Over the past few months, I have been blessed with opportunities to spend time in the mountains of Western Canada and on the beaches of the Southeastern United States. In between, I have been home in our beautiful valley, enduring episodes of snow, mud, wind and sunshine. My body craves the outdoors, in all it’s caresses and assaults. As the winter winds down and spring engages in it’s usual taunting stop-start, I am auditing and pondering my approach to next year’s winter and season transitions.
I love winter. I love thick sweaters, seeing my breath float out from my face, and making tracks in the deep snow. I am apt to lie down in the middle of an open field of pillow soft whiteness to make an angel. Winter storms beckon me to stand outside as a witness – then sit in front of the fire, under my blue plaid woolen blanket observing mother nature in her warrior mode.
My excitement simmers as I gather turtlenecks and ski sweaters, thermal underwear and freeze proof sunblock to roll up and pack around my ski equipment already lying in the long nylon bag. As we exit the airport, I endure the flat drive into the foothills. The endless factory style ranches of grazing beef cattle, searching for grass under the snow, make me sad. Finally, a turn, and I spy the mountains. I can’t get close enough, fast enough. The sharp angles, snow covered couloirs and forested slopes draw me into a magnetic field. The surge of energy so great, I need the car to slow down – to stop – so I can get out and breathe in the thin, clear air.
That’s what mountain holidays are like for me. On foot, on skis, scrambling on hands and knees, there is a powerful tug to be by them, in them, on them. Upon leaving I vow to return and stay longer.
I hate April. I despise the melting snow, the ricochet temperatures, and the broken promise of soft warm breezes and dry paths. I watch with envy those whose energy blossoms with the magnolia trees. Four years ago, on a walk with a long-time friend I confided to her how I was struggling with feeling blue and listless. Spring isn’t a good time for you – you always feel this way.
This year as April threatened, I packed my shorts, bathing suit, golf clubs and two dogs for a road trip to a seaside community. This would be a three-week April avoidance experiment.
I am installed, with my husband and pups in a condo in a gated community. We are wedged between an aqua pool and a lagoon that threatens gators with big yellow signs to BEWARE. Through the trees and thick pine straw floors I spy manicured fairways, soaring osprey, and white strutting cranes. The beach chachkas and turquoise décor of our rental was initially jarring. The micro bathroom a lesson in acrobatics if you chose to close the door, and the spiral staircase a hazard for creaky knees. Now returning from a bike ride along the endless beach with a stop to swim in the Atlantic, it feels like a comfortable nest.
I nurture an aversion to gated communities – they reek of exclusion and privilege. The insistence on conformity and perfection riles my open spirit. The threat of a $150 fine if I hang my bright blue bathing suit over the balcony railing taunts me to do so. The white-haired lady in the next building has an orange and blue planter on her deck – I wonder if she will be charged with a colour violation. Locating our unit amongst the low-rise identical taupe clusters was impossible for the first three days.
My body and mind are being taxed as I take up golf – playing 18 holes twice a week. As I arrive at the course in my startling flowered long sleeve and spotless white skirt, I am anxious and full of anticipation of my potential. It fades along with the sculling of my first fairway shot. I have a shiny new driver, guaranteed to improve my game, sometimes. The manicured grasses, white sand traps and perfection of the treed architecture convince me I can get comfortable here.
In the mountains I feel awed and energized. In the palm trees and on sand beaches, the wind shuffling the palm fronds and pulling the waves to the shore, I feel suspended and calm. The contrasts feed my mind and soul.
I am now pondering whether this combination of mountains and ocean is the energy balance I need. The yin and the yang of experiences stretch me physically and mentally. At the end of each day, in both arenas, I feel at peace.