I am a solar-powered-mermaid-wannabe.
It’s hard to feel like you have saltwater in your veins while you have a life you love in the Midwest. Every time I’m near sand, saltwater and sun, the best parts of me come brilliantly alive.
2 months ago when I learned I was going to a conference less than a mile away from the Clearwater Marine Animal Hospital, the conference was scheduled Tues – Friday , I immediately took one vacation day to fulfill a dream I have had ever since I saw Dolphin Tale in 2011 in the theatre.
My own little make-a-wish trip! And I say that not because I think I’m getting old, or dying or that I even deserve a wish-trip. But I believe if we focus on moments of tremendous joy, those moments multiply and keep coming into your life. And actions make wishes and dreams come true.
My flight was paid for by work, so this trip just cost me one vacation day and one night at the hotel. I frugally packed and brought beef jerky for lunch and a zone bar for breakfast each day before the conference started.
I tried to visit CMA during the pandemic with my youngest son, to meet Winter but I didn’t make it in time. I grieved when she passed last November, I rewatched the movie Dolphin Tale over and over until I had memorized the entirety, and then kept watching it again and again. It was inspirational on every front …. every character.
I wanted to rescue dolphins and connect with them while they heal. The best part of the Dolphin Tale movies are the live rescue footages at the end! I love what CMA does.
As I boarded my plane from Chicago to Tampa, my seat and gate were identical (26C, C26), and I saw that as a sign that this was meant to be. Then I noticed you can watch free movies on the United Airlines and Dolphin Tale began!
I checked in at the hotel, enjoyed some freshly caught Red Snapper for dinner and headed towards Pier 60 to soak in the sunset. The pier was overflowing with vendors, fishermen, artists, street performers. I paid a mere $1 for access to the perfect sunset viewing, I got a seat on a bench and this older gentleman sat next to me drinking liquor from a paper bag. At the moment the sun completely fell into the gulf, he declared “this day is done, there will never be another one like it” amen my barstool philosopher friend!
Monday morning, I walked the 1.4 miles to Clearwater Marine Animal Hospital (CMA) as if my body knew how to find it.
I arrived a half hour before the gates opened to the public, and found a treasure-trove of wishes on the surrounding sidewalk and dock.
I deeply loved the whole aquarium, every animal, every exhibit. And then, I became a VIP and met 3 dolphin trainers Gabby (Nicholas 🐬) and Chloe (Hope 🐬) and Meghan. The dolphin pools were closed and Meghan took my breathe away when she announced that PJ died suddenly over the weekend.
I saw on the news there was a school shooting in St Louis, a few miles away from where I stand, people are still homeless from Hurricane Ian; life is so difficult, and I am really grateful for this experience and I don’t take any of it lightly.
I left my dolphin experience urgently wanting to experience (and deserve) everything life has to offer. I’ve always been excited by sunrises, sunsets, seeing a new bird species or brilliant flower. But the sand on the beach felt softer, the air tasted more savory. In the words of Alexandra Cousteau “Water is the ink that writes the poetry of life” and I hope I go back into the water when I die and become a poet.
I’m not sure what lottery I won to be able to have had this week of dolphins, sunshine, palm trees, pelicans, public art, fresh fish, live music, beach walks, boat rides, swimming, coffee on a balcony, and 24-hr outdoor hot tub … but I deeply appreciated every single minute!
Yes, I even appreciated the really long conference days! I am so used to my 14-meeting work days where I am always presenting and it was lovely to sit back, take notes and learn!
six days of seashells, sunshine, sand, saltwater …. and software….I’ll never forget!
I grieve with you for PJ. I will bring Hope’s playfulness and energy and Nicolas’s tenderness and fragility with me throughout my precious life.