Journal

Different Views

Different Views

A few evenings ago, there was a spectacular sunset on the river. From our east-facing side of the river, we tend to experience glorious sunrises and occasionally stunning sunsets, as well.

That evening was one such occasion. Puffy, white clouds reflected clearly by the calm water lured me into my kayak.

I almost didn’t bring my camera. Leaving the house, I assured myself the phone camera would suffice. I wanted to travel lightly and focus on paddling, not photography.

But in a moment of stopping and waiting for traffic to pass before crossing the road, I experienced an intuitive nudge to go back inside and get my camera. And it’s a good thing I followed that voice because 45 minutes later, I floated on a river of awe.

Once again, I realized what a difference a “sacred pause” can make in receiving intuition, inspiration, and wisdom that goes unnoticed when we’re immersed in a cloud of thought. 

When I paddled to the other side of the river, the puffy clouds that lured me onto the river were not visible. Unless they left their houses, people living on the east side of the river wouldn’t have known they were there! From that side of the river, I could see a large cloud over our house. (Actually, it was over the hill behind our house.) The clouds to the west were illuminated differently than the clouds to the east. This particular cloud was backlit and outlined with the most beautiful light. The idiom, “Every cloud has a silver lining” came to mind.

From inside our house in the river valley at the bottom of a hill, we wouldn’t have any awareness of it. Similarly, we usually only get a very faint indication of breathtaking sunsets happening at the top of the hill that are visible from the west-facing side of the river.

While floating in my kayak, I thought about how our view of the world is largely determined by where we “live” – literally and figuratively. Which way we face and what portion of the sky we’re exposed to. Residents of one side of the river might have a very different perception of the landscape and the cycle of day and night than those on the other side or up on a hill in either direction. Some might look forward to sunsets instead of sunrises and full moonrises or experience longer periods of sunlight than we do in the valley.

And it’s not just the sky canvas. Property on one side of the river might be more prone to flooding than on the other side, or perhaps certain properties on either side. Flood insurance might cost more, and not having flood insurance might make one more anxious during weather events. There are so many, differing factors at play that we might not consider because they’re not our own, personal issues.

We might be totally unaware of what is clearly visible on the other side of the river, and vice versa. The only way to have a wider perspective is to travel to someone else’s yard – perhaps on the other side of the river or up on a hill – and see from their point of view. Then you might understand what it looks like from where they are and how their ideas developed.

I loved living on one side of the river and seeing the sunrise and working up the hill on the other side of the river and catching the sunset…although that usually meant I was working later than I should have been!

River Neighbors

Seeing the clouds on the river that evening also brought to mind an experience I had last year when a person of interest enrolled in one of my photography courses. Realizing people in general were more sensitive and angry in the wake of all we’ve been through, I was concerned this person’s presence could be distracting or even triggering for some.

The situation the universe pitched my way was an invitation to grow and ended up being deeply transformative for me. Whereas I had time to prepare, the other participants didn’t. I wanted to be able to manage skillfully whatever dynamics might arise and relate to all participants as human beings, not roles.

During our first session, after talking about some technical stuff, I turned to more inner aspects of photography, which is where the juice is for me. I talked about how nature photography can serve to connect us both with nature and with other people. I explained that I know most of our river neighbors on both sides of the river between the two locks. We river neighbors don’t necessarily share the same views of the world. However, our shared love of the river unites us. We talk affectionately about bald eagles, herons, egrets, loons, swans – and commiserate about the bridge noise. Sometimes a neighbor will even notify me when they see something interesting on the river that could be a photo op.

I feel a deep sense of connection with all of our river neighbors because of this shared experience of living on the river. And the connection even goes beyond the Hudson River. When I talk about living on the Hudson, there’s an instant connection with anyone who’s ever lived on a river.

