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Just a Nice Day

The ocean has always been soothing to me. Somehow the surf, the salt spray, the pelicans skimming the blueness, gulls torpedoing in for dinner, the grit in my toes, the abundance invisible beneath the surface, the sheer, vast, power of the sea call me home to myself. I crave, no I need, the sea and seek out beaches as I travel.

On Newport Beach after a long day with a client, my brain boiled with questions and worries. I walked slowly, my head down. As each wave curled over the sand and snuck back into the sea, sandpipers skittered at the edge of the foam and little bubbles popped on the wet sand. The bubbles are the trail of live seashells burrowing back into the cool, moist sand to avoid being washed out to sea or drying out on the surface. Maybe they are also frantically avoiding the long beaks of the sandpipers.

I paused, the frigid Pacific bathing my feet as my shoulders sought the sun’s warmth. The boiling questions about my dwindling retirement account, the desert dry business climate, family agonies, and my own future slowed a little, just enough for my poetic mind to fire. “There’s got to be some big, hairy, philosophical meaning here. Some spiritual lesson I’m supposed to learn.” I took a deep breath.

Maybe I could talk about how each of us needs the dark, moist times of our lives to grow. Or maybe I could dig into the idea of cycles and circles, rhythms and flows, fear and safety. Analogies and clichés even the tired old “bury your head in the sand” floated in my mind. I pondered but no one theme stood out. I almost gave up and gave into frustration. I started to walk again, then I got it. There is no overarching spiritual meaning, no philosophical analogy to be found, no deep human lessons, at least not that day. The meaning is simply the sun warming my skin, the sea critters doing what they do every moment, the sea rolling and crashing on the beach, the gulls and pelicans hunting. The meaning is that, sometimes, it’s just a nice day.

I smiled and kept walking.

In Seward, Alaska, the campgrounds were all full which was just as well. Seward’s city campgrounds are bumper-to-bumper RV sites and nylon-to-nylon tent sites. I prefer more space. But I was crabby as I drove out of town, I’d been driving all day and was past ready to stop.

While pumping gas, I mentioned my camping dilemma to the guy behind the counter. He nodded, thumbing toward a beat up pick-up truck camper, “I’ve been on the road for seventeen years. Just drive up Exit Glacier Road. You’ll find a spot. Forest Service land has lots of turn out to camp in.” “Thanks,” I told him. As I walked away he called out, “Hey, camp at the first turn out before the campground. You can live in those privies they’re so clean!”

I took his advice, and joined three RVs and an SUV on the concrete turn out. The privies were clean—but not that clean! Before I left Homer, I’d rearranged the stuff in my car so I could sleep in the back if I did not want to pitch my tent. It seemed easy enough. All I had to do was pull some stuff from the back, load it onto the front seats, squish the sleeping pad in next to Keesha’s dog bed, roll out my sleeping bag and crawl in. It all worked just fine except the crawl in part. I had to be a contortionist to get in the side door all hunched over and thread my way into my sleeping bag. Once in, I dropped quickly into sleep, Keesha’s slow breathing softly lulling me into my dreams.

The next morning I woke to steamed-up windows and fog covered mountains. I pried myself out of the sleeping bag and uncurled to stand on the blacktop turn out. One by one, the RVs left. Soon only Keesha and I were left to watch the sun’s fingers caress the fog off the face of the glacier, brushing the white face with gold. I perched on the curb, hot tea in hand and laughed. Here I was sitting on concrete, cooking my breakfast on blacktop having just slept in my car and I couldn’t be more joyful!

My heart danced with the sun, holding hands with the glacier and I burst with a feeling a freedom. “I am free,” I shouted to the glacier. “I am free,” I called to the raven. “I am free,” I grinned at Keesha who grinned back and said, “Yes you are!” in her special canine language.

In this crazy economic time we live in, it’s helpful to remember that freedom and joy exist within us and are not dependent on the fancy trappings of life—large houses, fancy cars, designer jeans, a five star hotel vacation. You’ll have your own ways, but here’s a few ideas:

•    Sit in your own backyard and do nothing
•    Lift your face to the warming spring sun
•    Catch the joy of a puppy rolling in the last snow pile
•    Sip something warm and breathe
•    Walk slowly and notice the birds
•    Say hello to your neighbors
•    Be grateful for your life no matter what is happening—your life is still precious

Sometime during the holiday season, you’ll probably hear a song from the movie The Sound of Music. “I simply remember my favorite things….” I love that movie! But it’s not the lyrics of a song from the movie that stand out. Rather it’s a piece of dialog from the scene where Maria is talking with Mother Superior about going back to the Von Trapp’s home after running back to the convent to escape her feelings of love for the captain. The Reverand Mother tells Maria as she sends her back, “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.”

That line pops like a refrain into my mind often these days as I navigate this wobbly economy and watch others try their best to stay on track with life. Many doors slammed closed for many people as investment accounts shrink, jobs disappear, and industries teeter on the brink of extinction. The doors of my consulting practice developing learning programs and helping companies manage change slammed shut time and time again in recent months. But I continued to rush to the next door or knock on all the old doors again only to find them tightly shut.

Then I thought about Maria and the Reverend Mother from The Sound of Music and started wondering, “If all my doors are closed, then where are the open windows?” I asked myself questions designed to help me find some windows.

  • What do I love to do?
  • What gives meaning to my life?
  • What skills do I have to offer?
  • What can I give others?
  • What am I interested in?

My answers led me to start this blog and to create workshops and tools to guide people through this crazy time, a time full of change, a time when we need to learn new ways to work, a time when we need inspiration to keep us going, and a time when sometimes, all we need is someone to listen as we sort it all out.

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