Easter Morning: 2020.
It will be very, very different this year.
Most years past, after our move down south to Florida, Easter Morning has become a wonderful and tropical tradition… and always, at the beach.
We’d wake early - as usual.
Make a fresh pot of coffee - as usual.
But then, not, as usual…
I’d pop a tube of highly processed, cinnamony, and sugary goodness into the oven. As the rolls of spiced dough rise in the heat we’d get ourselves ready for a day in the sand. Surf and turf. And pure fun.
As the heavenly scent of cinnamon wafts throughout the apartment in windy swirls, combined with the fresh, salty, ocean breeze floating through the patio door. And coffee beans - doing their thing. We then ready our beach bag and grab our umbrella. When all is packed up and ready to go, and the buzzer finally decides to ding, I then proceed to slide the Easter Morning breakfast treat out of the oven. Something that costs a mere couple of dollars, but brings forth great and priceless joy.
In the final step of preparation, I then glide the spatula over the cinnamon rolls and spread the most delicious frosting atop. Standing in the kitchen, I watch as the ice cold frosting melts over the slope of a doughy mountain. And then, finally, the frosting completely melted, meeting in its final descent, gently hitting the baking tray. And with that act, it is our que to leave.
It’s then off to the beach for our Easter Morning. To sit and gaze at the ocean. To take in all the beauty of the sea directly in front of us. Stretching all the way out to the horizon. No end in sight. What’s past that line nobody really knows.
Going to the beach is something we do all the time. But on a holiday - it’s just all the more special. And all the more peaceful.
Hubby plants the umbrella into the sandy floor. We lay out our beach towels. And our doggie sitting between us nestled in the shade. And we swim. And read. And listen to podcasts and music. And mostly, we just drink coffee.
But Easter in Florida will definitely be very, very different this year.
The beaches here are closed to the public. Wrapped up with police tape. Barricaded. Coned off. Caution and warning signs abound. Parking not allowed. To help stop the Coronavirus spread, of course.
So, while there may be coffee, and while there may be cinnamon rolls, and while there may be frosting. There will be no surf and turf.
But knowing all that, one thing is still very, very certain. While they can most certainly close the beach, and can do so fairly easily I might add. There is no front door to the ocean. There is no window they can shutter and latch to prevent us from taking a look. And they certainly can’t throw away the key.
So while it may be in everyone’s best interest that the beaches remain closed this spring, the sea is still sitting out there - doing it’s own thing - very much alive and breathing - and it will be there still, on Easter Morning.
In fact, I tend to think the Sea and all the life within it, are kinda, sorta, wondering, at this point, where all the humans went? I think, maybe, the ocean is getting a little lonely? The dolphins that swim alongside us… what are they up to right about now? Either that - or the sea is laughing at us and saying, “Good riddance! They’re finally letting me take a nap!”
And it is with that thought in mind that we have been regularly going for our morning walks, still, throughout global chaos. As usual, throughout this pandemic, we take a peak, and glance out toward the ocean - from afar. As we get our cardio in, doggy included, we take a look outward toward the gorgeous and colorful and ever-changing skyline. And the forever distant horizon. While never, ever, crossing over the strategically placed yellow and black police tape. Of course.
And that is what life at the beach is all about, Charlie Brown.
Life. And The Sea.
Life surrounding the sea. On the sea. In the sea. And… looking at the sea. Gazing at the sea. And dreaming of The Sea.
Yes - I’ve lived The Sea Life for a few years now. It’s been over three years since I moved to Florida from the Midwest. Dreaming of the sea, ultimately, brought me to the beach. To San Pablo Island.
And with that milestone, there’s another kind of Sea Life that I’ve been living since my move to Florida. It has also been nearly three years since I was discharged from the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Clinic - located in Jacksonville.
There is a cognitive behavioral therapy tool that all of us patients learned as we went through the long and detailed and rigorous rehabilitation program.
It divides our life - the life of an individual living with chronic pain - into three very distinct phases…
The A Life.
The B Life.
The C Life.
And while my C Life is ultimately why you are reading this right now, I wanted to provide you a brief explanation as to how the A and B life have to be lived - in order for a participant in the program to EVER even obtain the opportunity to have a C Life. Their own C Life.
First up is The A Life. And The A Life is just that. It’s LIFE.
The A Life is everything and anything and anybody that came before chronic pain took over the body. The A Life, for me, and for hundreds of other patients, was growing up… it was going to school… it was sports, it was college, it was marriage, it was graduate school… it was first jobs, or many jobs. Full careers. Family. Friends. Parties. Travel. Success. The A Life - was life, itself.
