Beach Therapy

Who knows, maybe the Universe listens to me better than I listen to me.   After all, I was craving some adventure and some beach time and it seems I got them both.

After the debacle that was “the house” (more in the Life Pressed Pause post) I found my car steering it’s own way to Dauphin Island.  I remembered seeing some state park camping sites online and figured I would go check it out.  I followed the “Beach” signs and soon ended up at the Dauphin Island Country Club.  Don’t get too excited… it was the dumpiest country club I have ever seen.  I felt perfectly at home.  The down-home waitress at the Pirates Pleasure was all too happy to pour me a much-needed cocktail (no questions asked, even though it wasn’t yet 11:00 am) and let me peruse the menu.  Normally my appetite disappears when I am stressed, but I found myself starving.

I inadvertently caused a bit of a ruckus when I decided to change into my bathing suit in the parking lot… and didn’t realize that the golf course was right behind me.  Apparently parking lot changing isn’t protocol at a Country Club (even a dumpy beach one).   It’s not like I stripped down naked; everything stayed covered at all times! There was some hooting and hollering and some “I Love You’s” thrown around.  Southern men are so cute.

I headed to the beach – Jason (the parking lot attendant) had recommended that if I was up for a walk, it would be worth my time to go all the way around the bay to where some sand bars formed after hurricane Ivan.  About a five-mile walk round trip.  Sounded like just what the doctor ordered, plus I needed to burn off the 1,000 calories I had just eaten for lunch.   I took my time, said the traditional southern hello to folks I passed.

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Map of where the sand bars are located.

 

By the time I could see the sand bars I was completely alone with my own private beach.  Beautiful white sand, very shallow warm water, egrets, hermit crabs, sting rays, and me.  I plucked my way out to one of the visible sand bars, took off my bathing suit top and laid out half-naked.  Literally.   Good thing I wasn’t anywhere near the golf course at this point 😉

 

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The remains of a Sheepshead Porgy – a popular catch for fishermen in the bay.
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A piece of dead coral covered with sunning hermit crabs.
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One of the sandbar fingers on the bay
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Me enjoying the sun
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I stayed in this spot until the tide came in and I was sitting in water
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Drift wood seats dotted the whole beach. It is as if the ocean wants an audience. “Here” she says – “Sit, and watch while I dance for you”.
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At the end of the walk, you can see the beach on the other side of the bay. Crashing waves and deep blue water – just 100 feet from the shallow calm of Pelican Bay.
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The stingrays were in mating season – it was fun to watch them swim and play.

 

 

 

 

Car Camping

Maybe it’s my gypsy blood – but car camping holds a unique appeal for me.  Being so free and untethered opens up my imagination and creative juices!  There is no better way to get straight with what is really important and needed in your life vs. what is a distraction.

I was too late to check into the camp ground on Dauphin Island so ended up just parking in the lot by the gate.  Worked perfectly, plus it was free 🙂

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My ‘neighbors’ for the night 🙂
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Dauphin Island campground. They have a maximum four month stay – then you have to leave for at least 30 days. This place is almost always booked full with beach bums.

 

Tuesday found me in Elberta at the farm-house and I swear it invited me to stay… all tucked in back behind big trees with the crickets and June bugs singing me to sleep.   Just a few nights reset my system; which allowed me to truly appreciate things like power and running hot water once I checked into the Econo Lodge the next night in Foley.

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Farm-house in Elberta

 

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Everything I needed fit neatly in the back of my free-upgraded rental car.
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Dinner and entertainment for the evening!

