I spent the first part of my spring break visiting family in San Antonio. It’s always strange revisiting the city and home of my childhood, only this time as an adult. It’s interesting to note the changes, both in the environment and in how I perceive the surroundings.
We went straight from the airport to a lovely gluten-free restaurant and bakery, where I had my first Belgian waffles in over 8 years. Other patrons commented on and related to the ecstasy I was experiencing with my meal; once something has been taken away, it will never again be taken for granted.
The next stop was the zoo, where my mom and I got to experience a first for both of us – a front row seat to some lion hanky panky. You know that rumbling roar that you heard on Saturday afternoon? Well, I saw its origin. Yikes. Let’s just say, I’m glad I’m not a lioness.
I’ll spare you the pictures of the carnal shenanigans (what? you know you would have clicked too), and share some of the other big cats we saw instead. The facility has replaced parts of the enclosures with glass, which makes for an amazingly up-close and intimate experience.
It’s funny, even though we are largely visual creatures, smells have a way of activating memory like no image ever can. When I encountered the overripe candle scent of the mold-o-rama animal machine, I was instantly 6 again, tugging on my dad’s hand while stating the reasons I needed a five inch wax gorilla in order to survive. I prevailed. The gorilla, however, did not. It turns out soft plastic toys are not particularly suited to the climate of South Texas.
The zoo’s new (to me, at least) Africa exhibit allows a great view of an okapi, which I described as, “A giraffe and a zebra walk into a bar…” These quiet creatures were undiscovered until the late 19th century and early reports were met with skepticism. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
My ex worked at Sea World for almost two years in our late teens/early twenties. He would come home from his jack-of-all trades position in the scenic department with his polyester uniform stiff with dried sweat and imbued with a tenacious odor of fish to regal me with stories of mischievous animals and demanding bosses. During those years, I often went to the park with him, using the free pass to gain access to Great White, a short but oh-so-sweet hanging roller coaster. I had not been to the park since he quit that position, almost 18 years ago.
It turns out that 18 years is a long time. The park has changed and morphed so much, that not only did it hold few memories (except for Great White, whose every twist and turn I could still recall), but I even found myself getting lost on the winding paths. And with all of the renovations over the years, every set that his hands had touched had long since been relegated to the garbage. Seemed appropriate.
My mom and I are on our way to becoming professional patio hoppers.
We toured the patios of the Texas Hill country and ended up stopping at Luckenbach, a “city” that when I was teenager was described as “having a population of two, but one died.” The city has become famous through Willie Nelson, as its post office has now turned into a gift shop surrounded by a bar, outdoor music venue and dance hall that is frequented by country and folk musicians. Although it has grown, the vibe has remained the same. It felt like coming home again.
While I was gone, spring continued to proceed in Atlanta (if there was a pause button, I would have pushed it). My husband sent me some pictures of the party our azaleas were throwing. I was worried about my new plantings, still tender and unsure with shallow roots and delicate leaves. Much like us, they need some nurturing during times of change and stress.
And when they receive the care they need, they respond with growth.
The first year, they sleep. The second year, they creep. And the third year, they leap.
And I thought back to my own growth process after divorce. The slow, almost undetectable changes of the first year. The gradual improvements of the second. And the radical changes in year three as the behind the scenes work paid off.
Provide nurture in your sleep year. Surround yourself with support. Feed your hope and your soul. Be gentle and kind to your displaced heart.
Be patient in your creep year. Remove any weeds that invade your life. Continue to seek out supplemental support, yet also learn to trust that you can survive periods of harshness.
Celebrate your leap year. Don’t hesitate to show your true colors and live out loud. Know that your early work has built a strong foundation that will withstand even the most savage storms.