GREETINGS FROM KESWICK RIDGE

It’s a silvery wintery morning here on the Ridge. The trees are cloaked in icy lace and snowflakes, and a soft frost hovers gently over the St. John river. Flocks of sparrows, chickadees and doves have just begun to enjoy a break of dawn Christmas feast at our feeders. Dogs are contentedly snoring beside me . . . and the coffee tastes really good this morning.

As I sit here surveying all that my husband and I have built in the past few years and thinking about the richness of my life as it is now, I am awash with gratitude. I feel appreciation not only for what is, but also for what was. Without what was there could be no appreciation of what is.

A few years ago my husband Mark and I went to the Dominican Republic on vacation. We have a lawn care business and work really sweaty hard during the summer months. We look forward to a warm tropical vacation in the winter . . . we love just relaxing on the beach . . . sunning our buns, reading books with little or no literary substance, and chillin’ with a tall glass of fresh juice spiked generously with rum.

And we love to kayak. For those of you who haven’t tried it, grab a paddle and shove off! It is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences you will ever have . . . unless, that is, you decide to take on the ocean waves in a kayak that you sit on and not in.

There are two types, and one is like a canoe (sit in) and the other is more like a molded plastic surfboard (sit on). Our resort had the sit on types. We weren’t used to those, but being experienced kayakers we thought what the heck? We grabbed our paddles with enthusiasm.

We were used to river kayaking . . . traversing the waves and currents you would find on the Little Sou’ West Miramichi and the St. John rivers . . . and we had kayaked in the harbor around Grand Manan and Whitehead Island, but had never boated on the open ocean.

Sometimes the waves of the Carribean caress the beach in a soft rhythm that can lull sunbathers to sleep . . . other times they crash with their own feral enthusiasm . . . and this was one of those latter days.

Once we were out past the breaking waves we thought we had a “feel” for this new kind of boat, as well as for the ocean waves, and so we began paddling out farther, to where the most intrepid swimmers ventured and the speed boats cruised. The swells there were much gentler.

As we went out farther and farther I began feeling a bit uneasy . . . man, the water was deep . . . and it took me back to Newcastle, New Brunswick . . . to a dark Uptown Theatre in 1976 with the opening notes from Jaws still ringing in my ears . . .

Yeah. I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to deep water, and even though tropical water is way too warm for Great Whites, there are lots of other kinds of sharks, right?

What if one wanted to take a sun and fun vacation and decided to go all Megaladon on Paula’s ass . . .???? And gobble me up, plastic surfboard and all?

Sooooooo we went in closer to shore . . . where I could see the nice white sandy bottom.

Safer, eh? Well, that depends a lot on a person’s perspective. The waves are stronger in there and so, of course, we got sideways a few times and upended. Our slippery little boats ALMOST got away from us more than once . . . which would not have been cool . . . but nobody was looking, at least nobody we could see laughing when we got back on the boats, dug the salt water out of our eyes and scanned the beach.

After an hour we decided we were done. It was getting close to our second dinner anyway (Yep. On vacation you can have as many dinners in a row as you like and nobody even looks at you funny! And with an all-inclusive vacation it is already paid for . . . Bonus!) so we headed back to shore.

The guys that give you the boats don’t generally tell you what it can be like coming back in from your tropical kayak adventure . . . they just flash their super white teeth and tell you to have a great time.

They don’t say how the waves can all at once get super strong and take the feet out from underneath you and wash you wayyyy up onto the beach like pieces of driftwood, and when you struggle to get to your feet . . . hit you again and again . . . rolling you over and over and over, filling every crack and crevice with lovely powdery white sand . . . stealing all of your coolness and what you salvaged of your dignity after going “arse over kettle” as you fell off the kayaks out on the water . . . and how these rogue waves can wash you up at the feet of other much cooler sunbathers as they lay, dry and dignified, on their beach chairs observing your plight with extreme amusement . . .

Mark and I laid there in the middle of the sand and seaweed and laughed till we were too weak to get up. Eventually we did, and retrieved the boats (or someone corralled them for us, I don’t remember) and once we dried off and desanded . . . we did enjoy a really nice second dinner.

Okay for my point . . . even as I remember that time with fondness (and maybe a pinch of embarrassment) and am chuckling here as I recount this silly story . . . I know it is now just a memory.

I would have preferred to stay cool and be the one in control of my boat. I would have preferred to stay dry and look like an athlete pulling up out of the waves, lithely jumping off the boat and sauntering with ease by the amazed onlookers who I just knew would be thinking, “What a cool chick! I wanna be just like her!”

Life is not like that, is it? Sometimes it is great and we can maintain the level of coolness and control that we feel we deserve.

The problem is that when we feel we deserve something, anything that is not “it” sucks in comparison to it. And unlike this silly story, sometimes that suckiness can be brutal and can last for what seems like a long, long time.

Circumstances sometimes have a way, like a rogue wave, of taking the feet out from underneath you. Sometimes the only thing that is worthwhile learning from an experience is that it will eventually be over.

I, like most folks, love Christmastime . . . I love the food, the soft lights, the old tyme Christmas music and love sharing feelings of peace on earth and good will to all women and men with everyone I meet! I love snow on the trees and a fire in the hearth.

However, with some Christmas’ past it was not as easy to feel that love . . .

For some folks the holidays come around all too soon . . . they dread them because it is when they desperately miss loved ones who have passed away or are far away . . . and they feel the most alone. They feel the pressure to spend money they don’t have and as a result, feel the most financially insecure. Some feel lonely due to relationship conflicts and feel the most stressed . . . and more hopeless during these particular holidays than at any other time of the year.

They certainly don’t feel the peace and joy of the season that others wish for them. Sometimes those words just feels like words.

Been there, done that. And the most important thing that I have learned in the past few years, and possibly in my life so far . . . is that this day is just another day. It only has the power to bring you misery if you decide it is more valuable than any other. Realistically, it bears no more pain that the day before or the day after.

What do you think? It is all a matter of choice.

Eventually everything changes, and this day, like all the rest of them, for better or for worse, will become simply another memory.

As long as you are still kickin’ there is life in the ole chassis and there will be another day . . . and a new year is emerging, ripe with promise and opportunity.

Perhaps next year you will be, like me, thinking that the not so good times are now the servants of the really great ones, as they serve to highlight them.

And you may not laugh at the memory, but you may be able to generate a wry smile of triumph, ‘cause you made it!

You know, probably nobody on the beach that day Mark and I were rolling around in such an undignified manner even remembers the incident. And even if I were to find them and mention it, they may not remember. It would merely be a funny story told by a stranger. It was what it was, and it does not matter, except what I chose to learn from it.

Rogue waves come and rogue waves go. I hope I gave the cool kids on the beach that day, and maybe even you on this Christmas Day, a reason to smile.

Sending you all the love that is in my heart this Christmas Day 🙂

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Published by Paula D. Tozer

I am a writer, poet and singer/songwriter. I am a Toastmaster, motivational speaker, personal creativity coach, and workshop leader. My most sincere wish is to share my words with others, and that we both benefit from the exchange.

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