Saturday, March 31, 2018

Skaftafell / Vatnajökull National Park: Day 4

The silence amidst the vast open space is one of the things that moves me the most.

Snow is falling.  Tiny, perfectly shaped crystals.  They catch in Jen's hair like little stars, and I smile.

I can't stop looking around me.  The ice stretches infinitely on all sides.  Black mountains covered in delicate white; creeks tumble over dark rocks.  We step nimbly over them with our crampons, and continue the hike.  The dark grit of volcanic soil crunches under our feet and under the snow.  In the far distance, bright blue ice glows from beneath the layer of fresh snow.

It's another world.

We are on a glacier and ice cave hike with a guide.  For the next two and a half hours, we are in this remote, inaccessible area, with only our crampons, helmets, and a guide to keep us safe.  The footpaths meander up and down the glacier, snaking their way slowly to our target destination - a naturally formed ice cave.  This cave was formed by water running through the glacier, and the location of each "cave" is different every year.

It was truly mesmerizing to be inside a glacier.  I ran my hands along the smooth, packed "cave" walls, looking at all the little bubbles and particles embedded in the ancient ice.

Eventually, we come out of the cave, and continue our hike to see different features of the glacier, occasionally stopping for photos.  A thought that's been in my head for the past few days came to mind again as I looked at everyone taking constant photos.  I've been wondering what vacation places looked like, before the proliferation of cameras and cell phones.  Did people just... look around them?  I guess I'm showing my relatively young age with that question, even though I'm in that in-between generation that had a childhood and adolescence without technology.

Of course, I take photos too.  But I actively try and breathe in these experiences.  Slow down my pace, and just look around me.  Memorize not just what it looks like, but what it FEELS like - the photos can't do that for me.  This inner stillness; this hypnotic feeling from the vast emptiness around me.  The glaciers are imperceptibly moving, just liked the tectonic plates in Thingvellier, just like the imperceptible but very real growing and aging of every person, every plant, every animal. 

This landscape is not frozen and barren; the silence is alive, moving, rich and full.  Perhaps that is part of what is so hypnotic about it.

We eventually leave the glacier and make the hike back to where the 4x4 bus is waiting to pick us up and take us back to our cars.  We make ourselves a mocha in the back of the campervan, and warm up while we reflect on our adventure.

After resting for a short while, we decided to hike to one of the other main attractions in the park, Svartifoss (if you haven't figured it out by now, "foss" means waterfall).  The signs promised us an "easy" hike of about 35-40 minutes each way, but we soon figured out that Icelandic of "easy" means "up a never-ending steep ascent for almost an hour".  Perhaps it was our morning-long excursion on the glacier, but the hike to Svartifoss took a lot out of us and we went slower than our usual pace.

Finally, though, we reached the waterfall - and it was all worth it.

Svartifoss tumbles over an incredible backdrop of basalt columns, similar to the ones on the black
sand beach near Vik.  Even though there are some people at the base of the falls, it's nowhere near the number of tourists at places along the Golden Circle, so I am content.  I climb over a few rocks in the creek and have a seat on a large boulder, and just sit and watch the falls.  I close my eyes for a moment just to focus on the sound of falling water.  I open them again and stare at the crashing water, the other-worldly columns, and the small shelter of ice that has grown behind the falls.  I feel exhausted but fulfilled.  The snowflakes are gently falling on my cheeks and hair, and I turn my face up to the sun, closing my eyes again.  This is happiness.

Friday, March 30, 2018

South Iceland: Day 3

Our first campsite - Seljalandsfoss in the distance
After spending our first night in our campervan and falling asleep to the sound of waterfalls, we woke early, had a quick breakfast, and walked down the road to visit Seljalandsfoss again.

This time, we were prepared - rain paints, raincoat over the wintercoat, camera tucked safely in a drybag, with a water-protective sleeve for it when we did take it out, and a waterproof case on our phone.  This time we could immerse ourselves in the cold mist with abandon, and we spent a good deal of time at the back of the falls, just looking out at the stunning view.

The opening to get
to the waterfall
After that visit, we hiked along a trail that went alongside the mountain and several other waterfalls.  When we got to the end of the trail, we noticed people entering a crack in the mountain, and could hear the sound of a waterfall inside.  Not ones to pass up adventure, we made our way gingerly over the river rocks, gripping the grainy cold and wet rocky walls, trying not to fall into the creek.  At one point I lost my balance due to so many people going in and out around me, but a friendly stranger gave me his hand and I quickly leapt over several rocks with his momentum.  Finally, we were inside.

