Thursday, January 28, 2016

Texas Gulf Shores: Port Aransas & Mustang Island

Port Aransas seawall & ferries 

This week, while everyone else in the country was buried in snow, we traveled further south down the Gulf Coast to Port Aransas and Mustang Island, Texas. We’ve been trying to resist the urge to gloat, but, frankly, it’s not easy. Instead of digging our car out of our driveway, we’ve been digging our toes into the sand, strolling along the long stretches of beaches with the white winter sun glistening on the waves and the seagulls and terns swirling overhead.

Luis trying to eat his breakfast in peace

We’ve watched pods of dolphins following ferries and leaping in great twisting arcs out of the water in front of the oil freighters. White Pelicans bob on the waves, lazily dropping their pouched beaks into the surf to scoop up whatever unlucky sea creature floats into their paths. Comical toupee-wearing Royal Terns, stand side by side on the beach, all facing into the wind, and the aviary super-models, the Egrets, Ibis and Herons standing patiently on their long, thin legs in the wetlands, watching for the slightest ripple in the water before striking at lightning speed, their prey swimming shell-shocked in fish heaven before they know what hit them.

Snowy egret fishing for dinner

It’s the laid-back, easy way of life here that’s so appealing: friendly, helpful people, lots of restaurants with affordable menus, well-run free car ferries that connect islands to each other and the mainland, a $12 annual beach parking pass that allows camping on the beach for no additional cost. Technically, the restriction is for three nights in a period of 21 days, although, according to the locals, this is seldom enforced out of season. It is pleasant to camp between the sea and the dunes, with the sound of the surf at night, people walking their dogs, and the winter residents’ golf carts zipping along the flat, 18-mile stretch of sand between Port Aransas and Mustang beach. I think we'll dig our toes a little deeper into the sand... 

Dolphins playing at the bow of oil freighters 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A New Year is Here: Adding Bright New Threads to Your Tapestry

Enjoying New Year's 2011 celebrations with my lovely niece, Louisville, KY, USA

Happy New Year to all! I've read several posts on Facebook in the past few weeks from friends saying that they wished that they'd done things differently this year, but that they're going to focus on the positive things in their lives, which is a very healthy attitude. I think everyone feels the same way at some point: "I wish I had done this instead of that"; hindsight's 20/20 after all. But we wouldn't be who we are if we hadn't made mistakes or gone through painful experiences as well as making great decisions and feeling deeply happy about other things. Not to sound too new age-y, but every experience, good or bad, is a new thread in the big tapestry of who we are. Every event in our lives adds a brightly colored or muted or roughly woven or sad-looking or silvery shimmering thread. All of it combines to add interest, color and texture to our lives. And I can tell you, that, for better or for worse, my tapestry is turning out to be pretty damn colorful! 

New Year's 2012 with my best friend, hubby and travel partner, Seattle, USA

We visited an old friend in Austin this year and one of the things that that struck me was that her mother, an amazing, courageous woman who had reached her 85th birthday, had lately been feeling depressed. Despite an incredible adventure-filled life that included escaping an abusive marriage, shepherding four tiny children out of Cuba in the 1950s, learning a strange foreign language and beginning a new life in the United States with next to nothing in assets, traveling to every continent on earth except Antarctica (which she was still planning on visiting), starting her own business, and dating men 20 years younger than herself, she had somehow arrived at the conclusion that she had accomplished nothing in her life. Kindly, her daughters had put together a slide show of all the important moments in her life to remind her of just how incredible it had all been, including the comical side of the many failures. They braced themselves for how she would receive it, but were pleasantly surprised when she embraced it. We all need reminding sometimes of what amazing lives we've lead.  mile emoticon

New Year's Eve 2004, Hong Kong (photo by Simone Cannon)

We all reach the point of questioning what we have accomplished in our life. There are so many things that we want to do, but as our 50th or 60th or 70th birthday approaches, we fear that we are running out of time. On our travels, we've been lucky enough to meet many senior citizens, still vital, adventurous and making future plans. The happiest ones understand that the decisions, right or wrong, that they made in their lives were the best ones that they could have made at the time and that a life without regrets and mistakes isn't a life fully lived. They have a robust sense of humor, healthy social connections and an optimism that is encouraging and inspiring. Despite their advancing years and sometimes declining health, they continue to add texture to their tapestries for as long as they can. Here's wishing everyone bright new threads in the coming year.