I love that my river neighbors help me to become aware of what I didn’t see because I was focused on something else. I love seeing what the sky or fog (for example) look like from their perspective when they share pictures. And sensing their appreciation for the river helps me to see their goodness – their inner light – even if we hold different views. Our views are just a small part of who we are as human beings, and it’s important to remember that. Our views and opinions, no matter how strongly held, are not our essence.

The point I was making in the photography course is that the participants were drawn to learning about nature photography because of some kind of caring, longing, or appreciation. We had something in common beneath the surface that brought us together. And months after the course was done, I learned what drew the person of interest to my course and that we had something else in common, on a heart level. No matter how differently my river neighbors or participants in my classes might relate to current events, I’ve learned to look deeper, for our common humanity. Usually, there’s some kind of caring or wounding if you dive down deeper.  

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow asserted: 

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each [person’s] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

It doesn’t mean you do anything different on the outside. You don’t need to move to the other side of the river, so to speak. It’s an inner shift that allows you to perceive someone as a whole person, not an ideology, viewpoint, or role. You won’t lose yourself by adopting a greater perspective unless the ideology or viewpoint forms your identity. If you identify with it, it might feel threatening to see the goodness and integrity of someone on “the other side” of an issue. But we are so much more than our beliefs and conditioning. Who we are at our core has nothing at all to do with that.

The problem isn’t that we hold different views. It’s when an ideology of any sort becomes our identity. Because at that point, we stop perceiving ourselves and others as the complex human beings that we are. Instead, we relate as one ideology to another, which is diminishing and potentially dangerous.

Opening your heart to the goodness of someone who seems different from you also doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to the effects of the personality. As I’m sure we’ve all learned from experience, some personalities can be very destructive and damaging. They’ll drain your energy if you let them.

Focusing on the goodness and losing sight of the harsh realities of certain personalities can make us vulnerable to being mistreated by them…unless we also see and value and want to protect our own goodness and integrity. My recovery from an abusive situation focused not on demonizing the other person but on acknowledging my own worth, looking deeply into why I became so invested in caring about them, and practicing better self-care. Whenever they come to mind now, I wish them well and carry on. Or as the Jimmy Buffet song goes: Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

Listening to the Voice

An experience I had yesterday morning seems somehow related to all of this.

There’s a deck of inspirational cards displayed in our kitchen. There are hundreds of cards in the collection, and every month, I count out enough for each day of that month. So every day, there’s a different card displayed.

Before going to bed the other night, I looked at that day’s card. A Rumi quote was printed on it:

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.

When I woke up in the morning, I opened up the Insight Timer app to do a guided meditation. Every day, a new quote appears when you open up that app, and what quote do you think came up that morning? That same Rumi quote! So I paid attention and took it to heart.

A little later that morning while editing photos, I found myself singing Olivia Newton-John’s song, Have You Never Been Mellow. I hadn’t heard that song in – well, I can’t even remember the last time! My association with the song was from my childhood, when it was released on vinyl. My dad was a fan and had the album. I loved listening to my parents’ records when I was in elementary school. That album was one I played and danced around to. 

So there I was editing photos and singing the refrain, over and over. And then I felt a presence behind me, wrapping around me. It felt like my dad.

The Rumi quote came to mind, and I stopped editing photos and became present to the energy. Then I heard my dad’s voice inside me, offering loving advice. He wanted me to set myself free from the way I was thinking about money – his way. And he gave me permission to do so. Then he said: You’ve been walking around with my voice in your head for too long. Let it go. I couldn’t see the whole picture when I had a body that got in the way. You focus on what really matters. Let go of the rest. It’s your life, not anybody else’s. 

I was in tears because it was very powerful to hear this message coming from my father’s energy. I’m in the process of decluttering my parents’ belongings from my storage unit. But I was torn between having a yard sale and donating the stuff. I imagined my dad would have tried to sell it first rather than give it away. Obviously, my parents had no use for it anymore. However, I felt I should honor the value they placed on their possessions. And that was holding me back. So the message was deeply meaningful and liberating.

