Sunday, February 7, 2010


Lisa Engelhardt said, “If you feel yourself unraveling, get rest and play.”

It has been a very hard year with extraordinary losses. Running three bed and breakfasts and directing a non profit organization, writing five books simultaneously, and rewriting my life from personal issues (that's putting it nicely) have all culminated in a diagnosis of Panic Disorder. I need to make the world go away…at least for a while.

Yes, a trip to my special place is greatly needed. I am struggling my way back from compassion and emotional fatigue. Working in hospitals with Gracie and Kelsie and their stroke survivors, cardiac patients, cancer patients, soldiers with severe burns, multiple amputations and traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder have all taken their toll on me. As one of the mentors for the dog teams entering the Penny’s From Heaven Foundation Therapy/Soldier's Angels Support Dog programs, I accompany the owners/handlers to the facilities they choose to work in with their dogs. Assisted living and long term care facilities and hospice hospitals are as common place to me as the supermarket is to others.

I need a break. Mustang Island, Texas, short of the mountains,  has always been the place where my life comes back together, much like knots being removed from a ball of yarn.

The beach casts its spell over me. Each time, no matter the season or the reason, I find as my knots are removed, my blessings are counted. The sunlight on the sea foam, the waves, seagulls habitually beachcombing, graceful sea birds that leave their footprints in the sand picking their way along the ocean’s edge searching for treasures spilled by rushing tides, and the sound of the surf covers me with a net of encouragement, daring, and hope. Patience is restored, my creativity resurfaces, and I shed the weight of the barnacles of discouragement, disappointment,  anger, and disillusionment. I experience an intoxicating blend of inspiration and peace. Life takes a different meaning, as I remember once again how to breathe. I also realize that this isn’t a feeling that can ever be taken for granted.

I realize in some sense this is what Gracie and Kelsie give to their patients. Some have been flattened by life and in the dog's presence they begin to inflate again. What is it about the beach and these dogs that provides such powerful influences?

The ocean drowns out time, as sad thoughts instantaneously appear to change to a sensation of excitement and expectation. Cares slip away, as the perception of reality and  importance is questioned. Days and weeks and moments fade, as does pain and fear. This feeling is taken into my heart and into my memory, much like the few moments the dogs provide their patients.

I have learned to expect it. Clarity and passion return at the sea. I am keenly aware that there is a purpose for my being, and that no matter what, I must hold on. As the scene on the beach and in the waves and horizon change, so begins the change in me. Some of the most useful lessons I have learned have been cultivated and polished with sand between my toes.

While focusing on the way the sun makes the waves sparkle, I think of nothing, or everything. The most pressing problem is when I should head to the island to get fresh fish or shrimp for dinner from the incoming boats. Capers and lemon wedges and a perfect bottle of pinot noir are etched on an internal shopping list, as I watch the sandpipers scamper in and out of the surf, looking for their own dinner.

My inner voices quiet and my daily frantic pace slows, as I watch the tide come in and then go out again. The grace of wisdom comes to me, as answers I have been seeking float to the surface. The ebb and flow of the tide reflects back to me my own life, how it constantly changes yet remains the same. Sometimes I am almost brought to my knees at the ease of my being, as I am restored. Problems seem a little less insurmountable. Life flows a little bit easier, I yawn more, laugh more, and come to realize that sometimes all that is needed in life to be happy is nothing more than a little color in your cheeks and a dance in the waves with the seagulls.


“Write your sorrow in sand and your blessings in stone."

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