And then, all of a sudden, that darn, no good, very bad day of a B Life came along - and that was a very, very Bad Life indeed.
The B Life enters into a person’s life as chronic pain takes them over. A patient's body succumbs in almost every single way to unrelenting pain. Marriages are lost. Jobs are most definitely lost. Whole careers upended. Some patients even get fired from their life-long career on the very day they choose to take back their own life. To be admitted to hospital.
Money = gone. Even responsible and diligent financial penny pinchers and savers - their financial statuses, quickly changed.
Debts add up. Lots and lots of bills. Bills that can’t be paid. Bills on payment plan. Bills leaving one drowning in paperwork and dollar signs. A feeling that they will never be able catch up. Financial ruin….
All as the patient, and sometimes their family as well, spends every single penny at their disposal on doctors appointments, tests, experimental treatment, lots of travel to specialists, surgeries, injections, miracle creams, potions, lotions, powders, herbs, capsules and tablets. In search of a cure.
Daily life is abruptly changed. All the little things that make up a life. Hobbies are gone. Forgotten in nearly every way. Sports are not even an option. Cooking - gone. Reading - gone. Books sit closed and their bindings collect dust.
Parties - gone. Friends - lost forever. Mental strength. Physical abilities. Exercise. Self care. As chronic pain sets in, as chronic pain takes over… everything else is lost.
And The B Life can be a very long life. The B Life can leave a young 39 year old with a whole lot of gray hair on top of her head.
After the patient has done nearly everything, and lost nearly everything, that tends to be when they find out about Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Clinic. Some kind soul usually refers them. A friend, family member, doctor, or maybe even a quick Google search - a quiet whisper in their ear - informs them of Pain Rehab at Mayo.
And yeah - lots of people really do not even find out about the program I am discussing with you today until they’ve lived The B Life for a very, very long time. And a lot of pain has already been experienced. To the point that it’s all sheer madness of a life to live.
But then… That’s when PRC comes along. The C Life comes along. And The C Life - is a brand new life.
The C Life - is being reborn.
Think of it kinda like a cat…. Just as a cat has nine lives… graduates of the PRC Program at Mayo Clinic have three lives.
Like - no joke. I WAS reborn - at Mayo Clinic. My life WAS saved - at Mayo Clinic. I WAS transformed - at Mayo Clinic.
But it wasn’t a light bulb moment. No one flipped the switch. I wasn’t injected with a shot, vaccinating me into a different realm.
No, nope, nope, nope. That’s not how any of this works.
I had to earn my C Life. Through a lot of hard work on my part.
The C LIfe is a lifestyle choice.
But The C LIfe is, once again, Life itself.
The C Life is about acceptance. The C life is about making peace. The C Life is about discipline. Diligence. Routine. Adaptation. Moderation. Forgiveness. Patience.
The C Life is about faith.
The C Life IS hope.
And, maybe most importantly, the C Life helps a patient to say goodbye… To say goodbye to their nightmare, of a B Life.
And then, to take it even one step further - To say goodbye - for good - even to their A Life.
Yes, that’s correct. The A Life is tossed out the window too.
It is then and really only then that the C Life can become a real and new Life.
We do not look backward in The C Life. We don’t try to meet up with our old selves. We do not try to re-obtain our A Life. We accept that it is gone forever. And we simply accept the new selves we have become. Accepting of our past, and working toward a better future. And work - each day - to build a life around that knowledge.
If a patient fully believes and practices the program… all knowing the C Life Is a lifestyle - and not a magical lotion, potion, prescription, or pill - the C Life can really become a brand new life. A real rebirth. An Easter Resurrection.
The C Life, for me, has been truly life-changing. Just as it was meant to be. Just as I allowed it to be. And. Just as I continue to allow it to be every single day.
I’ve been practicing The C Life for nearly three years… It’s lifestyle - not a cure. It’s hard work - and not the waving of a magic wand.
And, The C Life is not perfect. In fact, there may be newer, stranger, or more horrible nightmares of problems that crop up in The C Life. Maybe even more so than in either The A Life, or The B Life. And I say that to be honest. But with great confidence. Because even with pandemics, massive contagions, and disruption of the entire world order, The C Life - can still be a fabulous life.
And anything, anything at all, can be accomplished living The C Life.
Despite all obstacle.
Despite any challenge.
Despite a roadblock, clearly sitting directly in front of a person.
The world is at the fingertips of the discharged patient - from the very first day they exit the Program and walk out the hospital doors for the final time. Life - is waiting for them as they enter their third life. Their new life.
The C Life has brought me more joy and happiness than I ever thought possible.
The C Life has stopped me from waiting… Waiting….. To LIVE.
