Saturday, March 14, 2009

All Decked Out....

It rained all day today.

Not just your everyday downpour, but oh-my-god-the-roof-is-going-to-cave-in-if-it-doesn't-stop-raining rain.

As I dashed to my car to home, the rain turned to hail. Little ice balls that pelted at me while I tried to find my car keys in my pocket.

As I turned onto the road that led home, the hail turned to sleet. And I had to turn the front defroster on high.

And as I walked into my warm, dry home I was greeted by a bouncing young dog that quickly crouched into pounce position - ready to play. I knew then that there was no way I was going to be able to put off the dog walk. He would hound me until I took him out. Regardless of the elements.

So I reluctantly dug my entire arsenal of foul weather gear out of the closet. Gore-tex boots, rain pants, heavy sweatshirt, and rain jacket all came out. The hair was put in pigtails and the rain hat was put on top.

Bridger, totally immune to the pelting rain, bounded out as soon as the door opened. The leash went on and down the road in the pouring rain to the beach we went.

It's two miles to the beach. The first 200 yards were wet. The next 200 yards were less wet. After the first mile, the rain stopped, and by the time we made it to the beach, the clouds had parted, the wind had died, and rays of golden sunlight were shining down on us.

I am always surprised how the sun can change a place. What only minutes before had been a swirling, howling mess of wind and water and sea foam now shone with a new warmth. And though a dark sky hovered not far from shore, the short time I walked along the water was enough to make it worth the trip through the storm.

I was still all decked out in foul weather gear. I expected the rain to set in again at any time, but it held off until Bridger and I rounded the last bend toward home.

I had expected the worst. I was ready for it. But I just kept going and the sun came out to show me why I was going through it all to begin with. And though the rain came again, Bridger and I had that time together on the beach to celebrate.

Sometimes, without words, the world knows just what to say.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lessons from Leroy

This is Leroy.

Leroy likes airboats.

So do I.

Leroy does not like Captain Jungle Erv's airboats.

Leroy (and all the people) hang out at Captain Doug's place.

Apparently, to have a successful business in Everglades City, you must be endorsed by a Captain.

But really, life in the Everglandes doesn't really seem that different from anywhere else.

You've gotta give credit where credit is due.

Be tolerant of others.

And be prepared to help out a friend in need.

Simple rules to live by.

It's a good day when you learn something from a pelican.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fire and Rain (and Weddings)

Who'd have thought that James Taylor would be my undoing? I had, after all, made it through multiple family dinners, bathing suit insecurities at Miami Beach, a bad “freestyle” rap session inspired by my backside, several very large mojitos, a session with a Panamanian sadist intent on making my hair look like a poodle, a long photo session that made me question whether I actually have “a good side”, a walk down the aisle with not one, but two handsome yet unavailable men, and an achingly emotional Jewish wedding ceremony complete with glass stomping and a beautiful bride. All of this I survived with mascara and positive attitude intact....until the band struck up James Taylor....

I haven't been to very many weddings. Four, maybe five total. Since most of my friends are already in their “baby” stage of life, it's pretty amazing that I've attended so few of their ceremonies.

Up to this point, I've considered myself lucky.

Don't get me wrong. I actually love weddings. I totally, whole heartedly, 100% believe in love. It's just that I'm currently a little cynical about the way love seems to be playing itself in my life. By highlighting all that is good and beautiful and inspiring about the union of two loving souls, weddings also seem to bring out all that is wrong, depressing, or just plain lacking in one's own love life. Sad and somewhat predictable, I know, but this cynical, single girl in her 30s, who recently had a veritable allergic reaction to the millions of honeymooning couples in Hawaii, was unsure how she was going to react to being a bridesmaid.

I won't keep you in suspense.

I had a blast.

The cynic in me has been silenced. Surprising, even to me.

I couldn’t help it. There was jus so much love flowing! And when you're surrounded by people who love and appreciate and support each other, you can't help but take a little bit of that in.
There was an incredible feeling of togetherness at this event that I've never felt before at a wedding. Perhaps it was because this time I was part of the wedding party, but I think it was more than that. We all got along. All ages of people from all over the country from all walks of life. We all got along and actually enjoyed the time we spent together. Everyone helped out. The mother and the father of the bride ran errand after errand and yet still had smiles on their faces as they sat tying ribbons on programs and cutting paper for place cards. People who had never met each found themselves sharing drinks and stories with new friends they felt they'd known forever.
Everyone was happy. Even me.

No one was happier, though, than the bride and groom. And, surprisingly, listening to them proclaim their love for each other did not make me think about being single or finding the right guy or getting married. It just made me think about all the people I already know that I will love for the rest of my life.

I was lucky enough to have found a great number of these people all at the same time in the same place. And I was lucky enough to have been reunited with several of them at this wedding.

Of course I must say that since leaving Grand Teton National Park, I have not been able to find or make the same kind of friends….and I’m not the only one who’s had this problem. The sarcastic side of me thinks that something happened to us there that ruined us for the rest of the world. The more idealistic side of me thinks that we must have had something pretty special that we just haven't been able to duplicate without those same set of conditions.

Regardless, all the emotions stirred up by thinking about those people and that place came to well up out of my eyes when the stupid band started playing stupid James Taylor's stupid “Fire and Rain”. Up until then, everything had been great.

I guess I shouldn't blame the band. It wasn't their fault. JT just writes good lyrics -

I've seen fire and I've seen rain.
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
But I always thought that I'd see you again.

Somewhat appropriate for my little world of come and go park rangers.
And somehow, it was all the more touching at an event celebrating changes in life.

You always think you'll see the people you love again.

But sometimes you don't.
Life moves on. People move on. It gets hard to stay in touch. It gets expensive to travel. Families grow and people change. Accidents happen.

The fact that this song was being silently sung by a friend who takes his service weapon with him when he takes the trash out “just to be safe” did not help. Some of my friends have dangerous jobs. It’s silly how scared I am that some freak occurrence could take them away from me. But I’m also ridiculously proud that, even knowing the danger, they do their jobs anyway to fulfill a mission they believe in. That’s one of the reasons I love them.

And you always think you'll see the people you love again.

And, luckily, sometimes you do. Sometimes you get to meet their families and see how they turned into such wonderful people. Sometimes you get to hear about the amazing things they're doing in their jobs and with their lives. Sometimes you get to watch them dance around like idiots and know they are looking at you and thinking the same thing....and not care.

And sometimes you get to fly across the country to a beautiful, sunny place with white sand and blue water and watch two wonderful friends look into each other's eyes and say that they can't wait to start spending the rest of their life together.

So I guess, in the end, I don't really mind that I had to wipe my eyes a little when the band played James Taylor.

And I guess maybe in the future I might not mind weddings so much.

Fire and rain, friend.

Bring it on.