 

 

 

Southern Hospitality

Friendly people are everywhere in the south. You simply do not walk past someone without at minimum a “good morning” or the equivalent. Short of the intrusive comments about my ‘huusband’… (Whers yur huusband? What dus yur huusband think about chu traveling all by yurself? What dus yur husband do fer work?) southern folk are the nicest people I know. Yes m’am, no m’am, thank you, have a nice day (or a blessed day, or a bless’ed day, or a great day in Jesus) all delivered with genuine gratitude and humility. The vast majority are happy. Not happy in a smug-pious because they know they have the one true religion or they have things that make them special. More of a today, right here, right now I am content, loved, OK, and trying to be like Jesus so might as well smile and laugh and enjoy myself. Things move slowly, no one can seem to get worked up enough to pass judgment. Things just are what they are (unless someone breeches proper manners and then there are instant threats of telling their mama or grandma and or statements such as – I know your mama raised you better than that).

I resonate with the culture there on a cellular level. The energy that is shared makes me feel alive and connected. It’s like they really understand me. When asked if I hike a lot in SLC, I replied “Not really, I don’t feel drawn to the mountains”. The retort was “That’s cuz yur a beech girl! You need to get chur-self moved down here. Can’t cure the beech fever.” Huh – how did a perfect stranger explain myself to me so easily?

After a few hours of much needed beach therapy, I scouted Dauphin Island for a bar or restaurant that might have a spot I could charge my phone and hopefully get online to figure out where I was going to stay. I ended up at Finn’s – a fun local bar. Jimmy the owner and Mama Sue, the 73 year old bartender, were more than happy to unplug some fish Christmas lights so I could use an outlet. I sipped on a very potent margarita and was soon chatting with the locals who hang out there. Deb is an implant from 25 years ago and Janie is a born/raised Dauphinian. They chatted, told stories, asked questions, gave me the inside scoop on buying in Coden and introduced me to everyone at the bar. When I excused myself to see if I could get online to arrange for a place to stay there was a resounding “You don’t know where you are staying?!” We have an extra bedroom honey, you just come stay with us…” WHAT? Seriously, they knew me for all of an hour and were willing to welcome me to their homes. I was still in need of some alone time so I passed on the offer and headed to the camp grounds instead (more on that in the Car Camping post).

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Deb, Janie and Mama Sue
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Finn’s local bar on Daupin Island

 

The next morning I found a new property online – Daphne area, waterfront, listed for $14K (an obvious typo, but I was still curious) so I headed towards the other side of the bay. After finding out the real price of the property- $269K, I headed on towards Elberta to see if I could find the owner of the old farm-house I found on my last trip.  I was in pretty severe need of coffee and running water for a sponge bath so I stopped at “Biscuits & Gravy” in downtown Elberta. The owner greeted me warmly, “Good morning Sunshine, we are so glad you stopped in to see us today!” I didn’t catch his name. He was so busy walking around visiting with everyone, refilling coffee and water, making sure everyone’s food was OK, asking how watermelon planting was going, how someone Aunt who ‘took sick’ was doing, etc. etc. Chris, the cook took, an instant liking to me. He hovered, told me that he gets in early to make the biscuits for the day so in the future I was welcome any time after 4:00 am and he would cook me something special (yes, I believe there was an intentional double-entendre with that offer), brought me my food himself, explained that he put extra grits and gravy on my messy biscuits (that is what they are called, they really aren’t messy) and offered for the fourth time to make me some fried eggs to put on top. Nathan, a very quiet cowboy, sat next to me at the counter-bar, tipped his hat, ordered the ‘usual’ and listened politely while Chris and the owner helped me brainstorm ideas on how to find the owner of the old farm-house (more on that in the Farm House post). One of the local farmers chimed in about other homes for sale in the area that would be worth checking out.   It was like having a family breakfast. Plus they had a bathroom with a really big industrial size sink with lots of hot water that worked perfect for a Puerto-rican shower. The whole group walked out to wave good-bye, wish me good luck and tell me to come back as soon as I could. I left feeling uplifted, accepted and loved.

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Grits & Gravy restaurant in Elberta. The food was so delicious.