I now am fully alive. Even today. In the midst of the world’s largest global crisis of our lifetimes. Yes, amidst the apocalypse of this plague. This global pandemic. Every day is still special to me. Every day I am grateful. And every day I am truly alive.
As we all continue in this, our strange and new kind of life. As everyone on Earth, right now, is also going through a transition of life. And, as Easter Sunday arrives on our doorstep.
Churches, for the most part, remain closed. Family and friends will not be meeting up, from afar, to celebrate the special Sunday. Most of us, throughout the entire world, will be having our Easter dinners with only the members who reside in our immediate households.
And while we cannot have the beach, and we cannot look out at the beautiful sea - as we sit in the warm sand - we can all still have each other. While we are all far apart.
Yes, there will be no beach on Easter Sunday this year... That is - Unless Dr. Fauci goes on television sometime between when Christ dies and when Christ has risen - and then proceeds to tell us that it is all now safe, let’s open up the world again! But something tells me he won’t be saying that any time soon.
Yes, Easter Sunday will be very different this year.
And with some supply chain disruption, there may not even be those highly coveted cinnamon rolls.
But there will be people sacrificing. For the good of humanity. And for the continuation of life itself.
I saw in the local Jacksonville news the other day that an administrator at Mayo Clinic Jax is now accepting letters, words of encouragement, drawings, images, etc. They will be sent onward - to all the doctors, nurses, and hundreds of other staff members who make up the Clinic. To thank them. We, the general public, have been asked to pass along our best wishes and support. As Mayo plays a prime role on the front lines of this global war on disease.
Mayo will no doubt be on the front lines of research, studies, testing, and treatment of patients - all in the CoVid19 fight.
It’s basically like this - As one of the most amazing humans on Earth always says, “We’re number one!”
All kidding aside though - They really are number one.
And yes - they saved my life. They brought me back into the world. And they lifted me up when I needed it the most.
My experience at Mayo Clinic has given me my C Life...
As I started my first job outside the home in a decade. As I’ve now completed road races, a half marathon, traveled, met countless amazing people, and various other opportunities I never thought humanly possible. Countless milestones and achievements I never thought would be available to me, merely a few short years ago.
But the most important part of what Mayo gave me really is my overall brand new life. The different life. The one that is in no way at all part of my A Life or my B Life. All the countless new doors that have opened. All the boats I’ve hopped on board - to float on out toward that distant horizon line in the vast and open sea.
As I volunteered.
As I fell completely and madly in love with Art.
As I started my own Etsy Shop, Website, Lifestyle Blog, and Art Studio. As I fell in love with writing.
As nothing is impossible to me now. As there is no limit to where all my dreams may take me next.
As Christine’s Floridian Dreams was dreamed up - because of them - because of Mayo.
Doing all things new. With confidence. Doing what was never completed in the A or B Life. Yes, I am truly living The C Life. Even amidst a global pandemic.
In fact, I actually tend to think that it is because of Mayo Clinic that I am simply plugging along, no big deal, throughout this sci-fi, apocalyptic life we all now find ourselves within.
When I graduated from the Program. I had a whole lifeline of tools at my disposal. Tools I have diligently utilized each day of my C Life. Tools I am continuing to use - right now - through crisis.
Life is good. Yes, life is still good. And while there may be crisis. And while there may be death, and horror, and evil, and destruction. There will always be hope.
So, to answer the call from the local news stations. These words of thanks are now my words of encouragement to all the doctors, nurses, and staff - as they fight on the front lines. As they battle the evil virus. As they fight for humanity. As they give hope to countless others. As they change lives each and every day. And as they continue to - right in the middle of a plague.
As they give countless patients a new life. With each deed, word, and action:
You’ve got this. And we are all here with you.
Yes, this may be a very different Easter.
All throughout the world. And even right here in Jacksonville, Florida.
And, rightfully so - There may not be the beach. There may not be surf to ride upon. There may not be men with metal detectors walking up and down the shoreline - looking for shiny coastal treasures. There may not be little children collecting shells, and building sand castles next to the tide pools. There may not be a grown woman with graying hair sitting out on the beach with cinnamon rolls, hot coffee, and a doggie sitting beside her in the sand.
But there will always be life. There will always be hope. There will always be faith. And, there will always be good people doing God’s work - each and every day. And maybe, and most importantly, floating out there on the horizon line… with a door that never closes and most certainly never locks, just waiting for that next someone to step out and push themselves off the sandy floor, onward and outward toward their next high and mighty adventure… forever unknowing of what truly lies ahead… The Sea Life. ~
*Happy Easter to Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Florida.
