Someone said once that time heals all wounds. I’d be willing to bet that person hadn’t REALLY had loss in their life. Don’t get me wrong. Life is moving on. In so many fabulous ways. But as I stare down the barrel of several memory anniversaries this week I’m a little melancholy.
Turns out…time never heals grief. It eases the sharpness as you struggle to breathe. It dulls the edges in a way that makes living come back in ways you can’t imagine possible in the immediate aftermath. But time does not ever heal grief. Because grief can’t be healed. Each year the calendar rolls dates around that tug the fine hairs under the band-aid you’ve put on the pain. You find ways to brace for it. To get through it. To ask for help. But on those days the pain is very much there.
TimeHop has begun reminding me of the season of life that the kids and I were in this time six years ago. This week on Friday would have been my sixteenth wedding anniversary. As I mull that over…how many years Fred has been gone versus here a knot forms in my stomach. February 4th would have been my grandpa’s birthday.
I can honestly look back and know that these impending dates don’t send me spiraling into the hole they once did. I can proudly say that is because I’ve done the work. I’ve invested the energy in myself to know that I am a survivor. But that doesn’t mean I’m not tremendously glad that when the idea came up to run away this week that I wasn’t completely and totally on board. Spend a week away with a man who loves me and makes room for the days that I’m not quite ok? Yep. Spend a week doing one of the things I love most with friends who are like family to me? Yep. Sign me up.
Add surprising all those friends to the list (my favorite thing to do to people I love) and I’m all in.
We boarded the Carnival Celebration today. To celebrate being loved. Not once not twice but by three amazing men. My PawPaw who contradicted all the crappy awful abusive men my mother chose. Fred who took a broken girl, gave her an instant family, and was patient while she loved too hard and held on a little too tight. And this wonderful man who walks beside me now. Who quietly and patiently lets me know every day that I am worth being loved. That bruised and slightly damaged as I may be I deserve to be loved as hard as I love.
We are celebrating friendship. These that I have made in all the years I’ve traveled. The special relationships I have that I constantly confuse the mess out of Tim because he can’t remember all the names but he loves them all because they make me happy.
Love hard friends. Life is short and precious and can change on a dime.
My timing is always crazy but as I sit in my steamy beach town my thoughts are on the whale I met in September in Alaska. Hahaha. Maybe because this 2000+ lb whale made enough of an impression on me that we named Tim’s car after her. Let me tell you about our whale excursion and a whale named Barnacles.
The tour we took in Juneau in September was a whale watching tour and my greatest wish was to see an orca. When we boarded the bus our guide said that while it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility he had only seen orcas six times since April (and it was September). But the whale gods were with me. We weren’t on board the boat 15 minutes and the captain got a call that an Orca named Captain Hook had been spotted. Named such because his dorsal fin had gotten caught in something at one point and was curved over in an unnatural way. He was a scout orca for a transient pod – scouting food for his pod while they were safely some distance away. There aren’t enough words to describe the feelings that went through me when my eyes landed on that whale. There were tears and there was a video sent to my baby girl. Like most ocean things whales are OUR thing.
Back to Barnacles. After Captain Hook moved on they took us into a cove a few minutes away and there were numerous humpback whales breaching the surface. Even with many whale watching boats in the area the silence and the majestic-ness (yes that’s a word lol) of being still and listening to these huge creatures blow out of their blowholes was amazing. The air was still, the scenery behind them just stunning, the eagles soaring above them, and these huge creatures closer than you can even imagine was a once in a lifetime experience. The guide had told us to take as many pictures as possible. We were on a scientific type tour where they tried hard to match the whale tails to their records to see which of the whales they had identified were in the area so they can track their patterns, babies, etc.
Never did I ever anticipate that I would get a good enough picture of a whale’s fluke to be able to match one in the book. Mind you, I was using my iPhone. But after an hour of watching these amazing creatures breach and swim around us we headed back to shore. While we did they passed around a book for us to compare our pictures with the known whales in the area. I was stunned to realize I had a picture of a mama whale named Barnacles. (For that matter so was the guide!). She is a 57’ whale, one of the largest in the world, identified in 2007. They didn’t say if she was identified as a baby whale or not but geez that makes her at minimum 15 years old.
I went into the Alaska trip skeptical I would like the cold. Knowing the whale excursion would likely be my favorite. I was wrong on one and right on the other. I can’t wait to go back to Alaska. Made a promise to the baby girl that we wouldn’t go back without her. One I am already chomping at the bit to fulfill.
If you have nothing else on your bucket list – put Alaska on it. It’s worth it.