 

While looking for the Baldwin County courthouse extension building, I drove past a place called the Copper Kettle. It reminded me of a Hansel and Gretel house. It was hot and I wasn’t in the mood for tea but made a mental note to check it out the next day. Boy am I glad I did. I got there a little before they opened and was sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and a cigarette. The owner walked outside to hang up flower baskets and insisted that I come inside. She had just brewed a reserve blend coffee and didn’t mind having company while she opened up shop. It was a treasure trove of amazingness. Teas, coffee, home-made desserts, an amazing lunch menu, local artist wares, jewelry, soaps, antiques, gifts, gourmet honey. I spent over an hour in about 200 square feet; completely mesmerized the whole time. Two sisters own the place – they moved from Connecticut to Alabama fourteen years earlier. One runs the front, the other runs the kitchen. Her passion about tea and creating a center for artists and the community was palpable. She recommended I take my move there slow, “Be patient, wait for the right place. It will come.” She gave me cards for two real estate agents that ‘weren’t shady’ and encouraged me to follow my dream and my passion. She hugged me.   A huge wave of emotion hit me – I quickly paid for the coffee and trinkets I found, all the while crossing my fingers that the tears wouldn’t start until I was alone in the car. My pity party lasted for a minute. It wasn’t fair – why am I not brave enough to just go for it? Why can’t my sister Ali and I have something like that? When was it going to be my turn? Then I remembered an inside joke with Terah and the “IT ISN’T WHAT I WANTED” temper tantrum and had a quick chuckle at myself, put on my new cool dragon earrings and headed for the beach.

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Copper Kettle tea house in Foley.

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After spending three days on the gulf shores beach (More in the Beach Therapy post), I was looking forward to heading back to Dauphin Island. I had finally figured out my phone issue (user error of course – no surprise to a Luddite like me) and wanted to get pictures. I showed up to the country club well before opening, but Jason and the waitresses remembered me from Monday. They let me come in to use the restroom and Jason let me on the beach early. After my 5 mile round-trip walk around the bay I headed back to the Pirates Pleasure for a delicious bowl of grits and some hot coffee. They had just opened their salt water pool and outdoor bar and I was excited to go check it out. That is where I met Philip. Pirates Pleasure is his restaurant– I swear he was a pirate in another lifetime. Gray pony-tail, raspy voice, huge hands and a very take charge presence. He bought me a beer, visited and then invited me to take a dip – layout – hangout. A few more locals arrived, everyone was so nice. A daiquiri magically arrived poolside for me. The music was so loud I couldn’t hear who to thank for it, but the whole group nodded when I raised my glass and smiled. Lunch was offered (on the house by sweet Philip who was genuinely disappointed when I declined due to being stuffed from grits, beer and a daiquiri). When it was finally time to head to the Airport, there were pictures and hugs and reminders of my promise to return soon.

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Poolside bar at the Pirates Pleasure
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Some southern love from Philip.
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Jason – how cute is he?!

 

Life Pressed “PAUSE”

I had the hardest time sleeping on the flight to Mobile – my mind was racing.  The excitement of seeing the house for the first time was overwhelming.  My closing was delayed (seriously it takes two weeks to prepare a deed?), I couldn’t get an inspection done and my realtor just had surgery so I was kind of on-my-own dealing with the seller.  There were still so many unknowns and I had no idea if I was going to be able to figure it all out.

Mobile has a very tiny airport, my bag was already waiting for me when I got to the rental car kiosk.  The super friendly clerk offered me a free upgrade to an SUV! (Little did I know how much I was going to need that later while Car Camping!)  Everything is going smoothly and my excitement for starting my new life-aligning adventure is growing.

My adventure boots are on, the temperature is perfect. The drive from the airport took me through back country.  Beautiful farms, quaint towns, friendly people.   I meandered and got lost a few times (mostly on purpose) checking out all the things to see.  Only problem so far is that my phone wont hold any battery charge and the closer I get to my destination, the less phone signal I have.

I finally locate Zirlott Rd and drive down.  I recognize the house instantly.  I pull into the round about drive way and unplug my phone to take pictures and step out of the car.  My phone gives an immediate low battery warning forcing me to give up photo efforts and put it away.  It is muggier than I expected.  Everyone knows how much I like humidity, but this feels like a swimming pool and it’s kind of stinky.