Thank you - for everything.*
*This painting, titled - “The Sea Life” - is being donated to the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic Jax - and will be hand delivered, in person… Whenever we can all see each other, once again - In real life.*
[Editorial Note]: I am not a doctor. And I don’t pretend to play one on TV either. This article and personal story is not medical advice or a prescription in any way. But - if this post reaches you because you are living in chronic pain. If you found this article because someone thought it may be screaming YOU. If you were referred here by others who thought you might benefit from this story. Let this reading be that whisper in your ear - informing you of possibility. Know there is always hope. There are people everywhere - on all corners of this globe - who know how to help you. Never give up. The people and place that helped me are referenced within this publication. The main phone number to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida is 904.953.2000. Go ahead and pick up that phone of yours. Punch in the numbers. And help yourself - by getting help from others.
Hey - you - over there. If you’re looking for more stories of hope, inspiration, faith and optimism, check out the links below:
64] Stay-At-Home Sunday ~ Palm Sunday
63] Mercy & Comfort
62] PERSPECTIVE @ Seaside Sculpture Park
61] Bean’s Idea List ~ 15 Daily Activities For Well Beyond 15 Days
59] REACTION ~ To World War 19
55] The Shamrock
51] Life Is Full Of Pasta-Bilities ~ Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
49] A Picture Worth A Thousand Words ~ Happy Valentine’s Day, World
48] Love & Donuts In The Air @ Beaches For Australia
42] Where Does The Chicken Cross The Road?
41] Minnie The Daschund Mouse & Her Birthday Wish
39] The Very Official &. Quite Serious Donut Debate Of 2020
38] The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
36] The End Of A Decade & My New Year’s Wish To You ~
34] Merry Christmas ~ And How To Buy For That Person On Your List Who Saved Your Life ~
27] Thanksgiving & Pete’s Bar ~ Not All Resolutions Need Be Fulfilled On January First
26] Deck The Chairs ~ BE THAT CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THIS OUR VERY OWN AND SHAREABLE WORLD
24] In Real Life ~ My First Visit To A Southern Living Idea House
23] Faith ~ And Life Lessons Learned Living With Wild & Untamable Hair
21] Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
What a most lovely of lovely and long, holiday weekends. Everywhere we went, everything we did, everything we saw, was surrounded by the feeling of Christmas in the air. And while I am one who does not partake in the Black Friday festivities that so many Amerian’s do count as part of their holiday traditions - because, as one of my friends posted on her Facebook that day with what I deem to be the utmost accurate declaration ever regarding the day that is so very Black:
“It’s too PEOPLY out there!”
In fact, besides the accuracy of that comment, it also might have been the funniest thing I read in a very long time.
My concurrence with that statement led me to be busy doing many other fun and festive things - instead of shopping.
Black Friday came and went for us, without purchase of any material goods. A most wise decision if I do say so myself. I have no interest in waiting in long lines for something that I can purchase any other day of the year, without such a line. Free snow globe included? No thank you; not worth it.
Instead - we went to Jimmy Johns.
How simple and basic and quite boring of an outing indeed. And boring was just what we were looking for. I decided that any store that would most likely have the biggest crowds and the most ridiculous lines would be all the ones we would skip… And that most restaurants would also most likely be quite busy - due to needing to feed food to hungry shoppers - so those would all be the restaurants we would skip as well. That eliminated basically everywhere on the face of the planet from my list… Where would be open - but completely and utterly EMPTY???
And guess what? I was right.
We drove our car into the parking lot. Not a car around. We walked in. We were their only customers. It was fabulous. We ate at the window counter, bar style seating, as we always do. I’m a regular there. And we watched the traffic go on by up and down Beach Boulevard. Slowly. Yes, it was crowded out there, even in our flat and sandy and salty little corner of the world.
But not so at Jimmy’s place.
In fact, it was so slow inside Jimmy Johns, as we listened to tunes blaring from their speaker with today’s best hits - i.e. music of this very own decade we are currently living in. I mention this because almost everywhere else plays music from the 80’s? Why? Universe… why?
Yes, it was so slow the staff member said something along the lines of, I knew it was going to be slow today, but jeazzzz…. I never imagined it being this slow.
Yes, we picked the most perfect place to eat a sandwich in the entire United States of America on Black Friday. I tended to be of the opinion that not many American’s have an interest in lining up outside the front doors of a sandwich shop at four in the morning, fighting to get in when the doors are opened, just to buy some deli meat?
My opinion tended to be correct, at least from where we sat. No, they were out buying expensive and fancy and enormous TVs, and iPads, and clothing, and more clothing, and appliances, and more appliances. Everything I didn’t feel like waiting in a line for on this Black day.
