“We have a pretty rich life,” I said to Jeff, handing him a plate for dinner.
I had spent about an hour chopping up the vegetables we picked up at the Mexican flea market this weekend. The produce stands there are impressive, packed with varied fruits and veggies that don’t come around in Tennessee. (If you haven’t experienced it, do. Especially if you have no grasp of the Spanish language, which makes things more… interesting.)
Our dinner—wraps with roasted butternut squash topped with black bean and corn salsa—marked one of the first meals I’ve cooked since moving to Miami. I took pleasure in chopping and cleaning the vegetables, something my sister and I used to lovingly do together, with the local college radio station blaring in the warehouse. I was elated to find such a station that I’ve missed since living in Knoxville. New, free music on a college station is priceless.
While I can’t pinpoint exactly what took me so long to pick up cooking, which I love, again, I can say it comes with other self exploration that arrived in the past week or so. It’s a degree of comfort and ease, and getting acquainted with this new place I call home.
The holiday weekend took Jeff, Jill and me to a beautiful overnight in the Keys. Three of us explored Islamorada with a local, another potter and longtime resident whose cozy home is a stone’s throw away from a spectacular beach. It is flanked by private resorts, and while we were visiting I experienced the infamous slowing of time on the Keys.
We watched the moon rise over the still water, and after waking the next day we spent at least two hours walking around in the water, chasing dolphins, spotting various fish and crabs, and watching eight or nine lobsters hanging out in the grasses. That afternoon we floated happily on a sand bar way off shore where the water was only waist deep, and the only regret I had was leaving my cold beer and sunscreen on the beach.
Back in busy, buzzing Miami, I rode my bike solo nearly 14 miles, an unexpected journey, up the M bike path to Miami River, following the separate paved path under the rail lines all the way to Brickell. The ride helped clear my mind and stretch my legs, and my rolling, slow pace took me through different neighborhoods and areas of town. On the way home, I stopped for ice cream at a local spot on the bike path, a recipe that surely helped carry me the last few miles.
Yesterday for Memorial Day, I found myself bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean, in awe of its power and strength. The wind was blowing constantly, resulting in big waves at high tide and clouds of sea weed that piled up on the shore once the tide went out.
The waves and strong current left me squealing and laughing, feeling like I was on a constant treadmill in the water, so small in the great ocean. After swimming just too far out, Anne and Alesha waving for me to come closer, I ended up in a cluster of seaweed. Swimmers around me all pointed to what looked like a blue floating condom. “Watch out!,” they said. Me, thinking that condoms are sadly a mainstay at Miami beaches, noted it and swam away, only later realizing it was not an inflated contraceptive but indeed a spectacularly bright man-o-war, floating on top of the water among the seaweed.
After the tide went out, the breeze subsided and the waves were pleasant again. I waded out to where the water was just below waist deep and jumped wave after wave, getting knocked out by one only to barely get my footing enough to face the next wave, laughing the entire time.
There are few experiences in life that can be compared to swimming alone in the ocean. Even with other swimmers around me, I felt so small and childlike, bouncing in the waves at the mercy of the great ocean, the great earth, in the salty waters of the mother. It’s at once purifying and risky and liberating.
I’m still growing accustomed to the slimy, muddy sand I felt underfoot in the still, warm waters of the Keys. I liked getting to know the little hermit crabs that danced around my feet, and I’m even beginning to be OK with the drifting sea weed that wraps around my legs and body, floating past me in the ocean and leaving me to wonder why it was dredged up and set free. I’m growing accustomed to adjusting my bike journeys off the road and on to the safer bike paths, and to venturing out alone, navigating different quadrants on foot, pedaling or in the car.
Most of all, though, I’m finding the strength to accept, and not judge, where I am, with or without a strong yoga practice on the mat, and going with the flow, whether it brings high tides and strong currents, little lobsters and dolphins in the Keys, or bag after bag of deliciously ripe mangoes and vegetables from the bustling market.
These are the experiences that make me feel rich. These are the experiences that can’t be measured by “time on the mat” or inner calm, but enjoyed with wide eyes and wonder at the mysteries of the world around us.
Richness isn’t only six days a week “success” in a studio, on your yoga mat, or making a certain dollar amount show up on your paycheck each week, which is how I’d been measuring time for a while. It’s in home cooked meals prepared with local foods, trips to the islands with dear friends, swimming in the ocean, or spending a rainy afternoon reading with your partner… these moments help measure life and its precious, rich experiences.