The waterfall inside the cave

The falls poured out from a hole in the mountain high above us.  We stared up into that opening of blinding light and watched the incredible power of the water pour down and violently crash into the pool and rocks below.

The roar tuned out all other sounds, and the mist was frigid as it coated my hair, face, and hands.  I closed my eyes and relished all of it - this being alive, these visceral, most basic of feelings - cold.  But no desire for warmth.  Wet.  But no desire for dryness.  All I could feel was the moment I was in, and I tried to memorize every sensation.

Reluctantly (isn't that always the way?) we left the cave, carefully making our way back out over the rocks in the stream.  After that experience, we thought what better place to go to next than Iceland's oldest swimming pool?  The pool isn't exactly on the beaten path, and many tourists pass right by it (though it is becoming more well known in recent years due to the tourism increase).  We drove down a very rough, rocky road for several kilometres and then parked near the end of it.  From there, we hiked in a beautiful valley nestled in moss-covered, snow-capped mountains.  Even though we weren't the only ones there, the experience was one of breath-taking solitude.  There was no pool to be seen - where could this mysterious thing be hidden?

If you weren't already aware, Iceland has a huge pool culture, due largely to all the geothermal activity in the country.  Almost every small town has a local pool with water and heat that is sourced from natural hot springs.  The one we were looking for also fit this description.  After about a twenty minute hike, we finally saw the pool as we came around a corner.  There it was, as promised - Seljavallalaug.

The hike to the hidden pool
There were a few others in the water, but it was decidedly less crowded than anywhere we had been thus far.  There were change rooms, but sadly tourists have left much trash in them, so we gingerly changed as quickly as we could (thankfully there were plenty of hooks to hang everything on - ever tried getting out of a winter jacket, multiple layers of winter clothing, and into a bathing suit?  Not an easy task!)

Swimming in the mountains
Leaving our things by the side of the pool, we slid into the warm water.  There's really no words to describe the experience.  It was magical, bizarre, wonderful, strange, and very Icelandic - to be swimming in a pool filled with water from a hot spring, nestled in the mountains in the middle of nowhere - truly an experience not many can say they've had (or even knew was out there to have!)

We swam around for a while, just relaxing and enjoying the view, before heading on our way once again.

The next stop was Skogafoss.  Iceland has waterfalls everywhere, and each one of them is unique.  This one, like Seljalandsfoss, sprayed mist on us as we approached (we were again prepared with all our gear), and had a perfect arch of a rainbow at the bottom of it.

There was a set of stairs that led to the top of the falls, and of course we couldn't resist, so we started the long hike up 428 steps.  The view from the top was definitely worth it.  Not just the views of the fall itself, but also further down the trail.  There was another equally as stunning waterfall, flowing through the canyon over mossy rocks, tucking its way under stone arches and over small boulders.

Waterfall further down the trail from
the top of Skogafoss
It occurred to me at this moment that we were taking in so much, so fast.  I needed to let some of this sink in.  Breath in the crisp air.  Let my eyes wander over the landscape.  Feel the size of the mountains all around me.  This is what I want to remember, these small moments.  There were a couple of photographers at the top of the falls, further down the trail near us.  I looked down at the river in the canyon below us and was startled by a strikingly coloured black-and-white water fowl of some sort.  I watched in amazement as this zebra-like bird swam around and periodically dove under water with a splash.  Later I'll look it up in the bird book I was lent, but for the moment I just stood and watched, smiling down at this amazing little apparition.

Jen, above Skogafoss

Black sand
The afternoon was winding down, but we still had one more place we wanted to get to - the famous black-sand beaches near Vik.  It's amazing how quickly the mind adapts to something that initially seems incredibly strange.  My mind expects the sand at beaches to be yellow, or white, or brown, or some combination of those, but here the sand was stark black.

We walked around on the beach, letting ourselves slow down and wander; explore.  The sound of the surf, and the contrast of the white foam against the black sand was incredible.  We of course couldn't resist the urge to climb the basalt columns and take a few photos, but then we went around the corner of the columns and continued walking down the shore, away from the crowds of people.  We marvelled at the parts of the columns that the ocean had carved out, forming caves near the shore. In the distance, Reynisdrangar kept watch over us, and we sat on the rocks and looked out at the crashing waves on the dark sand, dreaming of trolls and elves and of ancient times.