Yes, we made a great decision. It was a simple and pleasant and peaceful outing. Next time you’re looking for a quick - and healthy - lunch on Black Friday, stop in Jimmy Johns, and avoid the crowded everywhere else of this world.
Right next door to Jimmy Johns and across the small and narrow street, I could see from the window we were watching the world go by from… Is a place called Rockaway. A greenhouse.. A garden center... A Christmas tree lot.
We go to Jimmy John’s a lot. We see Rockaway a lot, sitting from the window of the sandwich shop. I had never ventured over there to date however.
But that blackest of clear blue sky days was different from any other. Something told me that day was the day to visit.
I tend to think my nose told me it was time.
We witnessed car after car pulling up and loading one live tree after another onto the roofs of their vehicles. I had always wanted to venture over there and check it out. They were busy, yes, but they were not busy at all compared to the big box stores everywhere else in the nation.
We finished our simple lunch and walked across the street to the greenhouse.
Instantly! - I smelled Christmas!
If you’ve never smelled yourself some Christmas before, I highly recommend finding some, and put it up to your nose, and smell it.
I could smell the scent of pine and balsam and fraser fir from the road. And the scent only intensified as we got closer and walked into the garden, feet on top of gravel, dirt, and pebbles.
I was in a dream. I had found a slice of heaven. I wanted to bottle it all up, take it home, and keep it forever. Never out of my sight - or away from my nose - again.
We walked through the entire greenhouse and its property. It’s quite a large place! From the exterior, it appears that Rockaway is just a small, single story red farmhouse. A small house, with a vast plot of land surrounding it, all surrounded with various greenery for sale.
But once you traverse inside its quarters, it’s quite larger than its tiny exterior makes it out to be.
I was immediately met with rows and rows of flowers of all kinds. Grasses of all kinds. Greenery of all kinds. Ceramic pots and wall trinkets and other such decor for sale intermixed.
But I went there for the Christmas. So the Christmas I was going to find.
Never fear, my nose led the way.
My nose led me to the far back area of the greenhouse. You know, it’s just like when you need a dozen eggs or gallon of milk or tub of chocolate ice cream from the grocer… The simplest and most basic and most necessary of items needed at the time, they always put in the back of the store.
Silly us, they think we don’t know what they’re doing… It’s all strategic? In order to get to that gallon of milk, that dozen eggs, those tubs of chocolatey and icy goodness, we all have to traverse past every other item in the store first in order to find our basic essentials in life.
To get to all the good stuff, you have to pass up anything else that might tempt your eyes. Ohh, I need that bag of chips. I really could use a loaf of bread… since I’m here. Are we out of juice at home? We better grab some bananas... while we’re at it. And toilet paper. We can’t forget that, heaven forbid.
Yes, it’s Black Friday every day at the grocer. They always know how to make a sale. Have you ever seen anyone leave a grocer empty-handed? Certainly not in my lifetime?! Just put that toilet paper display out prominently on the end cap, where it can’t be missed, slap a yellow sign over it referencing something along the lines of a sale… or even better… 12 = 36… ???... and we’re gold. Jack Pot.
Hence again, why would I ever shop on Black Friday? When I’m buying all that bread and all those eggs and all those tubs of ice cream, and carts loaded FULL of rolls upon rolls of toilet paper, on sale, every other day of the year, anyway?
So my nose led me all the way to the back of the greenhouse. I was met with the most intense fragrance of Christmas. It was naturally the most fragrant standing amongst all the various trees for sale. And I never wanted to leave.
Maybe my husband would have to drag me out of there kicking and screaming all the way?
Ha - maybe I am ready for Black Friday… Fighting for a chance - screaming to be the one. Can I stay here forever? And never part with the dreamy aroma surrounding me. Can I win the prize? Where are all the doorbusters? I’m NOT going home.
We checked out all the trees. Standing there, I immediately imagined myself in Michigan. Years and years ago. Happy memories; very happy memories. I was quite young, so the memories are somewhat fuzzy. But there I stood; on a Christmas tree farm. With all the family - moms and dads, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. We took a hay ride (don’t remember if pulled by horse, but my dreams say yes, there were horses present). The ride took us out onto the farm, to pick out our very own living tree. It was beautiful. It was farm country. It was quiet. It was peaceful. Nature everywhere. It was the best day. It was Pure Michigan.
Looking back, I’m so grateful for my family. All the things we did growing up. All those memories. It doesn’t matter if I can’t remember if it was horses who dragged me out to the tree farm or not. Maybe a tractor was pulling us? Either way, I know I was there. I know I was with my entire family. I am grateful for the time we all spent together. I am grateful for that outing. A lovely outing, that I can remember all these years later. I’m grateful that they, as adults, spent their time, with us, very young children. So that we could have these memories, as adults, today.
