the allure of a lighthouse? For me, it is all of these things, plus one more. Courage. Although an inanimate object, each lighthouse has a personality all its own that breathes life into its onlookers. Each is a symbol of the willingness to persist against all obstacles tossed in its direction. It stands tall in the face of adversity.

There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most. ~M.L. Stedman

My persona is analogous to a buoy floating on the water. Save for the most extreme circumstances, I undulate to follow the motion of the waves. Whether mere ripples in a pond or frothy whitecaps washing over my head, I remain steady, rather even-keeled. This is a blessing and a curse. There are times when it is best to allow the raindrops to roll off your back. But, there are also moments when it is best to confront those same drops of rain head on, bravely wipe them from your eyes, and stand tall in the name of principles held within. Confrontation, definitely not a term in my daily vernacular.

In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, each person in this world must choose to be an anvil or a hammer. Sometimes, I wonder whether I am both, anvil and hammer, at the same time. In a fiercely contested psychological battle, I hold myself responsible for those scenes where I remain submissive, my own voice quiet, not ready or willing to speak the thoughts screaming from the depths of my being. Is it just too much effort to rock the boat? Has this personality characteristic planted its roots in my upbringing? Do I favor acceptance over respect? Does my internal compass need re-calibrated to point towards my true north? Whatever the case may be, the first step is to recognize this anomaly, a worthy exploration of confrontation in its own right. The second step is to forgive yourself for prior transgressions against your personal creed and march forward with courage.

You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. ~M.L. Stedman

It is said that books which touch us most deeply are the ones that speak the message we most need to hear. I have finished reading two complete works of fiction since turning the final page of The Light Between Oceans, a novel by M.L. Stedman. It is the first time a book has brought a tear to my eye. The significance of its influence on my frame of mind has been matched by no other. One month, two story lines, and dozens of characters later, the plight of Tom, Izzy, and Lucy still remain vivid in my memory. I wish that I could reach into the pages of this gem and pull each of them into my world. Perhaps it is because I deeply respect their exhibition of mental fortitude. In the face of adversity and difficult choices, each remains true to their deeply held beliefs, speaking their mind, standing tall.

stand-aloneThe origin of radiance from a lighthouse is but a modest and unassuming flame, nothing more than a flicker of light to the casual observer. However, a series of delicately aligned and precisely focused lenses magnify that flame to an intensity hundreds of times more powerful than the source. Cutting through the densest fog, overcoming the force of gale strength winds, peeking through the drops of a torrential rain storm, it provides guidance. That beacon of light is a symbol of hope, a demonstration of courage, a reminder that just like that lighthouse, we can all stand tall.

A little slice of heaven

Friendship-Quotes-02-524x350_largeI choose my Facebook friends with the same philosophy as “real-life” friends. Quality over quantity. Every morning, one friend posts an insightful thought on her wall to begin the day. I always look forward to these sparks of inspiration. This morning it was from the infamous author unknown.

What I am doing today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. ~Author Unknown

Such a simple statement really woke me up, even before my morning coffee kicked in. What was I doing today? Even after my last article emphasized experiencing life, I found myself drifting into the prohibited doldrums zone. Whatever I do today must be important. If I don’t feel like what I’m doing is important, I need to make it so.

Staring at my 24″ monitor filled with computer code blurring my vision (figuratively and literally), I realize the most important thing I can do right now is absorb some Vitamin D courtesy of the Florida sunshine that I know exists outside my cave.

turtle trekHopping into the car, windows down, I find myself cruising over the Melbourne Causeway towards the border between land and sea. I’ve flown over this threshold many times before as a part of my flight training. The small strip of beach that separates land from water is like a proverbial line in the sand. It separates the known from the unknown. It is calling out to the daring soul to cross its line and explore despite the crashing waves that push you back. The loggerhead turtles do it. Why don’t we?

As I coast into the parking spot at Bizzarro’s Pizza on the beach, I look forward to my two slices of cheese pizza and a sweet tea. I sometimes forget that the Atlantic Ocean is my virtual backyard. Less than a 10 minute drive from home or work and I am at that line in the sand, able to appreciate nature’s beauty. Able to dream about adventure to lands beyond. This led me to ponder an article by a fellow writer earlier this week about being home.

What is home? Is it just a physical structure? Is it the people in your life? Is it defined by the environment that surrounds you?

For me, home is whenever and wherever I am in harmony with my surroundings while feeling relaxed, comfortable, and at peace. Sometimes, this is in my physical house. At other times it may be on a trail in the back-country, or among shelves of books in a bookstore. I am reminded that home is ultimately wherever we can go to let go of the challenges of the day and just unwind, a place to recharge your batteries and be yourself.

WP_20130719_005At this particular point in time, I was at home right here. Eating a slice of pizza and sitting on the beach.

So, was this the most important thing I could have done today? Some would say no. Others may say yes. The bottom line is that I became aware of an important fact. I should be grateful for what is right in front of my eyes. My thoughts, my surroundings, my relationships. And that realization is truly a little slice of heaven.

What are you doing today?