Our campervan at a pit stop in Vik
We made one last stop in Vik to fill up the campervan with fuel before heading to our campsite for the night, which was still an hour away.  The drive there was an eerie, long stretch of road that made us feel like we were in the middle of nowhere, or on another planet.  Black sand and soil stretched out endlessly on either side of us, with the occasional stream cutting through.  After several kilometres of this, the scenery changed to flat, dry grasses; and then again, to strange green hills haphazardly strewn about in fields of green - again, nothing else as far as the eye could see.

After a while of this alternating scenery, there was yet another change - piles and piles of boulders and rocks, all piled on each other in strange, random formations, and covered in thick layers of soft green moss.  There was eventually a pull-out point, and I hopped out of the van just to immerse myself in it.  The silence was incredible - no other cars on the road, just me and the strangely infinite fields of boulders and moss strewn about.

The camera can't really capture my lived experience.

I felt as if I were in another world, somehow outside of time.  There was no evidence of people here.  No sound.  No animals.  No trees or large plants.  Just complete silence.

I'm starting to really feel the magic of Iceland.  It is not simply a place of stunning beauty, though there's that, too.  There's something eerily captivating about these places that feel like they are completely nowhere, and yet finding ourselves there.  I don't know what it is.  I just knew that I felt I could drive down those roads forever.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Golden Circle: Day 2

The Golden Circle is an area of Iceland that is full of some of the best geological features Iceland has to offer.
Driving out of Reykjavik immediately sent us into those mountains that had been calling us - the entire drive was snow-covered mountains and endless horizons. Every place that had a safe pull-over, we stopped. Sometimes to take photos; other times, just to sit in the silence.

Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park was our first target of the day. This park is full of geological and historical significance. It is perhaps best known for being in a rift valley that marks the division between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. You can literally see two continents at once! Iceland is, in fact, breaking apart, at the rate of 2cm per year. It was fascinating to stand there, at the edge of this great rift, and imagine what it would be like hundreds and thousands of years from now... two islands instead of one, and a great ocean in between them.
Þingvellir is also the site of Iceland's first parliament in the year 930, and we got to see the "law rock" as well as the remnants of one of the "booth" shelters that the lawmakers used to stay in when they assembled.
After exploring the area a little more, we got back on the road and made a stop at a point that was supposed to be where you could hop from the Eurasian plate to the North American one. After walking down a short trail to the area, we could see both plates, but declined to walk in or on them, as we could see the sensitive lichens and mosses had already suffered too much from the footsteps of overly-curious tourists who had ignored the "no walking" signs, so we simply looked, took photos, and made our way back to the van.

