Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.
Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing. There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much wildlife.
Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.
We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.
The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.
My daughter trying her hardest to do YOGA
We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.
Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.
Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.
It feels like many lifetimes ago that we were living in the Azores. Sometimes I cant even look at photos from the Azores, because there are so many people who I love and miss, and the island, well, I miss her terribly. So beautiful. Like Magic. Atlantis. Mystical. Persephone and the seasons. There are many reasons why we left, and I know it was the right decision (at least for now). But there is something about that fairy-tale land, that pulls at the heartstrings of all who have lived there. I frequently have dreams of the island.
Anyways, South Florida is another world for sure. A crazy, intense place to live. I am a person who loves to spend a lot of time alone in nature. Here, I live in crime filled urban sprawl. There is literally next to no wild space left here, and they just keep developing. Very hard to witness. Along with the unattractive sprawl are these awful, horrible, dangerous, giant roads. Highways, Freeways.Tension makers. Traffic.
Speaking of roads, My neck is still injured, and recovering. It turns out that I have 4 herniated discs from the car accident. It has been painful and annoying. Lawyers, court, orthopedic surgeons. A very humbling experience. Ginger shots help ease the pain and inflammation, so do essential oils. I might never do headstand or shoulder stand again, with my “neck injury.” But this is life. These bodies are not permanent. I drive to nature. I breathe. I meditate. I stretch. I feel better. I feel gratitude for my body.
There are things about life in South Florida that I love. The ocean, the swamp, the Everglades, my yoga classes, theatre, my friends, the weather. We have been seeing so many dolphins at the beach in the mornings when I teach yoga. And the ocean here is so inviting. So blue. So warm. Nothing like the frigid waters of my home in Washington state! (But I love and miss you Washington.) Anyways, truthfully, there is so much to do here. I feel like we are always on some sort of adventure. I am going on a BIG adventure in a couple weeks. Stay tuned. 🙂
I took my daughter to her first full moon drum circle. She loved it. 2 years old, and she literally danced for hours. It was incredible. She loves to dance. To feel the moon. Almost everyday now she asks,”Drum circle?” Ha. Hippie Child!
My son, well he continues to amaze me with his art, his singing, his kindness. He is currently in rehearsal for his 3rd production in six months.He has been in shows non-stop since we have been back. 3 plays! He loves it. He shines. Giving him this opportunity to perform, makes my heart happy. Through connections in the theater world, my son has been able to see very amazing performances, almost ever week. The last performance he saw was the Joffrey Ballet. Lucky kid! The world of performing arts.
My sweetheart is learning English faster than I thought possible, and he has connected with the much larger than I realized Portuguese community down here. He goes fishing with his Portuguese friends and he watches soccer at a little Portuguese restaurant near our house. The Portuguese who live in Florida are just as LOUD and INSANE over soccer as they are in Portugal! He fits right in. Ha.
I am choreographing a dance piece with two of my magical mama friends. We are natural dancers, and lucky for us, there is a mirrored wall where I teach yoga. Right after yoga class, we turn up the music and dance. I love it. Those mornings are so fun. Movement is such an amazing way to process and heal. We Move through it.
I started teaching yoga at a transitional housing program for women. The program takes 10 homeless single women, provides housing, and help, to eventually see each woman transition to independent living. I have met some very special women there. There is a yoga room, a very nice yoga room, with every yoga prop one could think of, and we do gentle and restorative yoga. I look forward to it, every week. Yoga needs to be accessible to everyone.
Quite honestly, I don’t think we will live in South Florida for too long. My gypsy blood is awake and I really miss wild space. Nature. The pace here is too hectic. Crime too frequent. But honestly, there are things and people I am so grateful for. Who knows what the future holds. So I am going to do my best to stay present and in gratitude.
Palm Beach Island
South Florida , Yoga On The Beach.. “Kiss The Earth With Your Feet.”
On Saturday morning, Feb 20th, 2016, I found a loaded handgun in the grass, at a playground, in DisneyWorld, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The gun triggered strong emotions of fear and anger, and completely altered our weekend plans.
My mom, sister, and I all live far away from each other, but we decided to meet and go camping together. It wasn’t my idea to camp at Disney, it was my sisters idea. She said the resort was beautiful, and while I protested a little, I finally agreed. Upon arriving and exploring on Friday afternoon, I realized my sister was right. Fort Wilderness is beautiful. There was a playground right next to our campsite, that my daughter loved. She probably went down the slide 50 times. Friday night we attended a campfire sing a long with Chip and Dale, and while it certainly is not “normal” camping, it was a lot of fun.