What really stood out was the part about having a body that gets in the way of seeing the whole picture. It’s like not being able to see the whole sky from where we are in the river valley. We can only see a portion of it, and it might look very different from what our neighbors across the river or anywhere else in the world can see. We might have hills or mountains obstructing our view. Or the limitations of our physical senses. Or the beliefs we’ve had conditioned into us or otherwise adopted as truth.

Partly Right

The late Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, offers six mantras of true love. The sixth one is: “Darling, you are only partly right.” This could be uttered in response to praise, criticism, or viewpoints from your inner voice or from someone else. It also can be applied when we glorify or devalue someone else or otherwise create an idea of them based on where they stand in relation to what we hold dear. 

Instead of relating to someone as an idea we have about them, is it possible to allow ourselves to relate to them as actual human beings inhabiting this river of life and experiencing emotions, delusions, pressures, and suffering, just as we do? Maybe a different flavor, but the same basic experience. The experience of clouds passing through the sky of awareness and obscuring the light of our true nature.

Another Rumi quote comes to mind:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

That is the challenge and the invitation I’m weaving from all of these experiences. Can we wish for all beings to be well, happy, and free from suffering – even those on the “other side”? It doesn’t mean enabling or turning a blind eye to injustice and suffering. It means first tending to and developing our own hearts. Then bringing a wise and loving heart into our relationships with others. 

With actual people, not ideas of them. 

I never would have imagined pictures of clouds would have led to all of these words, but there you go.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Seashore Dancer

Seashore Dancer

It was a busy summer developing a lot of content, delivering a lot of programs, and burning the midnight oil, night after night. To get a full night’s sleep, I bought some light-blocking curtains for my bedroom windows and slept in, morning after morning. 

It also was a hot summer and a menopausal summer, and sometimes sleeping in caused me to miss the fleeting window of cool, morning air most suitable for outdoor exercise. I didn’t feel good about missing sunrises and exercise opportunities. It felt like I was in a rut.

As soon as I got through a particularly busy stretch of presenting up to seven programs a week, I went to Marblehead to visit my friend, Michaela.

When I’m on the coast, my schedule is built around sunrises, sunsets, and tides. To plan for photography and exercise, I consult the local tide chart, The Photographer’s Ephemeris app, and my weather app, in that order. Walking on the beaches in Marblehead is more tide-dependent than some other beaches. At high tide, my favorite Marblehead beach is completely under water.

It’s wonderful when low tide is synchronized with the sunrise, although it’s not always the case. Regardless of the tide status, I get up religiously at the crack of dawn to witness the sun appear over the ocean. In the summer, that means getting to the beach by 5:00 or 5:30 (or even earlier).

In Marblehead, one thing you can bet on is that you won’t be alone outdoors, even that early in the morning. It’s a thickly settled community, and a multitude of people of all ages are out bright and early jogging or walking, often with their dogs. I refer to them as the “dawn patrol”. 

There are many more people outdoors exercising in Marblehead than I encounter back home, and it’s truly inspiring. It’s a way of life. 

My second morning there, I intended to experience rather than photograph the sunrise. The tide was too high to get a decent walk on the beach, and the day promised to be hot. So instead of waiting for the tide to recede after savoring the sunrise, I headed to the causeway behind the beach. Back Beach is at the other end of the causeway. From there, the Boston skyline is visible in the distance. In the past when atmospheric conditions were right, I’ve enjoyed photographing it with my long telephoto lens. This morning, however, I relished the idea of traveling lightly.

I started walking on the causeway, wondering what the image-of-the-day would be. Every day, it’s something different, and I believe the image I’m most drawn to is a messenger that reveals something I am ready or need to know. Often it’s something I’ve passed by many times before without noticing, and then, all of a sudden, it jumps out and commands my attention.

I hadn’t walked far on the causeway before an inner voice I’ve learned to follow urged me to turn around, go back to my car, and get the big lens. I’m really glad I did because as I walked toward my car, my attention was drawn to an image in the distance that looked like a woman walking on the beach wearing some kind of black and red, flowing garment. My curiosity was piqued.