I step off the driveway into the front yard and Life pressed the “PAUSE” button.

My feet sank into two inches of water.  I move towards what appears to be higher ground only to discover that mother nature is tricky – the water plants are higher because there is more water underneath them!  I sludge my way to the front of the house and start walking around back… the whole place is literally a swamp.  The unfinished addition has rotting plywood and tarps on it.  A gecko sunning in the window notices me and slides through the window frame into the house.  Interesting – looks like there might be some issues.  I look for the septic system (there are no sewers in Coden) and can’t locate it.   Instead, I notice a 4″ PVC pipe running from the back of the house out about 100 feet into the marsh and realize it is the main water drain for the house. BAD SIGN, very bad sign.  All house waste basically runs right into the back yard.

I hit full panic mode.  I am so ill-equipped for this.  I pull all of my tricks out of the bag.  BREATHE, stay centered, stay curious, ask questions, don’t make assumptions.  I turn to the house and ask “Do you want me to live here”.  I feel an immediate sting on my right shoulder, look up, and see five or six Jurassic size mosquitos hovering.  I swat at them but they are relentless.  I move towards the front of the house, all the way back to the rental car and then they finally let me be.  Guess I got my answer.

My curiosity (and need to give my adventure boots some stories) gets the better of me and I head towards the old building to the side of the lot.  There are spots where the whole top of my boot is covered in water.  I get to a random piece of something large flat and plastic.  I give it a push with my boot to see if I can stand on it or if I will have to walk around it.  My breath leaves me as I realize it is a home for a family of water snakes.  My kick startles them and they glide past my feet, slithering their irritated tongues at me.  Seriously, thank God for adventure boots.

The old building is huge.  Probably 200 feet long with a cinderblock center, concrete pad floor and tractor-trailer size doors that are wide open.  The roof has giant holes in it so there is tons of light.  I find it packed floor to ceiling with garbage.  Old moldy mattresses, back and front seats of cars, LOTS of beer bottles, broken electronics, broken kids toys, food wrappers (EWWW, who was eating out here?!).

I Monty Python it back to the car (trudge, trudge, languish, languish).  I can’t make myself turn the ignition.  What just happened???  Is this really what life has planned for me?  My phone has no signal so I can’t even call anyone to try and talk it through.  How did everything come together so perfectly just to end up like this??  I am confused, disappointed, angry, and exhausted.

I didn’t cry. I thought about it. I was so sad. Now what? Damn Universe (I flipped from sad to mad REALLY fast). My brother’s voice appeared in my head. “Anger is just a mask for fear”. To distract myself I decided to play the what-am-i-really-feeling game. Answer?  – scared shitless. That was it in a nut shell. I didn’t have a back-up plan; hell I didn’t even have a plan to have a back-up plan for. What made me think I could do any of this? There I go yet again; dreaming my way through life. Oblivious to the reality that everyone (else) is subject to. Stupid, stupid, stupid.  That’s it. I am going back to Utah, calling Kime for a job, and buying a house in Sandy. Nice, safe, predictable, smart.

My next thought is holy-shit, THANK YOU UNIVERSE!!  Thank you so much for delaying my closing so that I got to see this place first.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Gratitude definitely feels better than the yuck I was sitting it.

So, now that the pause button has been pushed, I am back to square one.  Oh well – trip is paid for, might as well get some beach time in.

 

Photo Bomb!

Last night I went out to visit my friend Hillary at ‘The Farm’.  She and her husband Bruce have a plot of land out in Lake Point UT with horses, goats, chickens, cats, a garden, and a dog.  I am especially attached to her dog (Bella) since I am her god-dog-mommy.

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I found a perfect photo opportunity with a chicken nestled in next to some hay and just as I was about to snap a picture, Bella comes charging around the corner, startled the chicken and totally photo-bombed me! 20150328_184122

 

 

 

We hung out outside, had a fire, watched the animals be joyful, sipped cocktails and visited.  It was all-in-all a perfect evening and made me even more excited to create that kind of space in Alabama.