I’m grateful and thankful… So much so that as I stood in a small red farmhouse barn, far removed from the farm country of Michigan, three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, in sunny and hot coastal Florida, on San Pablo Island, in Jacksonville Beach, kiddy corner from Jimmy John’s and opposite the local Publix, living a completely different life, and after meeting God himself, on Black Friday, in Rockaway Gardens... roughly thirty years after that family Christmas tree outing, standing there within and amongst that dreamy scent of Christmas… which evoked such happy memories of my Christmas’s past.
Only because of that past am I standing right there, right then.
Only because of that past, am I capable of smelling Christmas in the air, right there, right then, and with that scent also evoke all those happy memories.
We toured the entire greenhouse, inside, and out. We saw various styles of holiday wreaths and swags. The swags are my favorite. Oh wait, scratch that. The wreaths shaped into candy canes are my favorite. Oh wait…
I can’t make up my mind.
If it’s green, smells of pine, balsam, fir, is reminiscent of Christmas - that one is my favorite.
What did you say? You asked if I particularly like the Hallmark Channel this time of year? Yes, I’m a fan. We still don’t have cable, or streaming, though. I can dream.
We turned a corner and were met face to face with an entire room of poinsettias. Just poinsettias. All looking very poinsettia-like. White and red. And one type I never before saw in my entire life. A white, red, and pinkish, mixed and beautifully blended color poinsettia.
I love that one the most.
I thought of my grandma right then, in that room.
Every Christmas she was alive and I knew her, she always gave everyone a poinsettia. I was given one when I still lived at home with my family growing up. I put it on my dresser in my bedroom.
I got married, and hubby and I were given a poinsettia each Christmas. We were also given more poinsettias to pass on to others for her.
She’s been gone for some years now already. Time does fly. But I can’t see a poinsettia, without seeing Grandma.
Moving on, there was an entire area of succulents. Orange trees. Lime trees. Palms. Etc. If it was alive and growing, and taking our carbon dioxide away from our lungs, it was at Rockaway.
And since we were in Florida. And since it was hot outside. Most all of these beauties were all just sitting there soaking in the outdoor sun. Some in the actual greenhouse, some under netting. But mostly, I toured and browsed and strolled through a beautiful outdoor piece of winding garden property; a garden much larger than I expected. After thirty some years of Christmas’s up in the Chicago area, my brain still has a difficult time grasping and understanding the concept that I am still outside, wearing flip flops, shorts and tank, big sunglasses, hot and sweaty, and it’s Christmas time? Where’s the snow?!
I’m not complaining though.
We were nearing the end of our tour. Our informal browsing. We came upon tables set for an upcoming event. I wondered what was going on? There were drink cups out. Many. They were expecting lots of people. At some point in the very near future? Table clothes spread and draped over the tables. Something was happening? I looked up. At the clear blue sky. At the bright and blinding hot sun. I saw the dark evergreen cloud in the sky from the corner of my eye…. Wait. There were no dark green clouds on such a clear blue sky day. My fuzzy vision faded in and out from the bright sun laser-beaming into my eyes.
I was looking up at a large Christmas tree - on the rooftop! Yes, they put a tree up on the roof. I could tell it had lights strung all about it. My memory snapped to attention. I knew what was going on! They were setting up for a party. Rockaway has their own tree lighting, each year… a tree, up on the roof!
Oh rats! We went there during the day! Not at night. We could always come back that evening to see the festivities. Oh wait. Maybe it would be too peoply out there. It was still Black Friday after all. I wasn’t supposed to be out shopping today. I was just out to grab a number sixteen with no mayo and a cup of unsweetened iced tea at Jimmy Johns...
I lost 86 pounds eating that exact sandwich - roughly once a week. It was my weekly “carb” treat. No I did not do a carb-restricted diet to lose the weight. I ate everything, in moderation. But I do tend to consider white bread a treat, so I only ate it about once a week. And somehow throughout my weight loss journey that has since turned into weight maintenance, I started going to Jimmy John’s once a week... You could say my nose led me there. Not out of routine, not out of desperation or a feeling as if because I lost the weight eating Jimmy’s sandwiches then I must keep doing it to keep the weight off? Not that at all. I just like it. That’s all. Someday I might tire of good ol’ Jimmy, but not yet. To be fair, it is kind of hard to tire of fresh white dough raised into fresh white perfect bread.
