Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pools of Eden (Eliza Gilkyson)

We returned from our beach vacation this past Saturday, August 9 - the days following have been full of overload and catch-up and life re-entry, oh my!

Preparations the night before leaving had me almost pulling an all-nighter, getting in the bed at 4:00 a.m. to be up at 7:00 a.m... only to find there had been a power outage somewhere in that time frame - we had hoped for an 8 a.m. departure and, two hours later (no surprise there) we were on the road. My husband R and I took turns driving and, with the iPod on shuffle (everything from Roberta Flack to the B-52's to Joni Mitchell), the miles flew by. About an hour from our destination, I blipped on navigation and missed a turn (too busy singing along to Cat Stevens' Father and Son), adding another hour to the trip - sorry, family!

As we drove along the coast, we could see the island of St. George in the distance, and it seemed forever before we finally reached the bridge to get us across and over - each house we passed looked more beautiful than the next, as we drove by Whelk Way, Coral Street and Dolphin Drive. We finally pulled into the driveway of Seaclusion, our rental for the week (pictured above) to find my mom, brother, sister and her family (hugs all around!) had made themselves at home - organizer Mari had their food and supplies already stashed in the refrigerator and cupboards, drinks had been poured and bedrooms assigned. R and I were generously gifted with the master suite, with a king-size bed and a view overlooking the Gulf - thanks, Mare... :-)

Since it was close to 8 p.m. before we had our stuff unloaded and stored, we decided to order pizza and sandwiches from a bar and grill in town - Mari and Sarah went to pick up, and sweet S paid the tab. Our first night on the island was spent having dinner on one of the two decks, watching the waves and smelling the delicious salt air, sipping beers and anxiously anticipating the next 6 days - who knew how quickly they would fly by... yet how tangibly embraceable the magic moments would be...


~ our first full day there (Sunday, August 3), as we each followed our own path (getting up early or sleeping late, gravitating to the heat of the beach/pool or staying in the shady comfort of the deck, eating a heavier breakfast/lunch or snacking throughout) - I loved the hit-and-run pockets of conversation at various points and places along the way...

~ the island and surrounding area is called "The Forgotten Coast" because of its lack of development (what a concept), thereby presenting an amazing blanket of stars in the dark sky night after night - we could even view clusters of galaxies and constellations...

~ my brother took us all out to dinner at The Blue Parrot, and I had fried local oysters and broiled Gulf shrimp - washed down with a Yuengling, I was in seafood heaven!

~ finding sea turtle nesting in full swing on the island - we rented lounge chairs and umbrellas the first day, left them on the beach and woke to find everything tagged by the sea turtle watch volunteer organization, asking us to move the items off the beach each night, as they were in the path of the egg-laying females. There were also notices throughout the house, reminding us to turn off outdoor lights at night, so as not to be confused with the pull of the moon - it's a very respectful, protective emphasis on the birthing cycle...

~ we took turns cooking throughout the week, my husband and I serving up grilled bacon-wrapped fillets, roast potatoes and steamed veggies; my kids cooking plain and blue-cheese-stuffed turkey and regular burgers, corn on the cob and french fries; my sister making baked salmon and grouper one evening and chicken parmesan with homemade pasta (more on that later) another few evenings - yum!

~ we vowed to have Cocktail/Happy Hour each night, and we lived up to the promise - cheater that I am, I had bought frozen mini-quiches and sandwich spirals for our turns, while Martha Mari whipped up bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and salmon spread (god, she's good... :-) My son Rob (the bartender) mixed up frozen and over-ice concoctions each night - my fave was a spiced rum mixed with kiwi-lime sparking water with a wedge of lime run around the edge of the glass and then added to the mix).

~ one my favorite things to do at the beach is to immerse myself in a good book and, although reading opportunities were less optimal because of wanting to spend time with mom (and everyone else), I still managed to savor three terrific novels, the first of which was one of Mari's library books (but which I begged to read first because I'm such a fan of the author, and hadn't yet picked up the new one): Run by Ann Patchett, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman - I also had my sister read Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos (my new favorite novel), and urged mom to take it home with her to enjoy.

~ we celebrated my 54th (yikes!) birthday at the beach with a key lime pie, presents and cards - my brother had given me money and I had a grand time spending it during our souvenir shop excursion Thursday, picking up a very cool white lacy straw cowboy hat with shells around the crown ("borderline WT", Sarah told me), perfect for shading my face at the beach/around the pool, and some sun readers - who knew there was such a fabulous invention?!? (for the last decade, ever since I needed reading glasses, I'd just place my sunglasses over them... two inconvenient layers). We also came home with pirate mugs ("time flies when you're having rum" and "Surrender your Booty" from The Jolly Roger Shop for co-workers and friends and a sea turtle windchime for my next-door neighbors who brought in the mail) - photos of trying on hats and glasses: priceless!

~ I was proud of myself for walking my usual 45 minutes 4 of the 6 days we were there - I had brought my walkman as accompaniment but, given the solitude of the island, chose not to use it, instead concentrating and meditating on the breeze, the sounds and the smells.

~ our beach house faced south, so we had to drive to the northwest side of the island for a sunset angle - our three visits delivered one better than the other two but none perfect. No problem - you know what they say: "even a bad sunset at the beach is better than a good evening anywhere else!"...

