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A life you can savor…


  Yesterday I was feeling overworked and nostalgic for a bit of country living, so I decided to pause and give myself what I was craving. I drove out to Huntsader farms (only a quick 20 minutes up the road) where they currently offer a variety of u-pick produce and everyone says you can get a big bag of tomatoes for only a dollar. When I got there, everything seemed sadly familiar –  the stand was quaint and authentically country like the places I loved in Georgia– and I couldn’t bear to go out to the u-pick fields myself. I decided instead to come back with Neva and David later to enjoy an afternoon in the sun among the growing plants. (A good decision since when I picked up Neva from school her eyebrows shot up and she said, “You did NOT go to u-pick without me…” I assured her I was waiting until we could all go together.)  But since I didn’t want to waste the drive, I picked up tomatoes for only 6.00 a case.
 
 


     In Georgia, I grew my own veggies but if I wanted to make a big batch of canned sauce, I needed to purchase a load of extra tomatoes, so I would go to the flea market and purchase tomatoes that didn’t because the fruit was starting to turn. I was lucky if I got them for 20.00 a box. Here, I can get tomatoes that are fresh, perfect and only 6.00? Wow. I bought two cases.
   I also picked up some onions, squash, beans and cantaloupe. After loading my car, I sipped a bit of cider and walked around enjoying the ambiance. I visited the goats and the barn and thought of both my happy and not so happy memories of Georgia. I ran a hand over a tractor parked on the gravel road, and talked to a kind woman in the store who talked about what produce was going to be available next month.



     I used to visit this farm once a year, on our annual preschool outing for the pumpkin fest. Meanwhile, I pined for our annual trip to Georgia to see fall leaves and enjoy the quaint ambiance of the country. I could have had a taste of country anytime, if I just got in the car and drove a few minutes. I wasted so many years living in this diverse, opportunity laden place while living such a narrow life where all I experienced was work and an occational visit to the mall. For some reason, Mark and I believed we had to leave the region to have fun. We were so short sighted. 



    Today, I spent the morning cooking fresh marinara sauce. I blanched and peeled a case of the tomatoes, and cooked them down with other veggies and spices I gathered, along with more tomatoes, from my own garden. As I chopped and pealed the sauce bubbled. Music blared through the house. I danced and sang as I cooked, hit with a swell of happiness.



    
  
     When I drove away from Georgia on the fateful day I moved back to Sarasota, I was devastated, believing I was leaving all my dreams and everything I loved behind. For two years, I felt so empty I couldn’t imagine a happy life much less muster the energy to pursue one. But one by one, the passions of my life are returning to me, and my dreams seem more real and attainable now than ever before – I was up against impenetrable obstacles back then, even while I had more resources than most people ever have in a lifetime. Now, on the surface it looks as if I have less opportunity to create the life of my design, but the truth is,  I’ve never felt closer to achieving the kind of life I can be proud of and contented with.



     David sent me an e-mail yesterday. He wanted me to see a listing for a ten acre piece of land that is horse and airplane friendly. The lot is situated a short drive from my studio in a community where people have gardens and chickens and pools and many have private planes in hangers – there’s a small runway too. Thanks to the economy having lowered land prices, gorgeous tracks of land like this are available now, close enough to Sarasota to continue working here, yet remarkably affordable for anyone willing to drive a bit. Some of these lots have older houses on them that we could remodel, or we could buy land only and build a Zen-sort of house ourselves (if I can get past my panic at the idea of letting the man I love ever build a house again.)


  


    David said, “We might really be ready to try for something like this in about a year if we stay on track with our life recovery plan (we are both working like dogs to build a life and make up for huge setbacks due to our past mistakes, and slowly our hard work is moving us the right direction.) “But you would have to be OK with the twenty minute drive.”



    Are you kidding, I thought. In Georgia I drove 45 minutes a day just to get milk or take my daughter to school. It took an entire day to go to Atlanta if I wanted to be exposed to culture or professional services….  Things cost more, and there were very few options for work or embellishing a life. A twenty minutes trek to live in a personal paradise where I could raise with bees and have a wine cellar for homemade wine, and keep chickens and maybe even a horse or two, and where David can have a workshop and together we can work, him at a job and me running a business with serious potential, and perhaps have a project boat for the occational weekend on the water – all in a place where we can enjoy the culture and enrichment of a sophisticated town as well, is too good to be true.



