May Seventeen

Four years ago today, you died.

Although you had 52 years of a marriage that I observed as perfect, four children, many grandchildren, a life lived full circle – you didn’t live long enough to get old.

You were a month into your 74th year; still working, enjoying life, traveling.  You were still young.  I suppose I thought you’d live to be an old woman, like your mother did.

But if you had, who’d have taken care of you as tenderly as you assisted your own mother who, for many more years than I realized, did indeed need your constant support for the tasks of daily living so that she could remain ensconced in her own home, her nest, the place she preferred, above all?

Your daughters – my sister and me – live in different states. You would not have wanted to move from your home to either of ours had that  become necessary.   Or to some other place: a condo, a community.  I guess I’d envisioned me taking you on outings, the way you did with your mother, and we’d continue to enjoy our time together until we were both old.  That didn’t happen.

The illness that invaded came swiftly in March and you took your final earthly breath at about 7:45pm, four years ago today. I don’t think you worried; I think you were blessed with equal parts awareness and peacefulness, and your death came closer each day for the seven weeks of your final journey.

Of course, Dad was at your side every moment; standing ready as always  to meet your needs. To provide nourishment if you wanted it.  Comfort, that he was there.  He did not impede your journey to Christ by extraordinary means for he understood that you both knew that in dying we are born to eternal life.  He wanted that for you.  He just hoped it’d have happened about ten years later.  He pinned a lovely, fragrant gardenia onto the lapel of your suit as your body was there for our final goodbyes.  The ultimate tender gesture of a marriage between two people who took care of each other.

I think you had a good death, as far as death goes.  If we think about life in terms of what we believe as Christians,  then we have to be comforted by the promise of eternal life. And I am.

But I miss you.  Now, I’ve made Dad listen to me these past four years; listen to the vicissitudes of my own life, which, by the way, is not where I want it to be, the same as when you were living and comforting me about the same frustrations.  I want my mom to tell me that everything will be all right.  You were so good at gleaning the positive and going from there, and it’s helped me, truly.  I think there are many lessons you’ve taught me that have blossomed since you left.  Is that you? Helping me from Heaven?  Whatever it is, there are some days when I really understand what you’d been trying to say, and other days when I still want to cry and and complain and have my mother tell me it’s all going to work out just fine.

Your absence has been strange.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  I am thankful I wasn’t a child when you went, or even a very young adult.  I was lucky to have you for as long as I did…too many lose parents too young.  I can see you.  But I only experienced you once since you’ve been gone.   I think the lessons you tried to impart (and probably, frustratingly so, now that I think of it) are working…why do things take so long?!  Still, I want and need some reassurance from my mother, unreasonably childish, I know this, yet who else is there besides Dad who will indulge me?  I don’t want to bore him to tears; I think I might already have done that.

You’re in Heaven: can you predict the future?  How much longer until things will be the way we want them to be, Mom?  Can you visit me and tell me the future?

Of course, I’m kidding.  You were not superstitious nor am I.  You would have told me what was said at Peter’s funeral, something real, but without deadlines or timelines or promises of anything specific: “God is Good…All the Time.”

I Am Water…

…it’s part of who I am; I was born this way. Landlocked in Detroit, where I was raised, I lived for that one week of bliss, our summer vacation on the Lake Michigan Shore in South Haven.  When I say I lived for this single week, that’s not far from the actual truth. I daydreamed about it all year, and fantasized about how great it would be to really live in a coastal town – how lucky those people were. Did they look at that Lake every day and pinch themselves with glee? That vacation week was a singular moment in my childhood…and into young adulthood. Every year my Dad would tease us with, “who wants to stay another week?” and every year I almost believed that he’d throw caution to the wind and we’d just stay on for that second week. Never happened, of course. I hated packing up and going home.

When I was a grown up, my husband and I lucked into a relocation that took us to west Michigan and  lived in an awesome town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Our home was in a neighborhood with that oh-so-coveted deeded beach access. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. This really was my dream, come true.