As I got closer, I saw the woman was dancing with red silks on the beach. Everyone else was walking or jogging, and she was dancing her way down the beach with red silks flowing in the ocean breeze. She was a vision of joy and beauty. I love to photograph women “interbeing” with nature and couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of her from a distance, with my long lens. She filled my heart with joy. I wanted to tell her she was the most beautiful sight on the beach (and wondered if she had any idea she was), but I didn’t want to interrupt her as she danced.

So I watched her for a while, feeling greatly inspired. Then I walked along the causeway, as intended. While walking, autumn leaves appeared on the movie screen of my mind, twirling and dancing gracefully to the ground. They were in contrast to leaves that darted down, reaching the ground as quickly as possible.

Yes! I want to be a leaf that dances the whole way down! I want to embody and radiate joyful, inspiring energy, like her. But there I was walking on the concrete with many others who seemed focused on getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, to check off the exercise box for the day. There also were some pairs engaged in lively conversation as they walked, which made me wish for a friend to walk with back home. But those who were alone seemed pretty focused on moving along in that driven, New England way.

Back Beach is a small, sheltered area with lots of tall rock formations and no parking area. When I arrived there, I didn’t see anyone else around. And I felt like dancing.

So I allowed my body to move however it wanted to, in concert with the waves breaking on the shore. I felt too vulnerable to dance out in the open, front and center, like the woman with the red silks. But it was a start. And it felt amazing. Liberating. Connecting.

Afterward, I sat on the rocks for a little while, savoring the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of the seashore (as my camera silently recorded video). Then I made my way back to the main beach. But this time, I skipped the causeway and walked on the rocks instead. I couldn’t go as fast, but it allowed me to stay close to the water, which was more fulfilling.

The dancing woman helped me to realize that when the tide is high, there are other alternatives to walking or jogging on the causeway with everyone else. You can dance your way down the beach even if the tide is not low enough to walk on a smooth, sandy beach. There’s still enough space to dance. When you dance through life, you don’t have to cover so much ground or go so far. What matters is the quality of being you bring to each step.

When I got back to the main beach, I didn’t see the dancing woman anywhere. I wished I could express my gratitude and share the pictures with her and was determined to find a way to do so.

The next morning, I again got up at the crack of dawn and headed to a new spot Michaela had introduced me to during our evening walk, to witness and photograph the sunrise. The tide was still too high to really walk on the beach, and I considered postponing my walk. But then I noticed the dawn patrol out and about getting their steps in and decided to return to the beach I was at the previous morning.

I pulled into the parking lot and immediately saw red silks at the edge of the water. It looked like she was just getting ready to dance. So I ran up to her and showed her a picture I took of her the previous morning and asked if I could send it to her. We ended up talking for about 10 minutes, and I told her how much she inspired me the previous morning and that I danced on the beach totally because of her. I told her she awakened joy in me, which I then radiated to others throughout the day. 

She told me a little about herself (holistic nurse, drawn to meditation and yoga, originally from Estonia). She spoke of wanting to start a ripple of joy, and dancing on the beach was part of that. Her eyes were shining, her energy was radiant, and she seemed to be about my age. A kindred spirit for sure. We exchanged contact info and decided to keep in touch.

While she danced that morning, I took some more pictures of her as part of the ocean landscape, and sent them to her after I got back home. She said they put tears in her eyes. 

Being in Marblehead was inspiring in many ways. It was great to spend time with Michaela, for whom I usually cat-sit. (Mr. Butters is the coolest cat ever!) Seeing so many people of all ages exercising outdoors renewed my commitment to prioritize exercise. And witnessing the ocean sunrises inspired me to question why I’m so gung-ho on getting up early when I’m on the coast but not when I’m back at home on the river. Seeing the woman dancing on the beach reminded me that we get to choose how we move through life and inspired me to do so with more joy and creativity.