So yeah, we were out for lunch. We were NOT out to witness a tree lighting. Box shaped stores, or anything else that day. It was the dreamy scent of Christmas that led me to Rockaway. But it was also the thoughts and dreams of my own Christmas which told me to now go home. After all, it was Black Friday. Yes, it definitely was very peoply out there. I’ll go home and put an ol’ Yule Log… on the ol’ You Tube, and trim my own tree.
No, I didn’t buy anything at Rockaway that day. Pennies are tight sometimes. Pennies are watched. I do consider myself a professional shopper and there were many things I wanted to buy there, including swags and candy cane wreaths and poinsettias galore, but I resisted all temptation... I reminded myself that after losing 86 freaking pounds, my wardrobe is still a cluster of nothing that fits me because it was long ago donated to charity, and what remains are only a few quite simple repeating new and fresh outfits that do now fit. I’ll save all the pennies I can for new clothes. 86 pounds of work reminded me I’d rather buy clothes that last a long longer and will come in very handy for me, than a piece of clipped greenery that will surely die by season’s end.
So all purchasing temptations were managed! ‘Tis a rare day indeed for such a pro of a shopper!
But I didn’t leave Rockaway empty-handed. No. The scent of Christmas came home with me. It was all over my hands, inside my very light and empty and missing shopping bags, steamed into my wild hair, and mostly, it was in my nose. In fact, the scent was so strong, I still smelled it on me and on all those new clothes that I had been wearing, later that evening when I got ready for bed.
Yes, it’s very important to surround oneself with such a magnificent and dreamy scent.
Don’t let this beautiful and festive and happy and difficult and challenging and magical season go by without smelling some Christmas into your nose. Don’t waste a moment to catch a breath of fresh pine-scented air. Whether you are standing on a vast and beautiful and picturesque farm up in Michigan cutting down a green tree for your living room, or standing on a coastal barrier island in the south while eating a number sixteen with no mayo… be sure to breathe it all in. Remember all the good times and all the good people in your life that come into your brain when you inhale that special aroma. Then - bottle it up, keep it forever, store it somewhere special where you keep all your treasures, and never remember where you put it. ~
Within “The Beaches” area, as it's commonly known to both locals and tourists alike, reside the small towns of Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach - and the town I now call my home - Jacksonville Beach. These three communities, along with a few more small towns, make up the modest coastal barrier island, that is both officially and unofficially, known as San Pablo Island.
San Pablo Island is located just off the eastern coast of Florida, and nestled next to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The name of the island itself here is not known to most people… they tend to simply call home - The Beaches. And there’s yet even one other mysterious nickname given to our island home appropriately classifying it as ‘No-Name Island’ - very much reminding me of the funky, quirky, and strange and sometimes hilarious, names of some of the famous Key islands to our south.
But San Pablo Island has a rich and dated history going back hundreds of years, and even much, much longer. A vibrant Native American history lives and breathes here, and the Timucuan Indians lived here in the 1500’s, when a French explorer came upon the area. We now have the Timucuan Reserve named after them.
And while there’s a small and extremely old, weathered and worn, and really just a completely dilapidated sign welcoming you as much as you drive through our town - ‘You Are Now At San Pablo Beach’ it reads, (named after the San Pablo River)... I can only imagine how old that sign really is. And as the sign is so very old and worn, it seems to just camouflage itself to the natural grasses surrounding it. Many pass by daily not even seeing it.
We also locally have San Pablo Road, just off the Island and paralleling the intracoastal, and we have Pablo Avenue, right here at the beach.
A lot goes into a name… when you consider branding, logo, tourism, marketing, publicity, hotels and restaurants and newspapers and any press; history, town pride, changing times and culture, refrigerator magnets, tee-shirts, trinkets and treasures for visitors to take home, etc. Some years ago there was a push and really quite a major effort to help rebrand our area to more “officially” be called San Pablo Island. Hotels and the tourism industry in general liked the idea and I believe they still do. A name helps classify a location and familiarize those traversing to or through. A name slightly broad and confusing as “The Beaches” - plural - is not very brand-worthy it seems, except to those who already know the area and/or reside here.
And as those things tend to do, the effort and move to name-change seemed to stall, and fall apart in meetings and such. As many of those such changes and requests for changes tend to die out... Thus, today, we are still known as “The Beaches” to most, and confusion reigns for the tourism industry here.
In comparison, Amelia Island, located just to the north of us, is known as that - ‘Amelia Island.’ They seem to know their history, are ok with picking a name and staying with it, and they honor it well.
Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of Great Britain, is for whom the Island is named. But Amelia Island has a very rich and fascinating history as well, and they seem to be slightly more proud of it and they do a great job in educating the public of that history.
