After two months of kicking around north Dallas, we left around the first of August for a beach adventure. So long, Dallas. We're going home...When we moved from Plano to Corpus Christi (N. Padre Island, specifically) in 2008, our plan was to live at the beach and work in DFW. After all, we had built a solid clientele who eagerly referred us, and we had enough of a workload to support our family year-round. Then the recession or contraction or whatever you want to call it that bombarded the global economy that fall spoiled our plans a bit. Design work was scarce but we still found enough to eke out a very modest existence. 2009 was even worse, then 2010 showed signs of recovering. Already we were preparing to become 100% mobile, so when 2011 began with a kaboom of business activity, we were thrilled that our original plan to be beachside most of the time with brief business trips to DFW was getting back on track.
Then came The Crash. But also a windfall of design projects. We were implanted into the vortex of a DFW landscape maelstrom for five months. FIVE MONTHS. That's almost 1/2 a year without seeing, even smelling, the beach. To say that we "missed" it is an understatement. As we drove over the JFK Causeway that first time in such a very long time I broke down. Yes, blubbered. It wasn't just because I yearned for the beach, our beach. It was an emotional release of all the pent-up tension I had stored for nearly half a year...the crash...rebuilding our trailer...chronic downsizing...a lot of changes professionally and personally...reconnecting with loved ones...losing touch with others...so much I can't even begin to describe here. That first look in a very long time of a place I once loved stirred many emotions and allowed me to let go, finally.
We picked up mail and dinner, and then hurried out to Padre Balli Park to set up camp. Within moments I kicked what felt like a rock and felt a sudden explosion of pain in my foot. I continued with our set-up procedures until I noticed moisture on my toes. Blood. A.lot.of.it. A huge gash on my big toe. When I looked more closely I noticed that about half of the top of my toe had been cut deeply and peeled back, the layers underneath pushed up and over the gash. Twisted, bloody, packed with sand: yep, it was disgusting. And throbbing. I thought I might need stitches...I cleaned my wound and wrapped my foot, then returned to the spot where I had unfortunately collided with the rock. I found it...it wasn't a rock at all. It was a huge glob of molten glass. Some fools had thrown a bunch of beer bottles on their campfire...I was furious because this kind of thing happens much too often. Immediately I began questioning why I even come to this stupid place, this lovely beach that a bunch of idiots camp on and melt glass and drive like maniacs, "cutting doughnuts" and plowing through fragile dune ecosystems. This lovely, wild place that is being ruined by people who just don't get it. My pain subsided, eventually, and my mind calmed. Waves whispered my name. Pelicans, oystercatchers, willets: so many bird species welcomed me back I forgot my frustration...and pain. That's part of why I love North Padre Island. It is always an odd culmination of pristine nature and reckless humans. Somehow nature always prevails so I probably should not fret so much. Just enjoy the beauty...
A few days went by and we were enjoying all the best that beach has to offer. Birds, fish, calm and clear water. Campfires and "study tank". Our last day there, little girl and doggie went inside the trailer to cool off in the generator-powered air conditioning. They even napped! David and I hung out in the sun and waded into the water now and then to cool off. But of course it being our last day on the beach, we must have been feeling a little invincible because neither of us applied sunblock. Nice move. By the end of the day, we both had a nasty sunburn. Awesome ending to our beach adventure. The beach mishaps behind us, we looked ahead to refreshing cold showers and shade trees in Goose Island State Park.
Well, we did get a break from the sun underneath all those trees. But the water was HOT HOT HOT. All day, anytime of day. Our sunburns blistered and bubbled, and itched and peeled. Sage, fortunately, had escaped the wrath of the mid-day sun on the beach. David and I were miserable! Argh! We did have fun visiting the Big Tree and playing in the park, though, which erased any trace of misery brought on by the 'burn. After about a week we moved on to our next location: Copano Bay.
Recently I've started calling it our Rockport Retreat. There we set up camp under a canopy of windswept Live Oaks underplanted with American Beautyberry, Turk's Cap, Red Bay, and more native plant species. Hummingbirds and butterflies hung around the vegetation like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Mockingbirds, cardinals and some other smaller birds I have yet to identify tweeted and flitted about all day and much of the evening. Other wildlife stopped by, too. Raccoons rummaged through our trash, snakes slithered past, deer leaped and frolicked. Any time of day, Nature's soundtrack played on and on...Dolphins greeted us every morning and evening. Nature dazzled us at sunset with vibrant colors splattered in random patterns across the sky. I love that place; I can't wait to go back.
Just before we left the Texas Coast -- we are back in DFW now for a presentation to the Dallas Organic Garden Club -- we visited our storage room on North Padre Island. Talk about peering into a time capsule! It seems so long ago that we were packing our belongings into bins and placing them into that room. In a couple of weeks, we will have been on this mobile odyssey for a full year. Incredible. I remember moving, and I remember the excitement we all felt about the adventures we would share. But I don't remember much of what is in that room. David pulled down an unmarked bin (at first we were meticulous packers and labelers but by the end of the moving process we were just slinging stuff around) and popped off the lid. Inside were some of Sage's stuffed animals. She just stared, vaguely recognizing them. The faraway look in her eyes rocked me. In one short year she has changed dramatically: she began the journey in diapers and Mommy feeding and dressing her. Now, she is fully potty-trained, feeds herself with utensils (even knows what a spork is!) and dresses/undresses herself effortlessly. I watched her as she picked through the bin of forgotten toys. Memories rushed back, punctuated with Ohs and Look-at-this,-Mommys. The past year has been filled to the point of overflowing with moments, profound moments. Adventures. Chapters in this mobile odyssey. For David and me, over-40-somethings, the life we have packed into that storage room on North Padre Island seems so long ago. For Sage, that life disappeared a year ago, equal to one-third of her life. None of us felt saddened by this experience; we were bewildered. These are our things but strangely they seem to belong to someone else. We have scaled back our day-to-day operations to favor simplicity over convenience, and the thought of returning to a life that would reincorporate those belongings causes me alarm. That's right, alarm. I still have much to do on this journey; I'm not ready to quit yet. There will be an endpoint but I don't want to pin it on a map or write it on an agenda. I don't want to know where or when it will arrive, exactly. Part of the beauty of this journey is that, outside of meetings and presentations, we do not follow a structured schedule. We do not wander aimlessly, pointlessly. But we do allow for spontaneity to savor the varied textures and flavors of life's feast.