Saturday morning, I woke up cold, body stiff. Sleeping in a tent, on cement (even with a yoga mat), is not comfortable. I did a little yoga, drank some cold instant coffee with almond milk, watched two cardinals fly from tree to tree, and enjoyed the early morning quiet.
When the kids woke up, almost immediately, they started begging us to take them to a theme park. We told them they would have fun at the campground, which has playgrounds, trails, and swimming pools with waterslides.I thought of sending the kids off to the playground, but I wanted hot coffee, and the kids needed breakfast, so we all decided to walk to a restaurant at the resort.
Pushing my daughters stroller, I looked down in the grass and I saw a gun. At first glance, I thought it had to be a toy. Upon closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t. We told park management, and soon the Orange County Police arrived. We spoke with one officer who shook his head in disbelief and said, “That gun was fully loaded and at a playground in DisneyWorld.”
I felt really upset. I kept thinking “What if a kid had found that gun?” Of course I imagined all sorts of frightening scenarios.Loaded guns, children, Disneyworld. Certainly not the normal situation for the “Happiest Place On Earth.”
Back at our campsite, management was there, waiting to take our statements. We told our story, and added that we felt very uncomfortable and wanted to change campsites. They said the resort was completely full, but instead they offered us a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. In addition to the suite, they gave us one day park hopper passes to the theme parks.
When we told the kids, they started jumping up and down in excitement. My niece and nephew ran over to me, hugged me, smiled, and said “Thank you for finding that gun!!!” Of course they didnt really understand what could have happened.
We packed our things and drove to Animal Kingdom resort. When we entered our room, our jaws dropped. We walked slowly, in awe of our beautiful and enormous suite. The Disney Staff gifted us with Chocolates, Candy, Coloring Books, Crayons, and even a Disney Board game. Our suite had three sliding glass doors that opened to a large balcony, overlooking a large field, designed to look like the African Savannah. Zebras, Giraffes,gazelles, ostriches, and many other African animals walked around freely. I had never seen anything like it.
Feeling like all of this was a strange dream, we checked the internet for the price of our suite, and saw that it costs over 1,500 dollars per night. (Slightly above my normal hotel price range. Haha.)
We rode the shuttle to Magic Kingdom, which was very crowded. But it was beautiful. The kids were happy, smiling ear to ear, they seemed to skip rather than walk. My 2 year old daughter, who looks like an owl, her large eyes grew even wider as she looked around and took it all in. We rode many rides, saw two parades, the firework show. We stayed at Magic Kingdom until the park closed. All of us had a wonderful time, even though in the back of our minds we kept wondering about that gun.
Back at the hotel, we slept in the master suite, and that bed was the most comfortable bed I have ever laid on. Very different than sleeping on cement as we did the night before. 🙂
We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely morning and an afternoon of waterslides and swimming.
I made it back down to South Florida last night, just in time to see the very end of the Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth. I saw a painting that fit our weekend perfectly. And right below the painting, someone had written the word “destiny.”
The weekend could have ended tragically, but through destiny and perhaps some guidance from a guardian angel, we had a beautiful, safe, fun, and memorable weekend.
I want to add, that Disneyworld has clear rules that guns are prohibited. I think the police handled the situation quickly and professionally. However, I don’t know if the gun was registered or if the police were able to find the gun owner. I don’t know if someone accidentally dropped their gun or if this was malicious. But I do know that this should not have happened. This is just one more story, that proves, once again, that this country has a problem with gun safety. This was a loaded gun at a playground. And while our story has a happy ending, most stories involving loaded guns, do not.
We headed down to the Florida Keys last weekend, knowing well that a cold front was scheduled to arrive, and with that cold, it was predicted to storm. We felt a little nervous about the weather, but we already had a camping reservation (which can be hard to come by in winter), and we all wanted to get out of town, and enjoy the beauty of the islands, only a few hours south of where we live.
We arrived to Long Key State Park, early in the morning, and the weather was beautiful and warm. After setting up camp, we headed into the warm water, on the Atlantic side.. For hours, in some sort of trance, silently we all wadded in knee deep water. Observing the crabs, the seagrass, the fish, the sand, the mud, the coral. I felt every cell of my body being cleansed, purified, renewed. The healing of the element of water.. I did some gentle yoga, it felt so good.
