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Self Nurturing: Enjoying the Labyrinth at the Beach

What joy it was to get out to the beach at St. Augustine today.  Of course, we made our usual stop at Zhanra’s for a scrummy breakfast.  If you haven’t yet tried their Sunday Brunch it’s time to treat yourself.  An incredible buffet of cooked-to-order omelet anyway you want it, quiche, scrambled eggs (plain or dressed up), apple wood smoked sausages and bacon, chorizo soup or gumbo or cheese grits.  (I don’t like grits, but these are to die for!!)  Then there are fresh biscuits and sausage gravy, and home-made fries.  And that’s just the cooked section. Turn the corner of the counter and there’s a whole array of bagels, Danish pastries, fresh fruit, muffins and fresh garden green salad.

Your waiter takes your drink order and also asks if you would like pancakes or French Toast to order.  I highly recommend the French Toast.  I’m sure the pancakes are wonderful too but I so enjoy their French Toast that I just can’t not have it.  This has to be the best Sunday Brunch in town and it’s a deal at $9.99 plus your drink.

So with satisfied stomachs we headed to the beach.  It had rained some while we were at breakfast but by the time we headed out it had cleared up and was just a perfect mix of cloud cover and sun.  At the beach it was also wonderfully breezy and my soul sang out as the seagulls screamed.  Lorelei was already there busily drawing a labyrinth in the sand.  After hugs all around I readied my stick and, carefully following Lorelei’s paper design, I drew another labyrinth next to hers.

There is such a focused feeling of peace as I draw a labyrinth.  Perhaps it is because I start the design with the central cross section and lay down my words of intention immediately.  Today’s words were Hope, Love, Balance and Harmony.  Then the gentle circles unwind as I walk and draw the design.  As soon as I had completed it, I walked my first meditation.  Some people walk the labyrinth quickly.  I prefer a slow measured step.

As I walk, I think of what or/and who I want to take into the center and pray about/for.  As these thoughts form, other words of intention surface and I stop and inscribe them inside the pathways I have created.  Today some of those words were, Delight, Laughter, Compassion, Spirit, Creator, Live, Serenity, Light, Energy, and Enchanted.  As I stepped into the center the word Joy came to mind and so, alongside a heart design, I inscribed that word.  To complete the center I inscribed the names of those I wanted to enfold within the blessings of the labyrinth.

Shortly after this we noticed an unusual sun-dog form in the sky.  Normally sun-dogs carry tinges of rose and yellow.  This one was a very luminescent blue-green, and the clouds were swirled around it almost in circles.  There were lots of people on the beach today and  many of them joined us to walk the labyrinths.  Lorelei was very creative today and drew a total of five, which with mine made six.  There was a special energy in the labyrinths today as many children danced and ran their way around the circles, some of them asking accompanying parents what the words said as they passed them on their way.

All too soon it was time to head home.  We embraced Lorelei and thanked her for her time and energy.  Part of me wanted to remain on the beach, that same part that sometimes wants to hop on a plane and just leave.  So within my heart I said a centering prayer and returned to the reality of the present moment.  I thanked God for my time at the ocean and for good friends and headed home.

Self Nurturing: Creative Surroundings

I have already mentioned in another posting, Self Nurturing- GrillSmith Of Tampa, FL, that I really appreciate good food.  I think the preparation of food is an art of its own.  Good cooking is definitely a God-given talent.  The skillful combination of the flavors, the colors, and the textures of different kinds of food along with the pleasing presentation to the client is as creative as painting a picture.  So just imagine blending these two creative arts together!

In the past couple of months I’ve established a new routine for myself that brings me much joy.  On the first Sunday of each month I go to St. Augustine, Florida to walk and meditate in the labyrinth that my friend Lorelei creates in the wet sand at low tide.  It is a wonderful time of going inwards to my God-centered self.  I shared that experience in a previous posting, Labyrinth Meditation At The Beach.  What I didn’t mention in that posting is what I do before I get to the labyrinth.

Part of this new routine includes a stop at another location in St. Augustine to have brunch.  It’s a restaurant called Zhanra’s which is just across the Bridge of Lions on Anastasia Island.  Richard and I tried Zhanra’s about a year ago when we went to see Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman in concert at the St. Augustine Amphitheater.  We had an excellent dinner and were very impressed by the menu choices, the presentation, and the good and friendly service.  The prices were very reasonable too.

The restaurant itself is very welcoming and warm.  The decor does not follow the usual pattern or design of most of the “chain” restaurants.  It is very simple and unique.  When you walk in there is a long serving counter on the wall immediately opposite the front door.  To the right there is a very accommodating bar that has tall tables and stools where you can also dine, while to the left is the main dining area.

But what adds to the decor and makes Zhanra’s so special is the art work on the walls.  It is bright and beautiful and very eclectic and showcases a great variety of artist’s work.  These paintings are up for sale, so while you are eating you can also appreciate and even acquire a great piece of art.  Because the art is sold, or because the artists choose to rotate their work out from time to time, new pieces appear from one visit to another.

An interesting feature connected to the art work is found in a corner of the main dining room.  A small working space is set up and I believe that some of the artists come in from time to time to work on a piece while the diners are enjoying their meal. 