Our transportation - and our home for the next 2 weeks

The next stop was Geysir. We had seen a geyser before, in New Zealand, but this is The Great Geysir. It was the very first one to be documented in print, and the first one known to modern Europeans. We walked past the familiar bubbling pools and steaming vents in the ground, amazed by the number of them in this small area. We made our way over to where a ring of people was gathered around Geysir, which erupts quite frequently (every 5-7 minutes). We stood with the others and waited a few minutes as it steamed and the wind blew the mist in all directions. I looked away for a brief second, but then heard the sound of water erupting and quickly looked back – the geyser had erupted! It was a short-lived burst of water high up into the sky, and then nothing – back to simple mist again.
Since it erupted so frequently, we stayed back and watched it go up again several more times. It never ceased to completely startle me, and I'm fairly certain I gasped in wonder each time the water spurted upwards, without any warning whatsoever. After wandering around a bit more and looking at the other bubbling and steaming pools, we came back to Geysir for one last one, but stood on the closer side of it this time. From here, we could watch the center of it a little more closely and see that there were indeed subtle warnings, like more bubbles appearing, and the water overflowing slightly over a round ridge in the center. But still, I wasn't prepared for the bright blue to spill over within a split second and the water to shoot up so high in the sky – right above us! We could feel the warmth in the air, and then all the little droplets of water and steam looked like they were going to come down on us. I took several steps back, but quickly realized that the boiling hot water evaporated just before it reached me down on the ground. There are some crazy things in nature, and I'm pretty sure that for me, boiling hot water exploding out of the ground at semi-predictable intervals is up on high on that list.
We reluctantly walked back to the van and headed to our next target – Gullfoss Falls. These impressive set of waterfalls rival the power of Niagara, and are incredible to be close to. We were able to view them from many different angles, and spent some time walking around all the various viewing platforms. My favourite place to watch the crashing power of that water was at the second lowest level (the lowest was closed), where a near-perfect rainbow is almost always waiting above the falls. Even though Gullfoss is quite impressive, I almost enjoyed the smaller, but equally as impressive Faxafoss, further along the Golden Circle. This lesser-known falls attracts much less tourist attention, and I liked being able to take it in with relative peace and quiet, and away from all the crowds of Gullfoss.
It was a busy day for us, and we continued the gorgeous drive down to Kerið Crater for a hike around the whole rim, and then a walk down the crater to the lake. This beautifully preserved crater has fantastic colours during the summer months. Today it was frozen, but still faintly blue through the ice, stark, wild, and beautiful. Well worth the visit, even in winter.
Kerid Crater
Finally it was time to decide where we would camp for the night. The options in Iceland are much more limited than what we had in New Zealand (especially during winter), but they are spaced out enough that you can always find a place to stay. We decided to head to the campground near Sejalandsfoss, another very impressive waterfall. After finding the location and paying our camp fees for the night, we chose a spot right in view of the waterfall, and then went on a short hike down the road to have a look. I looked at the sun; it was setting, the colours already starting to faintly paint the sky.
I was on a mission – to get behind the falls for sunset. Jen and I made our way quickly down the road, and up the path to the falls. There were staircases on either side, that led to trails behind the falls, so we chose one and made our way up. As we approached, the spray of the falls was overwhelming. I quickly pulled my glasses off as I could no longer see through the mist, and grabbed carefully onto the railings and slippery rocks as we made our way closer to the path behind the falls.
Jen went ahead, and I stepped carefully afterwards, observing where she stepped and taking a lot of time to step in places that looked secure. I was on a mission, yes – but I wanted to make it there, and not tumble down into Sejalandsfoss! The sound of the pounding water was all I could hear, and the cold mist on my face, on my hands, soaking through my hat, were all I could feel. I caught up with Jen. It was perfect timing – the sun was just sinking into the horizon, a brilliant golden ball surrounded by purple and red. The sheet of water pounded down in front of the opening, and even though we were behind it, the mist was everywhere and we were quickly soaked.
Nevermind that we had rain covers for our backpacks that were carefully tucked away; rain pants that we had purchased just for this purpose, still back in the van; and mist covers for our cameras to protect them from the elements that were nowhere to be found. We took a few photos and then quickly tucked the cameras in the relative safety of my backpack, and then just stood there and took it all in.
The wildness of it all really hit home at that moment. “How many people can say they've watched the sunset from behind a waterfall?!” I asked Jen, raising my voice above the crashing sound of the water. We grinned at each other, mist in our hair, damp clothes despite our jackets.
This. This is what it's all about, these moments. This is why I'm still here, still alive, still fighting for every dream not yet had. These moments stick forever in the soul, giving meaning to everything else that seems meaningless, giving strength in those empty days when one feels they have lost their strength. This, the purple and red sky viewed from behind that curtain of water, drenched in cold mist; this exhilarating moment, I'll always have with me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Reykjavik, Iceland - Day 1

Iceland - in recent years it has come to the top of everyone's radar.  What is the allure of this country?  We decided that it was our turn to come and find out.

We landed in darkness, but as we made out way from the airport, to the transfer bus, to the bus station, into a taxi, to the CampEasy rental office, and then finally into the city itself, the sunrise lit up the sky with a myriad of oranges and pinks.  Contrary to what I expected, Rekyjavik doesn't seem grey and dreary and buried in winter - it is bright and colourful.  Not showy about it; it's just sort of a presence that seems to permeate everything.

Our adventure started with getting to know our campervan.  This is a much larger and more robust home than our dear old 1997 from New Zealand (we don't have to stand outdoors to cook, and it has a heater at night).  The staff at CampEasy explained all of its features with detail and gave us many tips about traveling in Iceland during the winter, which we appreciated.

After that, we headed to the discount grocery store ("Bonus") and picked up some supplies for the next two weeks.  It was an interesting process, as most packages aren't labelled in English, so there was a lot of pulling out our phones to a) translate the prices (2900 krona?  is that a lot or a little?), and b) attempting to translate the contents of the packages.  In the end, we ended up with several things that we weren't a hundred percent sure of the contents, but they looked appetizing enough!