So I made some changes when I got home. Every single morning since returning from Marblehead, I’ve gotten up to experience the sunrise. And not only that, but I have started a year-long project of photographing every possible sunrise (except when I’m not home or cloud cover is too thick to see the sun), from the exact same perspective. I envision showing how no two river sunrises are alike, and how the position of the sunrise in the sky shifts across the river and back throughout the course of a year.

Every morning while waiting to take the sunrise picture, I set an intention for the day and practice being present as fully as possible. It’s an incredible way to start the day. And then I think of the Marblehead dawn patrol, put on my sneakers, and head outdoors.

I often recall my kindred spirit dancing on the beach, and the image of her inspires me every time, all over again. So far, I’ve done yoga on the riverside and walked the labyrinth barefoot. I also want to dance on the riverside and have a number of spots in mind. And it occurred to me this morning that although it is deeply enriching to imagine kissing the earth with every footstep when I walk the labyrinth, I might try skipping or dancing the labyrinth or playing an instrument as I walk. Or bringing instruments to the riverside and making music with the river.

Because we get to choose how we move through this world. There are a lot of variables that are out of our control, but that is something we can choose.

I love to think of others who dance or make music or art with streams and rivers and oceans and that some of them are doing it at the same time or in the same spirit as me, and we are co-creating with the more-than-human world and starting ripples of joy together. 

When I walk on a trail along the river (or any other trail, for that matter), I remind myself not to experience myself walking through the landscape but to feel connected with it, with every step. I want to notice and connect with what’s around me instead of being like an arrow or dart zooming through the air, focused on a destination or checkbox.

When I think of my new acquaintance dancing on the beach, her joyful energy reaches me through space and time and puts more of a spring in my step and a smile on my face and in my heart. I’m so grateful I ended up on the beach when she was there, to be so inspired. And I believe it was no accident. That inner voice never leads me astray.

Cue the Burns Sisters…

 


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Say Yes to Your Strong Self

Say Yes to Your Strong Self

It took a few days of catching up on sleep, unpacking, and tending to what needed immediate attention, but I finally landed back home after my first trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. 

Every morning while walking on the beach, I nearly leapt out of my skin because I was so delighted to be there. And yet, I came very close to cancelling the trip—which, in hindsight, seems ludicrous.

In the days preceding the trip, I went kayaking, hoping “river therapy” would help me to discern and follow what really felt like yes instead of the loudest voices clamoring for attention. Lots of fear and heavy, emotional stuff was being dredged up, and it felt like I was inside a pressure cooker. I attributed much of it to eclipse energy and had to use nearly every tool in my toolbox to deal with it. To borrow a term from Eckhart Tolle, my emotional pain body had become activated and was having a feast!

I took mindful breathing breaks every 20 minutes throughout the day and practiced mindfulness meditation both on and off the cushion. Listened to sleep stories on the Calm app and did guided yoga nidra meditations to get to sleep and return to sleep every night. I did RAIN meditation, self-Reiki, and listened to lots of sound baths. Got outside and exercised. 

Part of the problem was the energy at home. I wasn’t sure everyone would be okay if I went. If a volcano erupted while I was away, getting back home wouldn’t be easy. The nearest airport was two hours away, and there were no non-stop flights. And what if I got Covid during my travels? Then what? I didn’t want to be on a plane exposing others.

If you put everything together, the predominant emotional flavors were fear and powerlessness: energies I did not want in the driver’s seat. I longed to vacation with Kim and Jodi, two of my very dearest friends. We live in different states, and it would be the first time the three of us would be together since Jodi’s wedding at least 30 years ago. I wanted to say yes to that.

A Sign on the River

Less than 24 hours before my flight was scheduled to take off, I went on the river and asked for some kind of sign. I hoped the more-than-human world would reveal something relevant and insightful.

I watched two ducks fly away from a spot up ahead where a group of ducks were gathered. Keeping a respectful distance, I paddled by. Once I had passed the ducks, I felt compelled to turn around and take a picture. There was something peculiar about those ducks.