When Richard and I made our first visit to Zhanra’s we knew we would be back again because it was very good and because it was different.  So when we learned that they offered a Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm we chose to make it a stop on one of our Harley rides.  And we were hooked!  We have been back twice as a couple and I have returned twice with friends and yet another time we both went back with a small group. 

So let me walk you through the brunch process. You are seated by the host/hostess and a server takes your drink order immediately.  Large and small plates are provided on the table and you can go to the buffet freely.  However, we always wait so that we can put in our order with our server for waffles or French toast. I have never eaten the waffles because I am so addicted to their French toast which is, in my opinion, food of the gods!!   

The long serving counter that I mentioned in a previous paragraph is laden down with all things scrumptious for the brunch.  There is a chef at one end who will cook omelets to your specifications.  As you proceed along the counter there are hot containers with quiche, grits, scrambled eggs, apple smoked bacon and sausages (my personal favorite!), fresh melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and gravy, and the best home-fried potatoes I have ever tasted.  And just in case you need to start your brunch with a soup there are two offered, one of which is usually a great gumbo.

But it doesn’t stop there!  As you turn the corner of the buffet counter there are several large trays.  One is piled high with a mountain of freshly cut fruit in season.  Another contains pre-cut bagels of every description, and beside that there is a tray full of different Danish pastries cut up into bite size chunks so that you can try the different types.  Yet one more container holds muffins just to round out your choices.

All this for the princely sum of $9.99 plus drink.  It has to be the best value and one of the best dining and creative art experiences that I have ever enjoyed.   By the way, I forgot to mention that the art exhibits continue on into the bathrooms and Zhanra’s offers another creative art form too.  Most nights there is different live music to enjoy.  So go and satisfy the artist in your soul.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Musings: The Evasive Muse

I haven’t written anything for about a week now.  I guess it would be truer to say that I have not been able to write anything during this time.  Some people call this “writer’s block”.  I like to think that my Muse needs a rest or a vacation now and then.

There are several different schools of thought on this matter.  There are those who think that if you are a writer (or painter, or any other type of creative person), you should just blast through the block, force yourself to write something (or paint, or whatever), get something going.  Others think that this is not natural and that if the creativity doesn’t flow, then leave it alone.

I happen to be of the second opinion.  Even though it is frustrating for me to come to the end of a day with itchy fingers but nothing running around in my head, my heart, or my soul, I think it is right (for me) to wait until the Muse decides to come home from her vacation, opens her suitcases, and spills out whatever treasures she brings home to share with me.

I guess I need to clarify here that it’s not that my mind has been totally blank.  I know I still have a writing to do about the glorious Cowboys game that we experienced in Tampa a few weeks ago (even though they weren’t so glorious against Denver last weekend!).   To be noted that there’s another posting about “mentors” that’s creating waves in my heart. And my soul is contentedly nurturing a whole juicy article abut Zhanra’s, a restaurant in St. Augustine that is fast becoming my favorite Sunday brunch spot.

What happens for me, I think, is that my Muse needs head, heart, and soul lined up in some sort of synchronicity.  They all need to be on the same page (no pun intended!), singing along in harmonious arcapella.  And then, of course, I have that devious little fellow, de-pression, who hovers out in left field waiting to strike me out.

Yesterday, however, Rich and I drove up to north western Georgia with some friends.  We are sharing a weekend with them in a gorgeous log cabin in the mountains.  My heart and soul are both jumping for joy and sitting in serenity.  Just to be in the mountains after living in the Florid flatlands is a gift from God.  My soul is very connected to rocks and mountains. 

As well as the mountains, we are also surrounded by woodlands that are made up of more than pine trees.  (Trees are the next soul connection after mountains for me.)  It is early Fall and the colors are creeping into the leaves.  As I look out over the wrap-around porch that I am sitting on there are lovely shades of yellow and bronze with some soft deep pinks and russet reds here and there. 

Just below the cabin there is a small lake and to one side of us I can hear the running waters of a creek that feeds into the lake.  Birds are singing all around us and the squirrels are having such fun scampering up and down and in and out of the trees.  From where I am sitting I can see three large squirrel nests.

As the evening closed in yesterday we lit a log fire in the outdoor fireplace on the porch.  The night was still, the fire crackled, and all around us were the sounds of the night.  Crickets and other insects formed the string section of the orchestra.  Various frogs tuned up their woodwind instruments, and some unknown creature of the dark provided a strange soft trilling sound.

When the sky darkened into full night we were treated to a magnificent starry display.  We are far from any major town so city lights did not spoil the effect of God’s night-time creation.   As we gazed up we realized we were seeing the Milky Way and there were a gazillion other stars up there.  I saw three shooting stars, one that was big and bright and seemed to cross the whole heavens on its journey to extinction.  And I was reminded of another night, another starry sky in Umbria, Italy many years ago.

And as I sat and bathed in the beauty of it all, I felt a subtle internal shift.  I knew that Muse was on her way home and that soon my itchy fingers would be flying across the keyboard.  I am grateful for her return and, as if to confirm her presence with me right now, a watery sun is dappling through the trees to bathe me in a soft morning glow.