As I walked the pristine walkway lined by manicured lawns in the early morning light with the sound of waves crashing in the distance, I couldn’t help but become a little homesick for my Southside ‘hood that I walk each day. As crazy as it sounds, I missed the cracked sidewalks and colorful characters, the beautiful historic homes next to those badly in need of repair. I missed the hills and the flowers, the song of the warblers, and most of all, I missed walking with my dogs and seeing our beautiful, funky old house at the end of my walk. There truly is no place like home. It is what is real to me.
I love being here, though, at this, our favorite beach community, and this trip is definitely medicinal; we just lost a very close friend, Dan has been slammed at the theater and stressed to the max, and I am just four weeks out from hysterectomy surgery. We didn’t realize how much we needed to get away until we were reminiscing about how we wished we could visit the beach. Soon after, Dan had a surprise for me- we were booked for an escape to the Emerald Coast. He said it was meant to be- only one condo in our favorite place on the beach was available and only during the window of time that Dan could get away from the theater (lucky condo no. 13!), our house/dog sitters were available, and at a time when I had just healed enough to travel and be away from home. The stars had aligned, and we were grateful.
Every mile closer to the beach raised our spirits. We love being home so much, but it is rarely in either of our natures to just sit and be still (unless we’re in yoga)- we are always working on the endless list of chores or repairs, working in the yard, taking care of the dogs, working…all things we enjoy, but sometimes we need to get away where there is no to-do list other than to relax and reconnect.
Personally, I needed a sort of reboot; since my surgery I have struggled with not only the physical effects of the procedure, but also the mental and emotional ones as well. I needed to feel reassured that I was feminine and attractive after losing those parts of my body that are indelibly entwined with our sense of what it means to be feminine. Before our trip, I searched Amazon to find a new bathing suit (a tankini to cover my five surgical scars), cute shorts and tops, a sundress and some cute summery sandals. As each package was delivered, I carefully packed the items away into my beach bag. Dan insisted that I treat myself to a manicure and pedicure (something I rarely do- as a clarinetist I don’t like to have any color on my short nails). I felt girly…a bit silly as I am often more of a tomboy than a girly-girl, but it did what I needed. Even though I left all make-up and perfumes at home, I departed for the beach already feeling very much a woman. It’s so funny how our minds work, isn’t it?
So far our days have kept to our usual beach routine; I get up for an early long walk, we go to breakfast at The Donut Hole (an institution here), sit on the beach under our umbrella and take walks until around 1pm, a light lunch on the condo balcony, return to the beach, come in for a shower and cocktail before going to one of our favorite dinner places, then back to the condo to look at the stars from the balcony and go to sleep to the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. It is a slice of heaven, the routine comforting and relaxing, and we cherish every single moment of it all. I love the often chaotic pace of our lives in Birmingham, but it is so good for us to step away and focus on us for a few days.
The other thing I find when I come here- just as when we visit our beloved Nantahala River in Western North Carolina- is that my creative juices begin to really flow. Ideas for blog posts come to me, recital music plays in my head…I feel like parts of me that perhaps because of the necessity of daily routine become dulled become truly alive again. What a gift it is to feel this way. As each day passes on this brief trip, I feel more and more ready to face the next challenges coming our way in the weeks and months ahead.