Then it was time to explore Reykjavik on foot (Jen has a habit of taking me on long walks in new cities immediately after we land in them, and of course this trip was no different).  Our target was Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful Lutheran church that is the tallest structure in Iceland.  The views from the top showed off the city's beautiful painted homes, and the snow-covered mountains in the distance beckoned both of us.

There's something comfortingly familiar about Rekyjavik.  Maybe it's the fact that the weather when we landed was the same as what we had left back home.  Jen remarked, as we passed by some little tables outside of a cafe - "Only in Iceland - and in Canada! - would people think its reasonable to sit outisde on the patio in 3 degrees Celcius."
Street art on the side of a building

Or maybe it was the posters up in the church, advertising the upcoming Easter concert of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.  It made me smile - some music truly is universal, no matter where on the planet you are.

The afternoon ended with an early dinner at Icelandic Fish and Chips, which was recommended to me by a friend.  This place serves local and organic food, and they really know what they are doing.  We had three choices of fish, so we chose Tusk and Cod, which they battered in spelt and deep fried perfectly.  Our side was rosemary fried potatoes, and we selected a sampler of delicate and delicious dips - a very tasty and complex tartar sauce, a surprisingly basil-infused garlic sauce, and a smartly paired lemon-and-dill sauce.  Yes, eating out in Iceland is expensive - but this meal was beyond worth it!

Tonight we are spending in a hostel, in order to ensure we get enough rest before taking to the Golden Circle tomorrow and starting our sleepervan life.  We've only just gotten a taste of Iceland, but those mountains we saw from the top of the church tower are calling.  There's a quiet depth here.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  I have a bit of writer's block, but it's probably also the jet l
ag.  Stay tuned - our adventure really starts tomorrow.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Wanderous Affair - new online travel magazine

I was recently published in a brand new online travel magazine - you can check out my piece on New Zealand's Moeraki Boulders on page 11! A Wanderous Affair - Volume 1, Issue 1

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sanibel, Florida

The sound of the waves is the only sound I hear, and seashells are the only thing I see.

J is behind me, slowly wandering away and from the shore. Our host's son is ahead of me, occasionally making an audible gasp as he finds a shell worthy of picking up. His parents are far ahead down the shore, no longer within audible distance, expertly combing the piles of shells for only the rarest ones.
And me, I'm walking in a straight line, sticking close to the water, occasionally letting the still-cool splashes touch my feet. My eyes look mostly downwards, trying to pick out spirals, smoothness, colours. Every once in a while I pick up a shell, only to find it partially broken. I keep it anyway, placing it in my bucket. I lack the experience and expert eye of the locals (or semi-locals, as our hosts are).
Pretty soon, their adult son is lagging even further behind his parents, struggling to hold all his collected treasures in his arms. I quickly pull my bag off my shoulder and rummage around for a plastic bag, which I run over and give him, helping him contain all his shells (amazed at the perfect little creations he's managed to pick out of the mounds of the broken and mundane). "Thanks," he says gratefully, and continues on his journey.
Lived experience counts for so much, and I never cease to be fascinated by it. His collected treasures are all perfect, carefully picked out with the eye of experience from the massive piles of otherwise half-broken or mundane shells. Nevertheless, I am quite content with my own collected treasures, but moreso with the experience itself. It's almost meditative, we comment to each other when we all finally join into one group again when we reach the end of the beach.
We marvel at our collected shells and at the fascinating colours and patterns of the things that come out of the ocean - what need have these shells, creatures, and plants for their vibrant oranges and purples, iridescence and spirals? In the deep dark of the sea floor, who is there to see them? Perhaps that is the allure of shelling... people who on any other beach wouldn't think twice to pick up a shell, are suddenly captivated by Sanibel's incredible shells and they, like us, spend hours lost in meditative searching.
I have known this family for almost thirteen years. I used to tutor their son from age 8 until he went to high school, but have stayed in touch since then. We've been invited to come to their Florida home several times over the years, and decided this was the year we'd finally take them up on the offer. The basement apartment of their home is fully self-contained, with a spacious living area, a cozy nook with a bed, an amazing double-headed shower, small kitchenette with all the ammenities, and screen door access to their outdoor pool and hot tub.