Then we moved here: to Atlantic Beach.  If I thought Grand Haven was heaven, I was ecstatic about settling in this warm weather coastal community just steps from the beach.  I love the beach (as if that hasn’t been patently obvious on this blog).  I’m constantly snapping photo upon photo, and video too.  I keep hearing my Dad’s voice, “Don’t photograph your life  - live it!”  Well, I guess this is how I live my life.  I get carried away with excitement, even after all this time, and out comes the camera… don’t even ask how many pictures are living on the hard drive, each of them elbowing the other out of way, vying for precious space.  I know I need to get in there with the delete key, but it’s hard decide which pictures go off into the ether, so I just put it off.

Since I’m happiest when I’m in or near the water, I recorded this little video and now I’ll share it with you:

Visit Florida

A long time ago, we visited Florida.  It was the Gulf side, Longboat Key, to be exact. It was January.  We wandered around St. Armand’s circle and I remember gazing longingly through the window of a realtor’s office, where listings of homes-for-sale were taped.  (Long before the days of Zillow – one of my fav real estate apps!)  I can remember the feeling of longing, of how great would it be if we actually lived here? but accepted it as a pipe dream.  We packed up and went back to the gray and snowy midwest and four more months of that weather, a day or two later.  We’re just not winter sports people.

Now, we’ve been here eleven years.  We love living at the beach.  Every single time I come across the walkway to the sands of ‘my beach’, it’s a different landscape.  And every time, I feel a glee of excitement that I get to live here.

This is yesterday.  I read my book for a while, then took a snooze.  A few of my son’s friends probably saw me, sacked out in my chair, as they were polite enough to say HI when they came out to the beach too.

I woke up to the tide nearly lapping at my back.  Hey, I didn’t snooze that long.  

What a great, great day it was yesterday.  Perfect temps, perfect water, pretty birds.  And I get to live here.

Macro Monday Agapanthus Again…and Shells

What can I say? I love the life cycle of these Agapanthus.  A neighbor gave them to me several years ago and I so enjoy watching them go from “pregnancy” in the springtime to seed in the fall.  Ever since I got the macro lens I’m just drawn to these plants.  Honestly, I’m not satisfied with these images. But – - it’s all right.  If I don’t practice I won’t improve.

I had to throw in a few shots of the shells I collected while on Sapelo Island.  That was so much fun.

Shelling Sapelo Island

If you come to Eagle Island with your own boat, Captain Andy Hill will spend a few hours with you, orienting you to the creeks and waterways so you can comfortably command your watercraft to all the places you might want to  go – or you can rent his boat and services and let him act as your guide.  Eagle Island would be the perfect place to arrive by boat, and you can stay the entire time without seeing a single other person. You can even order your groceries at the mainland’s local supermarket and Captain Andy will ensure that your kitchen is stocked and ready for your arrival.  You don’t have to leave the island, or the waterways, the entire time.

You’re snuggled in the back barrier islands – privately owned – interconnected by creeks and rivers and the intracoastal waterway and finally, the Atlantic. So  you can boat (or be taken!)  out to Sapelo Island, and enjoy a long, windswept beach all to yourself, and I mean all to yourself.  One could walk naked at the shoreline at high noon and not worry about being seen by another human being unless you brought one along.  William and Kate really ought to consider a trip to Eagle Island; they could live in anonymity and while I’m sure Captain Andy has hosted well-known individuals, he isn’t going to kiss and tell.

Sapelo Island is remote, pristine, and only accessible by a ferry if you’re coming to visit as part of the ‘general public’.

If you’re arriving via boat – either yours, or Captain Andy’s, you’ll have access to his truck so you can drive around Sapelo and out to its beach.  There’s a lot to see of the island, apart from the beach, but a as beachlifer, this is what made my day.

