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  • Writer's pictureShannon

On the Great Blue...

A personal reflection

I sit on the dock, feet dangling above the shallows of the gulf shoreline. Sun bleached oyster shucks, rocks and hurricane-shorn building remnants lie just under the inches of water. In the past, I’d sit, phone in hand, desperately searching for the right picture angle, which would somehow convey this moment in time to you. Missing the moments around me as I think about the caption and the right time to post it from this time zone. Except, for Christmas this year, I’ve given myself the gift of distance (figuratively and also quite literally, as I am 1,200 miles from home). And quiet.

So instead, I sit. I listen to the tiny waves washing against the berm, I see the sun dappled pattern in the water, I hear the call of the birds swooping overhead, watch the pelicans glide soundlessly, looking for their catch.

Since I have no self-imposed obligation to strangers hiding somewhere inside the currently-silenced apps on my phone, I sit. And listen. And watch. I smile as I see my son walk towards me, red shirt popping out against the muted blues, greens and whites of the landscape around him. His boots splash in the shallow wash, and he carries a giant fishing net on his shoulders.

Sun bleached oyster shucks, rocks and hurricane-shorn building remnants lie just under the inches of water.

I sit and think about how a month on the gulf, out of our element and routine, had seemed arduous when we first arrived. It felt like we had forever stretched in front of us. Now it’s Christmas Day and we leave the day after tomorrow. I’m relieved, sad, anxious, and excited. We had almost a month with my 93 year-old grandpa who has advanced dementia. He won’t remember this time that we spent, but we will. And I will treasure it. Even now, as I sit typing this with my new piece of Polish pottery in front of me, filled with my morning coffee… my memento from the trip…it makes me smile thinking of the Polish greeting that he spontaneously brought forth from the depths of his mind one evening…all of us in earshot noting to remember the wording and pronunciation, as no one had heard him say it before. A little piece of my heritage and history that I was lucky enough to be present for.

Instead of uprooting our lives for a huge chunk of time, it ground us.

We just lost his wife, my grandma, our matriarch, two months prior. The aches on the hearts of my family members is still fresh. The first holiday without their mother. And the reminders are all around us here; the multitude of her artwork on the walls, a physical, visual memory of the places she went, things she enjoyed; the initials of her and my grandfather that she carved out in the cement on the walkway, like a young schoolchild; the traditions we’ve carried on during this trip, in her memory.

I will treasure being among all of this, immersed in this, for the last month.

Instead of uprooting our lives for a huge chunk of time, it ground us.

My children got time with relatives that I never had the gift of experiencing, growing up. They’re old enough to remember this trip vividly. To show empathy and care to their great-grandfather and take delight when he is able to show them endearment. To tell tales of their many adventures to their great-aunt. To soak up the knowledge of the gulf and its secrets from those who offered them their advices when they strode past with fishing poles in hand.

The Great Blue who visited after I wrote this

Birds became a common theme throughout the trip, and we delighted in watching all of them from the balcony of my grandfather’s condo, or from our walks close to shore. It seemed to me that I was called to the Great Blue Heron most often, or perhaps that they were called to me. Spiritual meaning ascribed to the Great Blue Heron is one independence, of finding peace within self, and finding strength in that peace, and being an individual. All elements of my life that I’m working on building or that exist now.

Like the choice I make to homeschool- to sometimes make do without, in order to have other freedoms, even though it goes against the status-quo. To have the ability to have made life-altering bonds with family, or memories that we would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise, is without a doubt worth it for me. Like the heron, I stand alone and strong, and find my peace. Even now back in the comfort of my own home, I miss the gulf. I miss the sun on the water, the birds, the amazing gift of watching dolphin play in the wild right in front of me. I reach back, to try to find that feeling now, and carry it as a shield throughout my day. Remember the peace I felt when I just…was.

I found this perfect, intact, shell waiting for me as I sat and wrote this in my head. It sits on my bedside as a reminder to be present

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