So, I posted that I’d finished my dissertation and then I ran away to the beach and haven’t posted since! We’ve been wanting to take a family vacation to Dauphin Island for several years now. Last year, Tanner was an infant, so we didn’t do it. The year before I was pregnant with him and it didn’t seem like a good time to take a long car trip. We have been feeling the itch for a family adventure for a while and then we found out how much lower the beach house rates are in the winter and in January we decided to just go for it. We went for a week at the end of February. While we have tight bonds with Pismo Beach on California’s central coast, Dauphin Island, Alabama is the closest ocean-access point within driving distance for us from our beloved but landlocked Missouri, so that was the clear choice. Paying for gas and driving six people somewhere is much less expensive than flying six people to California! Aside from a very short stop at Castaway Cay on the Disney Cruise Mark and I went on in 2001, we’ve never been to an island before, nor have we seen or experienced the Gulf of Mexico.
We were worried about how Tanner would handle the drive, so we split the trip there into two parts, but on the way back we just powered through and did the whole drive in one day (it is about 11 hours if you don’t stop, but took us 14 to get home due to one dinnertime stop and then a disastrous accidental wrong turn when we were only one hour from home! And, yes, somehow, it is actually possible to be in five states all in one day!). Tanner did an amazing job, no tears and just kind of accepting of his state of confinement. I sat in the back seat with him the whole time, crammed between two car seats, unable to face my body fully forward and instead having to sit sideways. Was it worth it? YES! Not only did we feel like brave, intrepid, adventurous explorers doing cool things with our family, but we had a beautiful and fun and unforgettable time together on the island. The weather was quite variable with the kids able to be in just bathing suits the first two days, the wind becoming so ferocious the following day that we couldn’t really go out (and the house literally shook the whole night!), to icy gusts of wind that required down coats and hats (and horrible windburn for Mark on his hands). We ate fresh crab legs and shrimp, bought amazing cinnamon rolls and french bread, and ate one dinner of delicious whiting that Mark caught in the ocean. We petted stingrays at the aquarium, drove back over the thrilling bridge to the mainland and ate dinner at Golden Corral in Mobile, AL (and got our week’s groceries at Wal-Mart). We stopped at a bayside park and all went on the swings together. We spent hours upon hours walking on the beach and picking up shells, just like we imagined. Except for Mark, we also all got fevers and coughs and sinus headaches to varying degrees, sprinkled throughout the trip. Tanner was extremely clingy the entire time and I spent what felt like 12 hours a day wearing him in the Ergo and nursing him at the same time (in addition to the coughing, he is also getting what seems to be six new teeth at once!).
I became obsessed with taking full moon, sunrise, and sunset pictures with my new camera and not only did I not succeed, I ended up annoying Mark by fretting over the photos instead of enjoying the moment.
We built sand castles and dug holes and sketched a labyrinth in the sand with our toes and walked it. I made a goddess in the sand and spent hours memorizing the charge of the goddess poem and reciting it on the beach into the hair of my dozing baby.
We took boxes of goddesses and Womanrunes books with us and mailed them to people around the world from the tiny island post office (hope they all make it to their destinations!). I got sidetracked by Facebook advertising campaigns that weren’t working. We baked pound cake and ate raspberry sorbet. We went to bed by 10:00 and were up by 6:00 to watch the sun rise.
We were very often the only people within sight on the beach. We had trouble differentiating whether that made us fools or geniuses, but there is nothing like a broad open stretch of sand and sea, with only your most treasured loved ones around you.
The Return from a trip is often exhausting, not just the travel day, but the re-integrating into “real life,” especially when it doesn’t slow down (and all my students submitted their final papers Sunday night!) Maybe I will come back and do a more detailed recap post with more pictures some other day, but I’m betting that this is all I’ve got!
I have the Red Tent and Womanspirit programs beginning on March 21st and I also go back to teaching at the Fort that same day. I have a training manual to finish writing, a website to update, and spring ritual kits to finish creating. The kids are still coughing and I’m sitting in my bed next to my sleeping baby writing this post when I really should be grading papers. And, I’m so, so glad we carved out the time and space to be adventurous together anyway. It was totally worth it.
“I and so many other mothers before me have fully lived this ritual of connection and sustenance. We are the Life Givers, and we are holy in our work.”
–Jennifer Pratt-Walker (in SageWoman magazine)