Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blessings in the Midst of Change

Hello again lovelies! Do you ever find that exponential change in one area of life creates like change in other aspects as well? It seems that's where I'm living lately. In the space of a handful of months, I've lost my mom, my firstborn is leaving the nest and I've become a working girl again. The scope of my job is changing rapidly, keeping pace with all the other aspects. This strange time of life is frightening, unsettling, exhilarating. I keep my eyes wide open for the many blessings bursting forth all around me in the midst of this chaotic growth period. There. I'll let that serve as an explanation/excuse for my meager postings of late.

Some of my beautiful blessings:

 Here are my wonderful kids at the Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot Center a couple of weeks ago. Epcot was on the way to Port Canaveral where we boarded the "Freedom of the Seas" (Royal Caribbean). Because we had such a wonderful cruise aboard the "Serenade of the Seas"with my parents, my brother and his family last summer, we decided to do it again. This time it was just the four of us since, without Mom, Dad is not ready to pay for the double occupancy stateroom for just himself. That's what he says, but I think he is really not yet ready for all the cruising memories. He and my Mom cruised a lot. We are hoping to get Dad back into it again when he is ready. This summer, Dad decided to vacation with my brother's family in Phuket. Dad will stay on in China, where they live, a couple more weeks.

Here's my little rock star in front of about a third of the ship as we were about to board.

The ship is huge. This is a shot of the Promenade, which is really a shopping and restaurant mall in the middle of the vessel.

Like last summer, there were so many bountiful choices for a vegan. I've no idea why I took no photos of the food this year. It was beautiful and delicious. I even had miso soup for breakfast! I usually had a gorgeous salad for lunch, overflowing with beans, seeds or lentils. There were whole grains and curries, vegetables prepared in salads with luscious (non-dairy) sauces or simply sauteed. I enjoyed strawberry kiwi water and mango water with my meals.

The cruise was such a wonderful experience and we met so many interesting people, with whom we are still in touch. We were speaking with one of our favorite bartenders about my parents and showed him their photo from our cruise last year and he remembered them from several years ago when they cruised on the very same ship!

There were many talented performers aboard. A highlight was an amazing ice skating show (yes - there is an ice rink on the boat!) We had a favorite bar for before dinner drinks where we listened to live music and watched people dancing, and making their way to dinner. This was especially nice on the formal nights. There seems to be a little more magic in the air when folks feel they look their best.

Speaking of magic, one of our favorite spots onboard the ship was the outer 4th deck, under the shade of the lifeboats. Lounge chairs were put to good use on this quiet, all-but-deserted, broad deck, overlooking the passage of the deep blue sea. Once, I was all alone down there with the daily sodoku puzzle, and I realized that Mom was doing it with me. I know it sounds crazy, but I actually have no doubt. The process was effortless and I was filled with joy, not grief. After completing the puzzle in a flash, I pulled out the one from the day before, which I had given up on since I had become hopelessly stuck. Sure enough, zip zip zip, Mom made short work of that one as well. Thanks Mom! It is incredible how healing that moment was for me.

More blessings -- a miracle, really. As we approached St Thomas early in the morning, I was lucky enough to wake and step out upon the balcony to see the first few rays of sun.

It rose quickly and dramatically -- what a show, from the comfort of our room!

The whole sunrise took about five minutes, then clouds rolled in, and we witnessed this little rainstorm:

The unobstructed view of life at sea provides such an amazing theater for nature's stunning power. The photos are pretty, but they don't do justice to the majesty of those fleeting moments. The rain was over as quickly as the sunrise.

My favorite island is St. John, I think. We docked at St. Thomas, another beautiful place, but, after a few hours exploring there, we took a ferry to St. John, since we had already experienced St. Thomas last year. The ferry boat ride was an adventure of its own, as we crashed over swells and huge wakes from other vessels -- so much fun! Our time on St. John was limited, but we made the most of it. we asked some locals how to get to some of the more beautiful beaches, and we were directed to a rocky trail up a mountain. The most amazing thing happened. We were all hot, tired, our feet hurt and we had no idea where we were going or how long it would take, but nobody complained. There were silly jokes and surprises along the way. We encountered five deer at different points along the trail, and a couple of large, wild mules  who were quite daunting for a few minutes as we had to decide to pass near them or turn back. We nervously skirted past them as they gave us the evil eye. We saw iridescent pheasants in the underbrush, wild chickens with their babies, many large iguanas and even a mongoose! After an hour of hard work we arrived here, which might just be my favorite place on earth:

Honeymoon Beach, St. John! We quickly shed our shoes and stinky outer clothing, hanging them from the branches of these trees to air out, and then we sank into the deliciously cool, clean water. Ahhh! This beach can only be reached by boat or by hiking. We lingered for an hour, swimming and snorkeling. A stingray harmlessly brushed our feet and fish of all sizes and colors were fearlessly sharing the pristine water with us. Since we were unsure how long it would take to get back, we headed out after we were fully refreshed. There were not many humans here, but we asked the folks we did see about what would happen if we took the trail in the opposite direction from how we had come. We were told we would come upon a resort at Caneel Bay where we could probably catch a taxi to the harbor. So we took it. This last hike was easier, mostly downhill, and took only about 20 minutes. we found the resort, built on the ruins of the stone buildings of a sugar mill, and got our ride back to the boat in the nick of time. We were all so proud of ourselves for stepping outside our comfort zones and reaping the rewards of our efforts.

Blessings -- grateful!

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