Eagle Island guests all know about Sapelo and its treasures: the natural marine forest, Hog Hammock and the 47 permanent residents of the Geechee culture, the white-sand, windswept beach with conch shell, sand dollars, and driftwood lying on the sand.  Show me a beach lover who isn’t enchanted by such treasures.

Andy gave us each a pail for shelling and some of us were more dogged in our pursuit of shell than others were.  It doesn’t take long to find a few, but for those of us who can’t stop with just one or two, you can walk a long, long way down the beach and back and fill that pail to overflowing with conchs and sand dollars that we just don’t have on my own neighborhood beach.  When I saw that Andy had returned with a pailful of beauties I set out again, determined to walk beyond where his footsteps ended in the sand, and that’s exactly what I did.  I kept walking and walking and for some reason I set the pail down, thinking, “I won’t go much farther, and I just carry back a few more in my hands.”

Well, a few more became a pile more and so I left those in a mound on the sand,  and kept walking.  I should have realized I could never carry so many shells without the pail, which by now was … a quarter mile behind me?

What did I do?  I couldn’t just leave those beautiful conch shells lying in the sand; my heart was racing for the excitement of finding them all.  I was wearing a tankini.  And, like I said…there weren’t any other human beings out there, except for my group who were so far beyond where I’d set the pail down… so… I removed that tankini top and made a carrying sack for my shells and still they were spilling out and I was holding that thing like a baby!  Crazy.   I made my way back to the mound I’d abandoned earlier and had to work those shells into my ‘tankini-sack’ and finally reached that half-full blue pail, where I gratefully deposited by bounty.  I tied my top back on and trod waaay back to where the others where gathering their stuff up to leave: perfect timing.  And no one was any the wiser.  Jeannie got her shells, and now they’re lining my deck and in my outside shower: so lovely.  And, a lovely memory – my solitary afternoon wandering a deserted beach dotted with magical shells.

Cleaning my shells before coming home from Eagle Island.


Macro Monday Fire and Shells

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the swing of Macro Monday and I’ve missed it.  I love zeroing in on detail and seeing what the camera renders.  Last week, I was visiting Eagle Island and I was drawn to the lovely citronella candles and their wicks with flames…and of course, the sand dollars I collected on Sapelo Island. Our Eagle Island host Andy Hill took us there by boat and  we spent a delightful afternoon wandering the deserted beach and collecting pails full of sand dollars and conch shells.

What is this thing?  Anyway, I thought it was cool…like a ‘sea necklace’.

The end.

Outdoor Showering…

… is the best.

Living at the beach in Florida, an outdoor shower is a luxury/necessity for me. I love the beach but eschew beach sand in my home, so I’ve set up a pretty nice outdoor shower environment on our side deck. Last year we expanded it, too, because my husband knew how much I enjoyed showering under the stars even if I hadn’t been to the beach. I love it.

My three-day retreat at Eagle Island was a sensual delight.  Now don’t get all freaked out, y’all who don’t really know what the word sensual means.  Eagle Island was a delight to my senses. Visually: gorgeous.  Accommodations: luxurious, comfortable. Cuisine: perfection (someone else cooked. We had Low Country Boil; oysters and shrimp; seafood pasta and pecan crusted chicken breast. All I had to do was sit and dine). Mood: relaxed, and friendships formed.  Experiences: both active and languid.  Sunshine. Water. Trees. Sand. Shells. All the things that excite me.

With all the indoor/outdoor amenities, of course the lodge home would have an outdoor shower, which I rhapsodized over in a previous post.  I took 50% of my showers in that shower.  Awesome.

It was like a screened in cabin, and tucked under the expansive stairway leading from the ground level to the upper living area.  One could wander past and not even notice it.

It has a screened-porchlike door with a latch hook to lock it from the inside – not that anyone would barge in on you.  The interior was very roomy and two generous shower heads were set parallel, overtop, and a fieldstone floor.  I was utterly captivated.  Showering there, particularly in the dark of night, was one of my favorite things to do.