We wrapped up the evening by doing a Rune reading (it was my first one and SO much fun).  The tiles were spot on to my current situation and brought me some much needed peace about my choice to up and leave my home, job, friends and family to explore bigger horizons.

Late Bloomer

Back in February, I was SOOO over winter and needed to feel some earth on my hands and participate in the magic of creation.   So my son Levi and I brought in a giant plastic storage bin full of dirt (okay, Levi brought in the dirt it was really heavy), covered the dining room table with a canvas drop cloth, turned on some music and started planting.

Levi and I playing in the dirt...
Levi and I playing in the dirt…

 

My seeds have since tuned into seedlings, and it made my heart happy every day watching them grow.

I20150324_115109 was also given an opportunity to rethink about a concept that Aaron (my brother) and I have been discussing…   Sometimes we have things from our past (childhood, DNA, beliefs) that used to be really helpful, but now no longer serve us. But we are scared to get rid of it or change it.   I think seeing the outer shell of this seed hitch-hiking on the plant is such great visual representation of that.  The shell was vital to the seeds’ future at one point and time, but now is stunting the leaf’s ability to blossom because of limited light and space.

I wonder how many ‘hitch-hikers’ that I can get rid of this year.  Even if it makes me a late-bloomer; thinking it is finally time for me to let my leaves grow.

Now of course I have to figure out what I am going to do with all these plants… can’t really transport seedlings cross country 🙁  Maybe the community gardens will take them?

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Finding my roots

Putting down roots in hard for a gypsy.  I have managed to move every two to three years for my whole life.  I am pro at creating events that “require” me to move (read: a not-my-fault set of circumstances that allows me to indulge my gypsy soul while still seeming normal).

Recently my sister located my fathers birth parents.  It was weird. I felt emotions that I hadn’t experienced before.  My entire extended family is all decidedly LDS, and I am decidedly not.  My entire immediate family all struggle with the same gypsy tendencies I do, so we all float our own direction and sometimes cross paths. Feeling disconnected from my family was normal.

Our new-found Aunt sent a lovely care package.  A family history book, a family recipe book, and a book she wrote.  Apparently I come from a long genetic line of really bad-ass women.

Now my whole definition of family looked different.  My inner beliefs about what I needed and wanted were suddenly insufficient.  My being okay with feeling disconnected crumbled.  I wanted – no, NEEDED to learn more, to connect, to touch souls.   After a  moment of panic, I did what any ‘normal’ person would do.  I called my life coach aka, mentor, friend, pirate, Megan.  We met for tea (cause she is cool like that).  After much rambling on my part, she brought me clarity with one word.

Roots.

Of course that immediately turned into fun as we decided that the title of my next project with her would be ‘Roots & Boots’.  I had just bought some new ‘adventure’ boots for my upcoming Alabama move – cause a girl’s gotta be ready for anything life presents.  Especially when it includes the potentially messy task of finding (or creating or growing) some roots.

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Megan Sillito (If I am an Incognito Gypsy, then Megan is an Incognito Pirate.)

Coming Out

A few months ago I finally came out of the closet.  My 9-5 professional job, my appearance, my preferences, my lifestyle were all just a cover-up.  A desperate attempt to fit in with the masses and feel normal, be okay.  Truth?  I am a dirty hippie at heart, a gypsy in my soul, and anything but normal.  It was a painful experience; for everyone but me.  Jaws dropped, tongues wouldn’t work, eyes stared, confusion abounded, denial set it.

Aligning my life with my truth (aka integrity) is my new mission.   So… I am moving to Alabama.  Deep south, ocean, fresh seafood, land, gardens, humidity, LOTS of Jesus, warmth, y’all, sweet tea.  No – I have never lived there.  No – I don’t have family there.  No – I am not moving there for a man.  No – I don’t have a plan.   Yes – I am happier than I have been in 20 years.