Updated: May 20, 2020
Yesterday I took a daily walk during my work break, mask in place, along the beautiful little beach trail that is now my neighborhood. It’s been 8 weeks now of sheltering-in and working remotely, but yesterday as I walked by my little beach, it was just beaming with life. It seemed like such a normal, beach day. If walkers didn’t have masks on, no one would have any indication of a pandemic. The water was full of paddle boards, kayaks and swimmers, and there were kids running, laughing and screaming with so much excitement, dogs fetching toys in the water, and even sunbathers, which is not yet allowed. Technically, the beaches are only open for water activities. But there they all were. The joy I heard, and the sense of normalcy, pulled me into the whole moment, so I stopped and just stood at the beach for a while. If an onlooker could truly embrace a moment with full gratitude, and warm appreciation, that was me, saturated in the magnitude of it.
Most of the time, I’m in the water, on my board, fully immersed in tangible, active gratitude for my life now, for where I live, and the newness of a life that is opening to me, because I am opening up to it. But, at this moment, I had set out to take a walk. I decided earlier in the week that I was going to paint encouraging words with designs on palm-sized rocks and leave them along the trail for people to find. The purpose of today’s walk was to choose a spot to leave the first rock. I chose the word “hope”. I set the little hope rock on steps leading to an apartment building on the street just before the beachy trailhead. I’ve seen quite a few elderly people there, and those steps just seemed to call for a little hope, so the first rock didn’t even make it to the trail. I think that was perfect.
I continued my walk on the short part of the trail that opens again to a gem-of-a-hidden-tiny-section of the street, and as I popped out, my sight line was met by a huge, in-full-bloom Jacaranda and a rush of awe washed over me again as my mind quickly started calculations. “Wait! What day is it?” Yes, it is. The next day would mark the 5-year anniversary of when I arrived in San Diego with my daughter after my 29-year marriage had ended. The Jacarandas were in full bloom lining all the streets of our new neighborhood when we pulled in with all our belongings in that 26-foot U-Haul. My heart was a wreck that day, and many days after that. My family of five was scattered, my kids in 3 different states, my daughter and I starting a new life, in a new state, a new job, she going to a new school in her senior year of high school without anyone she knew. I’m reminded every year when the Jacarandas faithfully burst into bloom of the brave healing journey that she and I have been on. And every year, it’s a reminder of how much closer we are to wholeness, and how we have found ourselves and found our home.
My son Danny, and my good friend Stacey, drove down with us. They were like our rocks. They bolstered us up like a fortress on that trip when we left behind all the things that mattered, and who we knew ourselves to be, until that day we drove away from Oregon. I didn’t want to let go of them when they had to go back. When we drove up to the apartment building for the first time that was about to become our new home, the tree right over the fence from our front door was filled with small, green, wild parrots. Filled! They were loud and squawking and I asked my new co-workers, who I had never met before that showed up to help us unload and move in, what I was hearing. Now, my friends, this may seem a normal thing to anyone that lives in this area, but I know that God put those parrots right there, in that tree, by my front door, just for us, at that very moment. Over the next four years, they were never in that tree again. That was a low tree, not the tall kind of trees they hang out in. And, the trees they did hang out in those next four years, were several blocks away. There were about eight of us unloading the truck, and those parrots didn’t fly away. They always fly away when people are that close. God put those parrots there for me. I’m absolutely convinced of this, and it was so very significant for me. I had left a life I loved in the country where I lived surrounded by nature and animals for 15 years. My daughter and I were starting over, alone, in the city, in an apartment, after also having to re-home our animals, including horses. Since my children were small, we heard geese flying over our home since we were in their migration flight path. So, when we arrived to these loud, squawky birds by my very front door, it was like all of heaven opened up and God spoke directly to my heart, “You are going to be okay”. I can't explain it any better than to tell you that it was like He was holding me during that moment filled with heartache and uncertainty at my new front door. I love those parrots and I hear them everyday now during the months of the year when they come back to San Diego.
It has taken me a long time to get through all the stages of grief over all the loss. The process and time it takes is different for everyone that goes through a hard transition or trauma. I would say for the first four years, I was only able to be that onlooker. That person that was standing on the beach, just watching. I was so full of pain, stress, overwhelm and anxiety, that is was hard for me to feel joy and embrace what could be my new life. But every year that I saw the Jacarandas in bloom, it always reminded me that I had come further through, and was closer to peace, joy, and myself again than I was the year before. I remember the exact moment I decided it was time to say goodbye to that frozen part of me. I was sitting alone on the cliffs at my favorite spot to watch the surf as I had many times before, and I had such a lonely, deep sense of loss, a sense that I had not only lost so much of my previous life, but that I was losing my current moments as well. I was watching the surfers, but I longed to be them. To be in the water. Doing. That was the pivotal moment that I really realized it was my choice to get on with life. I told myself right then that I didn’t want to just watch life anymore, I wanted to do life. It takes a lot of energy to be brave for new steps, but the alternative wasn’t an option anymore. That was the first day that I truly starting loving where I live.
When I crested that little portion of trail yesterday and saw that big, beautiful Jacaranda in full bloom, I have never felt so much gratitude for my annual reminder of when God told me I would be okay, as I felt at that moment. In the past year, although, there has been loneliness and I’ve had hard things to navigate still, when I’m able to separate out the worries from the reality, I am deeply grateful that I have truly found myself, and found my home, and can really say now that I’m finally happy just to be happy. It’s seems to be no coincidence that this is the day I chose to drop a little hope off on some neighborhood steps. Sometimes, we just have to look back, so we can remember how far we really have come.