Again, I kept a respectful distance and snapped a picture. After I got past them, I looked at the image on my phone screen. The sun was very bright, and the image was small, but I enlarged it enough to notice one of the ducks was caught in netting. The others were gathered around, silent.

I felt tremendous empathy and started crying. Wondering if I or anyone else could do something to help, I posted the picture in a community group on social media. Someone expressed caring. Another person gave me a phone number for wildlife conservation.

Then someone pointed out that the ducks were plastic. Decoys. Which I couldn’t tell from the distance I kept from them or from the tiny picture on my phone screen. They must have floated down the river still partially in their original packaging and gotten caught on the branches of a fallen tree.

I was so caught up in the intense, raw emotions moving through me regarding family dynamics and my upcoming trip that I couldn’t see clearly. I was crying over something that wasn’t even real. A decoy.

Then I realized that was the answer I sought. The picture I took of the decoy ducks was my image of the day, which was like pulling an oracle card from the deck of the universe. A duck decoy is used to lure ducks into danger, to trick or confuse. So perhaps the guidance was not to put so much faith in my emotions for now. Don’t let them guide me.

I got sucked in emotionally by a lure! My suffering came from not being able to see clearly and believing in an illusion that wasn’t real. Being so emotionally raw made me more vulnerable and impressionable.

Change of Heart

Ten hours before my 6 AM flight would depart, I still was almost certain I wouldn’t go. I had talked with both of my friends, and they said they hoped to see me but would support whatever I decided. Kim already had stopped at the grocery store to stock up on frozen vegetarian meals for me.

When my son found me in the living room not getting ready for my trip, he gave me an eleventh hour pep talk. He assured me everything would be fine at home and painted a picture of me enjoying the company of dear friends. Watching the moon rise on the beach. Walking on the beach. And on and on. As he spoke, I imagined myself there and resumed the packing effort I had abandoned the previous day. I had to wake up at 2:30 AM to leave for the airport by 3:00, and he would drive me.

Before going to bed (a few hours before I had to get up), I felt confident everyone would be okay at home. I longed to be with my friends, at the ocean, when the moon was full. To say yes to the beautiful, generous invitation from Kim and her husband. Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey” had come to mind more than once that day.

I dreaded the whole airport scene, the disruption of my sleep schedule, and all of the driving involved. I hoped people wouldn’t be rude to one another based on whether or not they were wearing a mask. The brain’s negativity bias kept my expectations for civility low.

However, everyone was really chill. And kind and friendly. There were zero issues at the airports or on any of my flights. Nobody displayed an attitude. Some people wore masks, and some didn’t. And it was okay. On one of my flights, someone noticed a tiny earbud on the floor next to the aisle, and people were determined to find the person who had dropped it. Once that person was found, she was so grateful and said she’d been looking everywhere for it. There were smiles and sighs of relief when the earbud was returned to its owner. My airport and flight experiences raised my faith in humanity a notch. I sat across the aisle from people who wanted to help and set in motion a wave of caring. 

Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, explains our brain’s negativity bias is like velcro for the “bad” and threatening and like teflon for the “good”. It’s a brain mechanism that helped to keep our ancient ancestors safe from the very real threat of being eaten by predators. However, it doesn’t serve so well now. World news can leave us feeling the world is a very dangerous place, and we must always be on-guard. Sometimes dangerous situations and people do make their way into our orbit. However, it’s useful to remember and experience that there are many kind and helpful people in the world, despite the newsworthy anomalies. The vast majority of flights won’t be marred by argumentative people and outbursts, although the outbursts draw media attention.

Worth It

Experiencing positive energy en route corrected some of my exaggerated narratives about “people these days”. But of course there was much, much more that made the trip worthwhile.