That fantastic outdoor shower: day and night, below.

It was charmingly decorated in found object style, and I plan to steal a few ideas to decorate my own outside shower.  Shells, and more shells!There’s really no excuse to miss the outdoor shower experience when you go to Eagle Island.  Every guest is given her own cozy robe to use during her stay, so there’s no worry of dashing from shower to room with but a towel wrapped around you.  Your thick towels stay nice and dry on the hooks inside.  There’s even specially made Eagle Island  liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner on hand (as there is in each of the lodge home’s bathrooms) for guests; nothing is overlooked.  

Take it from me, the outdoor showering aficionado: this was a killer shower set-up. I loved ever minute under the rainwater shower head, patting myself dry with a clean, thick towel, and letting the moisturizer sink into my skin while the cool spring breeze dried me off.  A refreshing and sensual way to start or end a day.  It was a girls’ getaway weekend so my shower was Just for Jeannie.  But if it’s a romantic getaway you have in mind for Eagle Island, this outdoor shower is definitely designed to accommodate two.

There is even a sink and mirror for your convenience!  Clearly, I’m enchanted, and wish I had a setup like this at my house.  While my own is much more basic, it’s still pretty great to be able to shower under the stars whenever I feel like it.

And there you have it.  Your tour of Eagle Island’s outdoor shower.  If you’re a guest here and don’t take advantage of this, you’re missing out.  Don’t let that happen!

Kayaking Mayhall Creek

Ever heard of the Mayhall Creek?

Neither had I, until I arrived at, Eagle Island.  Day two was our ‘hanging out’ day, which we did, so languorously, until our  guide Danny  Grissette of  Altamaha Coastal Tours arrived with the kayaks.  

How great to have a guide to get us all situated, and encouraging the reluctant among us (not me!).  One of our group was hesitant, unwilling to commit even while she was walking down the sloping dock to the water, saying, “I’m not sure,” while the rest of us  piled (ungracefully) into our kayaks. (Is getting into a kayak ever graceful?)  Reluctant Girl eventually did consent to riding the tandem kayak with Danny, our affable and most capable kayak guide.

Even Tami, the consummate city girl among us was game, outfitted in her cute swimsuit and signature PINK sunglasses.  All was well with her, looking fine in the yellow kayak that I kind of wanted for myself (yellow being my signature color;  ask anyone!).

Once she started paddling though, it got a little challenging. Tami circled the dock, and then heard me yell excitedly that I spotted a baby alligator.  I turned  back toward her only to see her making a beeline for the dock, saying, “No thanks.”  She was done. Well, that’s okay… now she can say she kayaked.  For about three minutes. But who’s counting?!

Mayhall Creek from my kayak

The conditions on the Mayhall Creek were somewhat challenging for me – the occasional kayaker.  The tide was coming in, the current was against us, and the wind was blowing in our faces.  I’m always last in any kayak group no matter how hard I try to keep up.  But I don’t mind; still, today was a workout on the outbound journey.  I wouldn’t have missed it for anything though.  I wasn’t coming out to a private island nestled within the salt marshes of the Georgia coast and passing up the chance to kayak there, particularly with a guide who did all the hard work of hauling the kayaks to and fro and ensuring the newbies were safe and comfortable.  He showed me how to use the rudder which helped a lot, as I was flailing from one side of the creek to the other!  Still, our group made it from Eagle Island to the mouth of the Darien River which was about a mile and a half each way – huzzah!  My last outing on a kayak was a put in point at Amelia Island all the way out to the Nassau Sound – a round trip journey of seven miles! Yowza; I was proud of that one.

Here’s our group:

Kayaking was fun. Tami, girl, you gotta give it another try!

Eagle Island: Our First Day

Meeting other travel and destination writers, and being ferried  out to Eagle Island by  the owner, our host (and yours, if you come, too) Andy Hill made for a lovely day. We’re a group of seven, all from different backgrounds and media, getting to know one another…and just relaxing in this most relaxing of venues. It’s has been a splendid day.