~ our weather was perfect the entire trip, with about three drops of rain one afternoon (what? - gone!) - I slathered enough sunscreen on each day so as to tan but not burn (mission accomplished). We experienced daily dolphin sightings (mostly in groups of three or more) - there were dragonflies everywhere on the island (Dave, Dave, Dave... :-)

~ so, we did make a gigantic batch of pasta (under mom's expert tutelage), dried it out on the kitchen table for a few days and boiled it up to go with Mari's Thursday night dinner - it tasted even more delicious because of the memories embedded...

~ we are proud to claim we recycled all week (although it was frightening the amount of beer/wine bottles and soda cans we went through), and made two drop-off trips to the bins in the middle of the island - yay, us!

~ dear Sarah borrowed her office camera and documented all the snippets of magic moments that came together to make this a trip to remember (Julia on Eric's shoulders, our sandcastle decorated with shells, beachgrass and Corona bottles on the turrets, Rob playing Guitar Hero, etc.)... and she'll be uploading them to Shutterfly to make a bound book (complete with captions) for mom's birthday September 9... as well as for the rest of us.

Needless to say, mom was beyond thrilled at our ability to pull this trip together on such short notice (not to mention being able to take the week off), our desire to help her have this family vacation and our commitment to spending quality time together each day - she smiled, she laughed, she cried tears of joy... and she couldn't stop repeating how blessed she felt, surrounded by her children, he grandchildren and her sons-in-law...

As long as we retain the memories, we can return any time we choose... and we're already thinking positive and planning an encore trip next August - there's no place like St. George Island, there's no place like St. George Island, there's no place like St. George Island... :-)

SONG: Pools of Eden by Eliza Gilkyson (can't seem to find the lyrics anywhere... but here is an audio sample)

BOOK: Chicken Soup for the Beach Lover's Soul: Memories Made Beside a Bonfire, on the Boardwalk and with Family and Friends by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery, Peter Vegso

POEM: The Gardener of Eden by James Broughton

I am the old dreamer who never sleeps
I am timekeeper of the timeless dance
I preserve the long rhythms of the earth
and fertilize the rounds of desire

In my evergreen arboretum
I raise flowering hopes for the world
I plant seeds of perennial affection
and wait for their passionate bloom

Would you welcome that sight if you saw it?
Revalue the view you have lost?
Could you wake to the innocent morning
and follow the risks of your heart?

Every day I grow a dream in my garden
where the beds are laid out for love
When will you come to embrace it
and join in the joy of the dance?

QUOTE: "I find myself at the extremity of a long beach. How gladly does the spirit leap forth, and suddenly enlarge its sense of being to the full extent of the broad, blue, sunny deep! A greeting and a homage to the Sea! I descend over its margin, and dip my hand into the wave that meets me, and bathe my brow. That far-resounding roar is the Ocean's voice of welcome. His salt breath brings a blessing along with it." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne


  1. Susan, it sounds as if your trip was a complete success! Wonderful post, I feel as if I was right there with you (wishful thinking).


  2. Hey, M ~

    This vacation truly was a dream come true - glad you could experience it vicariously (as I did your New York trip... :-)

  3. I was just fixin to call Nancy at N. tomorrow...thought you had decided to stay on SGI..glad to hear your trip was (my interpretation) perfect!! Happy B-day belatedly...let's get together to celebrate!! Kate in Wellyworld

  4. Hey, Kate ~

    Funny enough... we all talked about wanting to stay another week - I *never* would have wanted to come home then!

    Sorry I haven't been in touch since our return - I've been scrambling like crazy, dealing with folk club, church and home stuff...

    Yes, another get-together would be wonderful - I'm also pondering the Tracy concert you proposed... and promise to drop a note over the weekend in response... <3

  5. Sister Sue...

    I am in awe of your writings, and have been browsing the blog site enjoying every word you write. Such talent for sure, and especially meaningful since I have been lucky to have been part of many of these wondrous events.

    Many fond memories were brought back to me. I had totally forgotten about my CD rule, so that brought a giant grin!

    Here's to you being the greatest star! Love you and thank you!


  6. Hey, Baby Sis ~

    How sweet are you to take the time to read and comment! - you are lovingly spoken of in these pages, and the writing nut doesn't fall far from the tree (dad lives on in our creative writing, eh?... :-)

    Great chatting by phone last night as we recounted vacation memories - reality bites!

    "Who is the pip with piz-azz?
    Who is all ginger and jazz?
    Who is as glamorous as?
    Who's an American Beauty rose
    With an American Beauty nose,
    And ten American Beauty toes..."

    Us, that's who! - boundless love and thanks to you as well, kiddo... <3

  7. Thanks for the shout out for BROKEN FOR YOU! I'm Stephanie Kallos's editor and I'm so thrilled that you're a fan. Her new book SING THEM HOME will be hitting stores soon---yes, I'm a little biased, but it's a marvel!
    I definitely recommend getting your hands on a copy as soon as it's available---would love to know what you think!

    All best,
    Lauren Wein
    Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

  8. Hey, Lauren ~

    What an honor to have you stop in here to comment! - believe me, I have been eagerly anticipating Stephanie's new novel (which was due out *last* year, if I recall)...

    She's well worth waiting for - her well-developed characters, her unpredictable plot lines and her stunning prose made me a fan immediately.

    A friend chose Broken for You for our book club selection year before last - I've been singing (no pun intended) her praises ever since... and will absolutely buy the new book on the release date... :-)