Waking up at 2:30 AM was worth it. (You just do it.) Spending time with Kim and her family and Jodi and her husband was worth it a hundred times over. Being at the ocean is always worth it. So was getting a change of scenery and a little distance from the drama back home. Great weather every day was the icing on the cake.

When Kim and her husband met me at the airport, she told me she knew all along I’d end up coming.

I stood on the beach that first evening and photographed the eclipse moon rising over the ocean at high tide. Then I walked about 30 steps back to the beach house and sat on the top floor with Kim, looking out at the moon rising and shining a path of light on the water. It was exactly as my son had described, and I felt so grateful to be there.

Every morning, my alarm was set for 5:40 so I could witness and photograph the sunrise. Then I took a long walk on the endless beach. (One morning, I walked more than 18,000 steps to a wild horse beach!) My favorite time to be on any beach is at sunrise. I’m much more of an early morning air beach-walker than a hot sun, mid-day beach-sitter. However, I did walk and sit on the beach with Kim and Jodi in the afternoon with a very happy heart.

The timing was perfect. A week prior, a huge storm blew through the Outer Banks and wreaked havoc (similar to the storm that kicked up at home, it now occurs to me). The storm passed, and it was safe to travel. We were there just before the official beginning of summer tourist season, when it was still relatively quiet and uncrowded.

My daily gratitudes included:

  • Listening to the rhythm of the waves
  • Breathing in the ocean air
  • Spending time with Jodi and Kim
  • Being able to work remotely
  • Ocean sunrises and the cooler, morning air
  • Being fascinated by the various forms of sea life that washed up on the beach
  • Only having to walk about 20 steps from the door of my bedroom suite to the beach
  • Ideal weather.

It was a deeply nourishing experience, on many levels. Stretching out of my comfort zone and traveling for the first time since Covid began felt liberating. Vacationing with girlfriends was a wonderful experience I hope to repeat. Beach therapy was greatly appreciated and restorative.

On Calm, there is a sleep story, The Beauty of the Outer Banks, written by Candace Rardon. I’ve listened to it—or rather, tried to listen to it—at least a few dozen times but always fall asleep at some point. Out of curiosity one morning after returning home, I skipped ahead to see how it ends.

“In such a place as this, where the natural world quietly undergoes such perpetual change, you can find the peace to weather the seasons of your own life. To surrender to the winds, to be shaped by the tides, and to let every invisible current carry you to new and undiscovered lands.” 

This (plus being with friends) sums up what I experienced at the Outer Banks. I returned home feeling different than before I left. More adventurous and liberated from fear. Refreshed. Renewed. The decision to go on the trip fed my strong self. I’m grateful for the friends I spent time with there and for the friends who encouraged me to go and experience a place they knew I would love once the storms subsided.

Simply Return

I’m so glad I said yes to my heart’s expansive, innermost desire instead of the constricting, convincing fears that would keep me small. The travel was fine. People were pleasant. Our house is still standing, and the energy has improved. Once again, I learned not to put blind faith in worry, anxiety, and fear or to expect the worst from people. In this moment, all is well. I am fine.

And in this moment, too.

It’s okay if you lose the present moment—if you get caught up in the real or perceived fear and drama of the human world. Simply find it again. When you find it, you’ll be able to see more clearly and respond with greater wisdom to whatever storms arise.

If I ever try to convince myself that the process of traveling is too much of a hassle to justify going somewhere spectacular to be with people who mean a lot to my heart, please remind me not to believe those self-limiting thoughts. Sure, take some time to acknowledge and process whatever emotions are coming up. But don’t be derailed by the pain-body and its flying-monkey thoughts! Spending time with people and in places that resource our lives helps us to put better energy into the world. Anything we can do to channel more light and goodness into the world is absolutely worthwhile.

To see some of the nature videos I made while vacationing in the Outer Banks, check out my Vimeo channel.

Here are some of my photos from the trip:

All of these images are available for purchase, and some will be included in my Saratoga Arts photography exhibition, Seaside, running from June 28-July 28, 2022 at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library upstairs gallery.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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