“With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.” – William Shakespeare
I looked in the mirror, and a very wrinkled face looked back. I wondered who it was, this old woman looking at me so intently. Then she smiled, and I saw myself. I also saw my mom in my dimples, my dad in the curve of my nose. I saw the wife of my husband and the mother of my son.
I looked deeper into those eyes looking back at me, and I saw love and fear, hope and sadness, wisdom and wonder, experience and awe, and , yes, mirth and laughter.
So many decades, so many years…and I’m still here, living my best life.
Mr. Endless Seeker and I spent my birthday weekend at the beach – our first overnight getaway in a year – our first vacation from family duties and our little homestead in a very long time. It was overdue, and necessary, and much appreciated. It was also incredibly lucky. We faced no war or refugee camp, no hurricane bearing down upon us, no discrimination or oppression, no lost jobs, no evacuation orders due to a wildfire, no smoke to pollute our air, no devastating news of a diagnosed disease. All we had to do was get in the car and drive a few hours to put our feet in the ocean, walk the beach, watch the sun rise and set, eat fresh shrimp, drink a glass or two of wine, and rest – blissfully, quietly, magically.
This birthday, in particular, brings with it a keener appreciation for the ephemeral nature of my physical body, a deeper understanding of my oneness with the universe, and a stronger sense of how lucky I am to have lived this wonderful, messy life, with all its gifts and privilege. One of those very precious gifts is my connection to the elements of nature – all the fantastic animals, plants and flowers, sun and moon, water and wind, and all the other beings that support me physically, mentally, and spiritually.
On our first afternoon at the beach, we sat on our screen porch overlooking the beautiful tidal marsh when a deer suddenly appeared below us, then two, three four, five. They were cruising under the shade of the wax myrtles along the edge of the marsh, nibbling cat briars and Virginia creeper along the way.
We set out at sunrise the next day, walking along the beach to Bird Island Preserve. The beach was quiet and mostly empty…my favorite time to enjoy the ocean.
On our walk, we encountered many ghost crabs, scampering along the sand. I love how they can move forward, backward, and sideways, leaving tiny, sharp divots in the sand. Their eyes, perched on stalks, watched our every move.
The sea turtles had come and gone, leaving their nests full of eggs behind, but volunteers had marked the nests and provided “runways” for the hatchlings to follow to the sea once they surfaced and saw the light of day.
A detour off the beach into the coastal dunes and out to the tidal marsh revealed common egrets, terns, fiddler crabs, spiders of all sorts, sea ox eye daisies, and marsh pinks, along with the ubiquitous mosquitoes that feed so many.
We stopped by the famous Kindred Spirit mailbox and left a note in the journals there. People often write about how much they appreciate this little spit of land that’s been protected for the birds and the beauty of the beach and marsh. I read only one other note in the journal, a touching story by a young man celebrating his 7th wedding anniversary with his bride, saying “she literally saved my life”. I understand that sentiment completely.
One day we walked the pier to view the ocean from above. A huge school of fish was swimming through being chased by dolphins and sharks and scooped up by pelicans. People swam in the surf, and raggedy-looking tailless grackles stalked the fisherman along the pier.
On our way to dinner that night a wood stork flew over us into the marsh as the sun was setting. It was a flashback moment to all the days we watched the storks feed in the mudflats and roadside ditches of southwest Florida so many years ago.
A constant presence during our stay were the clapper rails that resided in the tall grasses of the marsh outside our room. Every day we’d hear the kek-kek-kek of their calls and watch as they crept into the open mudflats to preen and bathe in the sun. Sometimes they’d be joined by a batch of snowy egrets, tri-colored herons and sandpipers feeding as the tidal waters ebbed and flowed – a ritual as old as time.
On our last morning I stepped outside our door just before sunrise and saw a rabbit being chased by a coyote running full-speed down the street in front of our B & B. The coyote then dipped into the trees by our gravel parking lot and stared directly at us for a full 10 – 20 seconds as if to say “hello there, welcome to your morning!”, then trotted off down the street again, the rabbit now long gone.
We walked down to the beach to watch the sun rise over the ocean one more time…a moment of quiet, peaceful wonder. The sun-warmed water flowed over my feet, bathing me in comfort and awe as I watched the waves curl and felt the sand slip back into the ocean from under my feet.
My wrinkled face cracked into a smile, and I stretched my arms above my head and bowed. Breathing a sigh of contentment I thanked the sun, the water, the crabs, the sand, and the spirits of the universe as I marked another turn around the sun – grateful to still be here moving, breathing, seeing, touching, grounding myself on this big, beautiful planet that supports us all each day.
As Shakespeare said, “with mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come!”
Note: Come back tomorrow for a post about a special place we stopped on our way home: The Green Swamp.