You absolutely cannot visit Amelia Island without learning upon arrival of the history of the eight flags. Signs will tell you as much and show you as much upon entry to the island. With my father being a huge history buff, I remember thinking at the time of learning about the eight flags that he would find it fascinating.
Amelia Island is famously known as “The Isle of Eight Flags” and is the only location in all of the United States with such a unique history. It simply means that the island has had power transferred through eight different flags before finally obtaining its current and official status as part of these United States. The history of the eight flags is known and proud on the island. When I first found that piece of information out I was utterly fascinated. And standing in great contrast is the tiny old and worn sign welcoming you to San Pablo Beach, here on San Pablo Island. It’s a welcome sign that really seems to get no care or concern, but it does its job every day and welcomes you to our island.
Pablo Avenue lies just a few blocks from our worn and ancient welcome sign, and its therein that lies The Beaches Museum. A Museum that celebrates Culture, History, and Community. And while our dated welcome sign doesn’t have much appeal, the Beaches Museum does. The history of this area is not very well-known to most, and this museum does an absolutely fabulous job of educating the public on our heritage and historical facts thereof. This historical marker and living piece of history is also a place most people drive past every day, and may not even know if its existence. In fact, I’ve lived right here in town just alongside it and had never visited it formally. Well, bring an Art Fest into town and I’ll go anywhere.
Hurray! Another Art Fest. And on yet another absolutely gorgeous autumn day in the South. All the variety of arts and celebration thereof here is actually one of the reasons I fell in love with Jax Beach.
This past weekend, The Beaches Museum hosted the 6th Annual Beaches Art Fest. It was a must-do for me. And while I had just recently attended the Jax Beach Vintage Flea Market some weeks ago, I had eagerly awaited this event all year as well.
This fest to me, supersedes any other fest around. The art on display is full of passion and color and depth. Every booth has the artist directly on hand to talk with as well which I especially love. And now, after being to many of these events, I’m recognizing names of artists that continue to come back and sell there each year.
I really enjoy how merely slowing strolling from one covered outdoor exhibit to the next that the eye immediately catches the difference in an artist's passion. One may specialize or have a passion for florals, and one may enjoy painting the many unique sunrise and sunsets of the coastal region. One booth was composed of entirely Japanese floral paintings. An artist may have blown glass, and one of the final tents I arrived at had on display works of art made entirely from origami paper. There were necklaces all beautifully arranged with tiny and intricately folded colored papers, making flowers, squares, any shape you could imagine, all folded out on her display table. Everyone, who once they understood what they were looking at, was completely wowed by it. It was a definite surprise to see, as I had never seen anything like it in my life, and it is for those reasons I relish with joy attending these fests each time they come around.
And I must admit I regret extremely not purchasing one of her paper origami necklaces. I also failed to obtain her card, thus, not being able to look up where she will be next. She explained the necklace I had my eyes on was only $29.00 and comes with a beautiful chain as well. A chain of length that I could custom choose. I walked on by, to think about it, and instead purchased a ring that I absolutely adore, from La Soucique Studio, of the aforementioned Amelia Island. It was $35.00 and I was so very pleased with my purchase. I know I can’t buy everything, and I reminded myself that money doesn’t grow on trees, but I do really very much regret not purchasing one of the origami necklaces. I can only hope to see her again at a future arts event and make that my purchase for the day.
While slowly we strolled both up and down San Pablo Street taking in the fest in its entirety, we also walked on through the property and grounds of Beaches Museum. It’s set up as a small historic village, spanning the length of the blocks next to the fest.
And as I had never been previously, I thought it an ideal day to check it out since we were already present literally at its location. Supposedly the museum is open 10am-4pm every Saturday, with free admission. We were somewhat disappointed to find many locked buildings. All we could do was take a quick peek inside most of the historic sites through windows, while the main building remained open and available to use the restroom facilities for fest-goers. We very much enjoyed walking the grounds though, and it was a most perfect autumn day in Florida to witness the natural beauty surrounding the facilities. The museum is home to parties, weddings, art exhibitions, the annual famous Polar Express, and many other such fun events for both adults and children alike. It seems The Beaches Museum has something going on year-round. I just highly recommend calling ahead to verify if you’d like to see the actual inside of some of the buildings.
It was an altogether ideal day in the South for me. And afterward, we ate breakfast, for lunch, at Beach Diner in Atlantic Beach. Every time I’ve been there the owner comes over to say a sweet hello. A much older man, whom you can tell genuinely loves his customers, stopped to talk with us as we ate our delicious meal. As we were paying up at the cash register on the way out I could see him still going round from table to table, smiling with and high-fiving each person he met. A most lovely Saturday on my very own Island… San Pablo Island. It made me smile as we walked to our car. ~
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