Inspiration in Paradise

I enjoy many types of topography and ecosystems. I love the mountains. I love wide open prairies as well. Each has its own beauty and can bring its own sense of awe and wonder. Though I do enjoy so many land types my favorite finds its end in the water. Beaches have grown in my heart in the last few years. My favorite beach is Sanibel Island, FL.

We began vacationing there four years ago. Friends have a condo there and we stayed in the same property. Before we went south in June I thought it a bit off. Kinda like going to Alaska in the winter when you want someplace warm. I mean…what’s with that!

Our first trip to the paradise of Sanibel, FL saw the disconnection in me (at the beginning) of thinking a Florida retreat in June odd while looking forward to a trip. The disconnection soon passed as we drove from the mainland of Fort Myers to the causeway and the bridge leading to the island.

Sanibel is intentionally kept pristine while allowing construction within clear parameters. One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “Sanibel…life in the Slow lane.” I discovered quickly just how true that saying is for this island. I noticed on the first trip and still today that the bridge is a metaphor in my mind and body. It’s as if a switch is flicked from fast to slow, from on to off, from stress to relax.

We stay in the property named Sanibel Moorings. It’s easy access to the bridge and therefore the mainland which is convenient but what I really appreciate about this property is the integration of flora and fauna with the buildings. Our first year there was an avocado tree just outside our door. One was ripe and tasty. There are other fruit trees on the property though I’m not certain they’re all edible.

They have hundreds of plants and trees and even conduct a botanical walk around the buildings to look at the plants. The main wildlife on land are mini lizards. We have also sighted an occasional snake. Still after four years of visiting this island we are yet to see its most famous species. So where are the alligators one might ask?

Each year we make our pilgrimage to J. R. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It comprises over 1/3 of the island. We did see manatees and many mollusks. All of Ding Darling and most of Sanibel is comprised of mangrove trees or are they bushes? We drive the 4+ mile road through Ding Darling each year hoping to see the elusive alligator. But we’re from Chicagoland so we’re acquainted with the Cubs’ refrain…there’s always next year.

This island is a paradise from the slow pace, to the beauty, to the store that has parrots to speak to the customers. One of my favorite parts of the island is the Sanibel community church. It’s healthy, growing, laid back even in the traditional service. I always look forward to worship with this church.

So the point of this column is to find inspiration in and through all events of life. Most people would quickly understand how to glean inspiration in such a place. These people would be correct. It is easy to find inspiration on Sanibel. In fact if you can’t find inspiration there you are taking life too serious. If you cannot relax on Sanibel you need to intentionally be unintentional. Take a walk by the Gulf near dusk, close your eyes and just listen to the melody of the tides. The movement of the waters in and out will mimic your own heartbeat and breathing. Let it slow you so you can become aware of the beauty surrounding you.

In the beauty of paradise there can be pitfalls. There can easily be too much sun, too much food, too much alcohol just to name a few. This year there was the grill. Not that I got burnt…I got stung! I was stung in the past but not with such searing pain. My finger swelled and by morning the whole hand. It looked like the arm was next but by God’s grace the poison stopped. After days I was back to normal.

So where was the inspiration in this? It comes through awareness as does most inspiration. I became aware of the threat I can represent to another species. I became aware of looking closely before assuming even in paradise. I also became aware that my decision of how I respond makes all the difference in returning to full health.

Paradise is inspiring with little thought. Yet, it is the pain in paradise which gets our attention and can truly lead to a deep appreciation of beauty all around.

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