As afternoon melded into evening, Andy and his staff of two prepared a delicious low country boil while I took a walk down the path to the dock, as the citronella lanterns were lit to keep any pesky insects from bothering us.

I wandered with my camera for a bit, zeroing in on the macro, and particularly entranced with the flame.  The spacious and thoughtfully appointed house with its generous screened porches on both upper and lower levels was golden in the fading daylight.

To make the whole experience even better, someone else was preparing dinner.

Our gracious host, Andy Hill finishes up the Low Country Boil, replete with local Georgia shrimp from the Boone* family shrimpers, three generations of them providing fresh shrimp to families and restaurants all over the region, and other traditional ingredients that makes this dish so favored in the South.

The writers all gathered from their spaces in the house – some of us on laptops, others, resting, or reading – on the screened porch to enjoy a meal together and hear more from Andy Hill about his love for his several back barrier islands.

What a secret, hidden treasure Eagle Island is.

At end the day, I luxuriated in the best outdoor shower I’ve ever seen.  If you know me, you know I love my outdoor showers. This one was like a small, screened cabin, spacious enough for two shower heads attached to the ceiling, and several hooks for towels and robes and clothing in no danger of getting wet; a fieldstone floor, and a wooden bench for sitting, if you cared to.  And that is how I ended this day.  Showering by the light of the stars with nothing but the singing of the frogs to keep me company.

This is how Jeannie goes camping.  From the outdoor shower, to a comfy bed with clean sheets.

*more about Boone shrimper and the development of the TED (turtle excluding devices) later. We were lucky to meet the grandson of the inventor of this net, who helped prepare our delicious meal tonight.

Visiting Eagle Island

Have you heard of Eagle Island?

I hadn’t, not until I was invited by local public relations woman Leigh Cort of Leigh Cort Publicity in Ponte Vedra Beach to join her and five other journalists and bloggers on a media trip to spend three days and nights here.  Eagle Island is a back barrier private island off the coast of Georgia, north of St. Simon’s Island.  Touted as a ‘girls getaway’ for us writers, I was thrilled to be among those invited.  My new friends are Linda Erbele, who writes for Georgia Crossings, Motel.com, her own website , and is also editor of Georgia Trend Daily; Tami Reed of Talking With Tami, Rolling Out, and Kontrol Magazine; K.K. Synder of Southwest Georgia Living; and Jan Schroder, the Managing Editor of Travelgirl Magazine and her blog, Girls on the Go; and Jeyme Colodne of Best Self Atlanta Magazine.

Eagle Island is privately owned by Andy Hill, who has several small islands here, and is only developed to the extend that it allows guests to fully experience the quiet of a small island, in its natural condition save for the most comfortable home,  nestled among the Georgia coast’s barrier islands.  

Today, we all met in Darien, Georgia and were transported by Captain Andy, who acts as guide and concierge, with all our necessities to this luxurious home that is built with respect for the environment.

The home is outfitted with every amenity a guest could want, and the grounds are eco-groomed for walking pleasure.  Andy Hill has a deep love for nature, and serving his guests so they are comfortable, and free to explore the salt marshes, fish, go crabbing, kayaking, snoozing on the hammock or sleeping on the outdoor, hanging bed.  It’s two stories, each with wraparound screened porches.  The outdoor kitchen, pond, and fire pit, with pine-needled paths inviting you to walk about and take in the scenery which is … dead quiet.  More about all of that, later.

I’ll leave you with that for now,  as my new friends are getting acquainted around the large kitchen table while I’m here, blogging.  Watch for updates on our adventures, and lots of photos.  This is a lovely location, just an hour and a half from Jacksonville, four hours from Atlanta, and is easily accessible via air service to Brunswick, Georgia.  Then, of course, a short boat ride to Eagle Island.  Think:  complete and utter privacy.

So long for now!

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