I have three favorite ports of call. Three that are my favorite for a variety of reasons…in no particular order….Grand Cayman, Grand Turk, and Cozumel. Last week I was returned to the beauty and peacefulness that is Grand Turk. The minute the ship pulls into Grand Turk it is blue water as far as the eye can see. Blue water that is an indescribable color I have tried to replicate in my home, my office, and in just about every aspect of my life because it brings me such joy and peacefulness.
Astrologically I am a Cancer (Tim is too but that’s another post!). As a water sign as soon as I get around water my souls stills and my body relaxes. Every knot in my body unfurls and I can breathe again. I truly think the reason cruising appeals to me so much is that I can breathe out on the open water. Nothing, absolutely nothing, phases me when I am near the ocean.
Grand Turk, the cruise port, is pretty commercial. It’s designed to part you with your money. If that’s your thing, they get you taken care of. Blessedly, unlike other ports, you can get your beach/water fix as well within a few minutes walk of the ship. Some ports require you to be taken by bus to the beach and that’s never really fun. I’ve done excursions in Grand Turk but sometime a couple of years ago I found that just getting off the ship, wandering around, and then sitting in Margaritaville watching all the people was much more relaxing. I make sure that I get back on the boat before the masses and it makes for a very relaxing day.
Carnival Cruises built the port center on Grand Turk in 2006 which is why it feels so commercial. Unlike other Caribbean cruise stops, Grand Turk is a very small island, and offers a different atmosphere than other destinations. It’s just a laid-back little town with amazing beaches and a little British Bermudian Colonial heritage.
When you stand in the water you can see straight down to the bottom (about the only kind of water I will stand in!) and it’s beautiful. The sand doesn’t hurt your feet like other beaches. The surf is beautiful and relaxing.
Anyway, if you get the chance get to Grand Turk. It’ll surely become one of your favs too. I’ll be back to it in July and I can’t wait!
When I go too long between cruises I forget. I forget the energy that thrums through your body when you wake up on embarkation day and realize that FINALLY it’s time to get onboard. I forget how my heart races when my foot crosses the threshold of the ship and every muscle in my body screams “YES”. I also forget the way life just fades away and time slows down for a few days.
But the people? People are different onboard.
The crew you meet…there aren’t words for these amazing human beings. They make you feel like you are the most special person in their world for a week. They have some superhuman capacity for remembering they have met you before. With the thousands of faces they see I have no idea how on that one. But some of the kindest, sweetest, most compassionate gentle souls I have ever met dedicate their lives to these ships and making vacations unforgettable. It makes me physically ill when I see the few that can’t seem to leave their bad attitudes at home and abuse them like they are servants. More on that another time.
I think the most fascinating is how the guests are. 98% are more easy going and open to meeting new people than they ever would be at home. If the human race could tap into the energy and attitude you find aboard a cruise ship? Hell, we’d have no wars or division anywhere. There is something truly magical about meeting someone you wouldn’t have met otherwise (mainly because they live 1000 miles away from you) and feeling your heart click like they are your best friend. I can’t tell you how many of these friendships I have made that remain near and dear to my heart.
Prior to this week it has been 18 months since I was on a ship. The longest I’ve gone since 2012. Now that I have proven to myself I can do it alone, and love it, I can assure you that will be the longest gap I will have for as long as God provides me the ability to keep cruising through life. ❤️
It’s time. It’s happening. The crew is in stateside and in quarantine. The CDC has finally backed off the industry. The ships are in place. CRUISING IS BACK.
If I didn’t already have a summer vacation in place as an alternate because I had no idea what the cruise industry was going to be allowed to do I would be on that first ship sailing on July 3rd. I would be kneeling at the end of the gangplank worshiping my favorite form of travel. There would probably be tears.
Some of you think I am kidding. Those of you who really know me? Know that I am absolutely 100% not kidding. Ships being shuddered to a stop this last 18 months has impacted my health. My mental health.
You see some people travel just for fun. I travel to keep my sanity. I operate daily on a breakneck all out pace. My mind never stops and never gets a break. When I step on a ship I stop. Just full on stop. I sit on a bar stool (geez that sounds bad) at my favorite bar either with old friends (my last cruise was literally booked to be with two of my favorite bartenders before they went on vacation) or with people who will be friends by the end of a week. It is so polar opposite in behavior it’s sinful in it’s blissfulness. Factor in on top of that having someone else cook and clean for me for a week. And my astrologically signed Cancer heart being surrounded by water for a week? PARADISE.
So to say I’m excited about those beautiful ships setting sail? Just a little. I have massaged what is left of my vacation time nine ways to Sunday to see if I can fit in a cruise between now and my Thanksgiving cruise. (Did I mention I scheduled one of those as soon as the industry was green lighted?) Unfortunately I can’t make an extra week work but I am counting the days until Thanksgiving. Meanwhile I’ve checked in with the friends who became family (Carnival crew members) to see who is landing on which ships so I know who’s neck I get to hug first.