We went on a late afternoon hike, and soon after, we felt the weather change.
The wind blew stronger, and with it, crisp air. The temperature quickly dropped. With the setting sun, and the dropping temperature, we made a fire, and cooked tofu dogs on a stick. As soon as my son finished heating his last tofu dog, the rain began.
The rain was heavy, cats and dogs for sure. We ran inside the tent, but even with the rain guard on, it wasn’t enough. The rain was so strong, that it began to drip inside the tent. The wind was howling. My sweetheart and son, rushed outside to put a large tarp over the tent.They came back in the tent, drenched, but smiling. With that, the storm raged on, but we stayed dry.
The entire night, it poured. The wind was so strong. The tent blew from side to side. But we stayed dry, we stayed warm, and we slept soundly lulled by the energy of the ocean and the rainstorm.
Before the sunrise, I woke up. The rain had stopped. I went outside, and sat near the ocean. The air so fresh and clean. As the sun came up, my family woke up and we all went on a morning walk. It was chilly, but the colors of the sky, the water, the trees, everything seemed to be extra vibrant.
We had a morning fire, and the sky very slowly shifted from stormy into blue..it wasn’t warm enough to swim, but somehow that cool weather and the colors of the sky seemed to make everything even more beautiful.
I felt really sad that we had to leave. But more than that, I felt really grateful that we got to go.. We all felt that with the storm, the trip was somehow more magical, more sacred, more healing. We took a chance, and we are glad we did.
My daughter turned two last week and to celebrate, not only did we have a fun little birthday party, but we also spent two days camping and canoeing at a place called Fisheating creek.
Fisheating creek is about two hours northwest of where we live, and it is truly a wild and sacred place. This time of year, the creek is high, and I mean really high. I didn’t know what to do when we arrived and the trail I usually take was completely underwater. In my mind, I had planned out that we would be camping under some oak trees way down the trail. Well, this knee-deep water covering the trail, told me that sometimes plans change.
Anyways, it took a little while to figure out what to do..I have been camping many times at fisheating creek, but never at this time of year. This place has seasons, wet season and a dry season, and coming out at this time of year is a completely different experience.. In summer and fall, the water levels are high, sometimes extremely high, and the mosquitos, are everywhere. So are the alligators. In winter and early spring, the water level is much lower.. the mosquitos aren’t nearly as bad, and the alligators, on colder days you wont even see them.
We walked around, swatting mosquitoes, right away we saw a huge alligator and a huge black snake slither right in front of us.. My sweetheart was a little freaked out, I know he was wondering “why are we here, this wild swamp is insane.” My daughter stepped on a fire ant mound. Actually we all did. And getting bit by those tiny ants is awful. Ant bites burn and sting and hurt and itch!! It seemed like the camping trip was going to be rough..
During that time, we got a phone call from some friends who said they wanted to come and camp with us.. They were on their way.
Then we ran into a man who has a small cabin out on the creek. I had met him a few times in the past, but this trip was the first time we really talked. He is close to my age, a real country boy with a strong southern drawl, and big pick up truck.. but he is a man full of surprises, and he loves the land. To him, the swamp is home. The trees, the animals. He offered to show us some good places to camp, and invited us to camp right on his land… We went exploring with him, he had lots of stories and wisdom to share. He talked to us for hours about the seasons, the animals, and he invited us to go canoeing with him. AWESOME.
Anyways, our friends arrived and soon after, the rain began. We all ran to our cars, and took shelter as thunder roared overhead. We hung out in the safety of our cars until the thunderstorm passed.. and once safe, we made a fire. Although it was dark, it was hot outside. We didn’t need a fire to stay warm. But I needed a fire for my spirit. Feeling the energy, I danced around the fire. It was so hot, it was like a sweat lodge!
We sat around the fire, occasionally swatting mosquitoes, talking story, until our eyelids became heavy.
We woke up as the sun was rising and went on a walk… The land, the colors, the sounds, the smells, everything was so beautiful.
Then we went on a very long canoe trip out to a place called Paradise Lake. I saw some of the biggest alligators I have ever seen. And there were a few times, when they were a little too close to the canoe. Heart pounding.. but for the most part, alligators stay away from people.
My spirit felt happy. And as muddy as I was, my body felt cleansed. My Energy light.
The camping trip was completely different from what I had imagined. And even better.