    I stood in my kitchen happily squeezing the juice out of my tomatoes thinking that I’ve spent more time in canoes and kayaks enjoying nature in the last two months here in Florida than my entire 5 years in Georgia – I enjoyed taking classes in folk crafts at the Campbell school there, but classes like that had been available here all along – I just never ventured out of my narrow existence to partake. Since returning to Florida I’ve discovered classes in art and craft subjects at the local college, in art galleries, in speciality pottery and bead stgores and in art centers. I’m signed up for a drawing class this summer (to help me with art journaling) and Neva and I are thinking of taking a language class together this summer too. Neva signed up for a cupcake making class at the Publix cooking school recently.  I’ve stumbled upon beading, boating, literature and pottery classes, writing groups and horseback riding, running and scuba clubs. My list of “gonna do one of these days when I carve out the time”, is growing.  I have an amazing library for when I need to do research, wholefoods or the farmer’s market for stocking up on organic fare, art festivals and live music, and beaches and quaint shops down by the shore for entertainment. I have museums, movies and concerts and an airport only a five minute drive away. The only thing I’m missing from my former life is the Georgia mud. And what’s most important is now I appreciate the wealth of opportunity and paths to personal growth that are all around me now.  Nature abounds… you just have to drive past the mall to one of the national parks nearby, or to the florida country farms, or to the seashore, or the swamps…..



    When I lived here before, I thought Sarasota was primarily shopping, restaurants and concrete. I thought the people were demanding and stressed and had their priorities out of order. Georgia seemed a beacon of peace –  but rather than retiring in the quiet, happy world I expected, what I landed in was a place of ignorance, lonliness, and more stress, disappointment and loss than I ever had to deal with here.
   My Georgia adventure taught me that that what we feel inwardly is simply a reflection of what we project outwardly. People in Sarasota didn’t have priorities out of line as we supposed  – Mark and I simply lived a life out of balance and we projected our discontent on others. We missed out on all the beauty and opportunity of Sarasota because we were too set in a narrow grove of habit to embrace the joys, entertainment and discovery that was right before us. We ran off to Disney or drove to Georgia seeking relief from our problems, when all along what needed to change was our own attitude and perception of the world. Ah well, I have a new perspective now, and thanks to that, life here is different this time around.  


 


  A few minutes ago, I went out and checked my lovebirds to see if the eggs have hatched. My curious, beloved dog wagged his tail at my feet and I smiled thinking that animal adventures come in all sizes.


I walked out to my garden to get some parsley and basil for my sauce and checked the blooms on my pepper plants, eager to see the promise a new crop. I took the remains of cut up veggies to my huge smoldering compost heap out back and tapped the oriental chimes in the trees to cause them to softly fill the air with music. Then, I came inside to check my e-mail to find a message from the editor of a local magazine who is running an article I wrote that will be published next month.. I looked to see if I’d gotten a response from the agent who requested my book – sigh, not yet – but hey, I’m writing again, enjoying what for me is an artistic outlet that gives life clarity. I also read a message from a writing student who is throwing a party this weekend to celebrate the book he wrote (inspired from essays he wrote in my class) that he just self-published. While my sauce is cooking, I will spend some time reading his manuscript so I can fully appreciate his celebration on Sunday.  Tonight, my daughter is having a friend over, a child I consider a wonderful influence because when they are together they always make cupcakes or cards rather than holing up in a room on a computer….. We will all go to the dollar movie theater and have a great night out for only 10 bucks- proving that life here is economically better, as well filled with opportunity to be productive and/or give back to others.
   Tomorrow, at work, I’m scheduled to interview two people interested in yoga teacher training this summer. I will start the day with yoga then I will teach dance to students I love. In between I’ll laugh with my staff, a group of positive, talented and committed individuals who appreciate and value me as their “fearless leader”. Oh how I missed the down to earth kidding of my dance peeps going crazy at recital time.



   
    Today I’m thinking of how rich my life is. I have a lovely home that reflects my personality, a very happy, well-adjusted child I can hug at will, and a business that is growing roots, building, providing me with the opportunity to do what I love. Every day I meet amazing people.   I am healthier than I’ve been in years – emotionally and physically. I am loved and appreciated by an amazing man who shares my life values, work ethic, personal interests, and long term vision for a life of substance. He is a true partner, sharing in the work, decisions, and efforts required to make our life unfold in the best of ways. We will spend the weekend balancing work and friends. We will eat homemade sauce for dinner and talk about how lovely it is to eat organic food grown in our own garden. He’ll share what happened in his work day, and I’ll talk about making sauce and the great call I had from my son.  Perhaps my birds will hatch. Perhaps that agent will write. Perhaps I’ll win the lottery. Ha. Perhaps I already have.  




     There is a Buddhist saying – you must lose everything to gain the world.


   
    A year ago, I kept reading that over and over, certain it couldn’t possibly be true for me. The devastation I felt over the loss of my family and the life I anticipated and worked for for years and years, but never reached, was more than I could bear.



    Now, I feel differently. All of life is perspective and the juxtaposition of my former life, with all its drama and dissapointment, next to my life now, which may not be easy, but is loving and filled with hope and respect and small pleasures, reminds me that finding happiness requires a person to be pro-active. It isn’t about chasing the things that you assume will make you happy “if only…” Happiness doesn’t come “later” when all your ducks are in a row. Happiness is being wise enough to recognize the things that truly make a person happy are all around you and if you can’t embrace them now, you never will. Our job, each and every one of us, is to honor and celebrate the subtle gifts that life bestows.  

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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