We are grateful for this chance to unwind and experience some warm sun, especially after the deep freeze we'd been experiencing in Toronto (way too many consecutive days of -25 degrees Celcius, not factoring in the windchill... that's -13 for you Farenheit folks!). Winter in Toronto is long, cold, and very grey... especially after Christmas. We are not usually the type to "fly south for the winter", and our decision to go to Florida surprised many of our friends ("Florida?! Not, like, Peru or Africa or something? That's different!") but how could we say no to this perfect chance to escape the cold?
After our long walk on the beach, we headed back to our apartment to relax by the pool with a coffee (what later became part of our daily pattern and dubbed "Coffee O'Clock" by Jen). The sound of birds, the warm sun, and the lush, carefully tended-to gardens surrounded us as we lay on the pool chairs.
Being on a relaxing vacation is new for us, and it wasn't without its share of mild anxiety. We kept feeling like we needed to "do" something - be somewhere, see something, get moving and exploring. Sitting still and simply being, I discovered, does not come naturally anymore - that's how much the daily grind affects us.
After relaxing with our coffee in the sun, we decided to take a drive to the nearby J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This beautiful and large swath of conservation land has a one-way road that runs through it, and you can pull over and stop wherever you like if you see something interesting. We liesurely drove through the area, stopping every few minutes to admire the astonishing variety of birds.
The highlight was the startling pink of the Roseate Spoonbills that we first saw fly above our heads. Later down the road, we parked near where we thought they had landed and there they were, quietly standing in shallow water, getting ready to settle in for the evening.

Almost two months has passed since we were in Florida, but certain things remain.
The rhythm of the kayak's paddle in the water as we explored the bayou close to their home. The sight of Ospreys flying overhead, expertly carrying fish in their talons, landing in large nests to feed their waiting partners. The feel of the Florida sun on our tired bodies as we took a rest on shore, looking for shells. The quietly hiding herons, watching us as we slowly paddled by. When I'm paddling, I feel at home. There is no room for stress or worries or sadness. Only the dipping of the paddle in and out of the water; the burning in my muscles, trying to keep up with the rhythm of the others; the cold water dripping down the side of the paddle. Kayaking in January in the warmth of the sun is an experience I'll never forget, and possibly the highlight of our Florida trip. I'm grateful that our hosts took us out, and showed us this little bit of their home away from home.
These memories keep me warm while the cold March winds blow in my face in the downtown corridor on my way to work.

Another memory that stands out is our hike in Collier-Seminole State Park. We made the drive down there early one morning. It was a special place for me as a geocacher, because it was the location of Florida's oldest geocache, placed in December of 2000. Most geocaches don't last that long, so a really old one like that is rare and most avid geocachers make the pilgrimage to find what we call “oldies”.
The hike itself was mostly on flat, dry ground. It was hot and humid that day. The novelty of hiking in the hot sun in January was not lost on us, and we embraced the heat, the sweat, the stifling humidity. I tried to be mindful of every moment, imprinting the heat and the horizon of palm trees to memory. We knew we'd be flying back into Toronto's cold winter the next day, and we wanted to bring some of that Florida sun back with us.

Florida's oldest geocache
Collier-Seminole State Park

The geocache itself was a large one, hanging in plain sight in a palm tree, hidden just off the main path. It was one of the highlights of the day, for sure, but not as much as that hike was. Sadly we didn't get to see the resident aligator, but we did see many butterflies and even a few lizards. After hiking back to our car, we went back into the park itself and had our lunch by the water, watching beautiful white egrets land silently in the trees, and paddlers heading out for the day.
Later that evening, we went to the beach for one last try at catching the sunset, and the sky did not disappoint. As the sun slowly sank into the ocean, we huddled close together, beach towl around us to protect against the evening's chill, and watched the purples, oranges, and pinks dance in the sky and reflect off the water. 
It has been a short stay, but enough to allow us to press the re-set button in our minds. The hours of shelling, the rhythm of paddling, the repetitive sound of ocean waves lapping the shore, or the songbirds in the palm trees as we lay by the pool – all these things made us mindful, made us still inside, reminded us that we don't always have to be on the move, stressed about work, and moving from one place to the other.
We returned home refreshed and ready to face the rest of the long winter, grateful for the chance to escape and get to know Sanibel from an “insider's” point of view.

If you want to stay at this lovely place that was shared with us, it is available for rent - message me and I'll connect you with these wonderful people and their little corner of Florida.  You won't be disappointed.