after the storm —
the wind thrashing and writhing in the trees, a seizure of electric power —
after all this, the raindrops shiver on the window screens…
For a long time now, I’ve had a special place in my heart for Florida.
I spent summers there as a kid, tearing around on a bike near the mangroves, coming alive in the steamy green heat. It’s a nostalgic place for me, and like most nostalgic places, it strikes me as beautiful.
Florida’s beauty is glaring: like a particularly striking woman who sports bright makeup and an orchid in her hair. You can’t help but look at her, but if she smudged off the dark lipstick and traded her red dress for black, you might notice the pool of light in the hollow of her collarbone.
The sun sliding slow over her shoulders.
The subtler magic.
I guess that’s why I’ve come to like Florida best when she’s photographed in monochrome.
The photos that follow are quiet ones, collected during a lazy, contemplative week in Punta Gorda. While there are lovelier snapshots of the sunshine state — oceans full of sundazzle, and foam-swept crashing surf — I think these represent a gentler beauty that others may miss.
Can I tell you a secret?
Over the past 24 hours, I’ve changed my phone number … and my legal name.
I’ve registered a new web domain, taken ((my own!)) professional headshot, and spent a lot of time brainstorming, scribbling, explaining and dreaming.
Let’s just say that there are **a lot** of changes in the works for me. And they’re good … (Yes, I am still married. No, I’m not running from the law.) … But change is also a little exhausting, too. Anyone who’s ever built something from scratch — or re-built something — knows what I mean.
I’ve got a lot of voices in my head, and the truth is … I need some quiet.
So I’m giving myself a challenge: every day for the next ten days, I’ll post a single, wordless photo in this space … one that I believe reflects quiet beauty.
This means no writing…
No words to speak of.
Just images, speaking softly, the way gentle images do.
For most of those ten days, I’ll be in southern Florida, drinking in the light, clearing the cobwebs from my head and making space for what’s next.
I may be quiet during this time, but please know: I am thinking of you. ❤
If I’ve managed to convey one thing in my little series about insomnia, I hope you know this: insomnia is hard … but also, it can be pretty special.
Few words capture this better than the ones below, which I wrote just after the night of my ninth wedding anniversary. It’s one of my favorite posts … I guess because it reminds me that sometimes, the hard things give us our most beautiful moments.
And somehow, that seems like a good place to end.
A week ago…
It’s three a.m. and I’m lying in bed, feeling the slow wash of the oscillating fan stirring the sheets. I settle closer against my husband, stare at the ceiling and wonder — a familiar question — if I’m the only one awake.
I’ve spent my life as an insomniac, and I can tell you: there’s no loneliness as deep and existential as the one that comes when you lie sleepless in the dark — especially beside someone you love. You lean into him, letting his breath tickle your neck, his heartbeat drum against your spine.
Still: while he sleeps, he doesn’t even know you exist.
But on this night, instead of the usual ache of his absence, I sense T’s presence — his breath conscious, shallow. With me, somehow.
“Are you awake?” I whisper, and in a moment there’s his hum of affirmation.
“Me too,” I say.
It’s the night of our wedding anniversary, and outside, the Perseids are falling: shooting stars streaking the black, like they do every year on August 12.
Suddenly it just feels wrong: us, asleep. The universe, awake.
“Do you want to go see the stars?” I say.
We go in our pajamas: bundle ourselves into the Volvo with extra coats and two cups of iced coffee.
T drives us into the mountains, away from the city lights. We drive, and drive, through one empty street and then another, climbing the hills until the black bowl above us is twinkling clear.
And then we stop.
T switches off the engine.
The sudden silence shocks us, until our ears adjust to all the other sounds of the night.
In the cicada-hum and cricket-song we open the sunroof and wriggle halfway through, leaning back with our elbows on the car’s cold roof, our bare feet on tiptoe on the leather seats below.
Somehow it feels like we’re standing side-by-side in waist-deep water. The black sheet-metal shines, reflecting stars.
Time passes, slow as a single drop of water easing down the lip of the faucet. The stars twinkle but seem otherwise unmoved.
And then, the first streak of light tears across the sky.
“Did you see that?” T almost shouts.
We wait longer. Time passes — five minutes? ten? — and more meteorites flash earthward. Some are just tiny dashes of light; others look like small comets, with long tails that leave a smoldering afterglow.
“Did you see that one?”
“Look — over there!”
We watch until our necks hurt from craning them back. Until our eyes feel owlishly wide: unblinking in the starry dark.
And now here I sit at my keyboard, a week later, pondering the way it works:
The way we must put ourselves in the path of wonder, whether that’s the wonder of human love or natural beauty, the wonder of grace or God or goodness.
And I know — there are moments when we stumble over the magic like it’s a tripwire. We skin our knees on the glory and raise our hands in hallelujah. In those moments, the Mystery chooses us.
But those moments are few. And — my God — I don’t want to go through life asleep, hoping and dreaming of the next one.
So I get up in the middle of the night. (Are you with me?) I push back the bedsheets and stumble into the dark like a sleepwalker, hearing that voice at my back, still and small as my Sunday-school teacher told me it would be:
Open your eyes, love.
Open your eyes.
And I walk out into a world where stars fall like rain.
I crane my head back and stand very still, my eyes wide-open.
Maybe you’re standing here, too. ❤
This weekend, I dare you to believe something radical:
Every day, the world tosses magic at your feet.
And I could try to write a long treatise to convince you that’s true… Or I could just show you this series of photos, which are literally just shots of chipped concrete and a few stray weeds at the sidewalk’s edge…
Proof that the magic is wherever you choose to see it, if you look with loving eyes:
Hope you go out and find a little ordinary magic of your own today… It’s a pretty special world we’re living in. ❤