Piper and I sat together on the edge of our favorite fountain and read A Day at the Seashore. The sound of water rushing over stone, the feeling of a cool breeze and warm morning sun against our skin brought the story to life and left us longing for our own seaside escape this weekend. Naturally, on Saturday we got our bags together and headed toward Sarasota.
Two or so hours later we arrive in Siesta Key, with our car parked in a tiny and sandy lot that has a long and winding trail leading up to the beach. Piper enjoys running through the tall grasses, and Will thinks he spies an old and broken skiff hidden in the overgrowth. Finally the water appears on the horizon, as well as a boat with a bright orange sail named Our Girl. Our hearts soften and melt a bit as we finally spread our blanket out on the white, sandy shore. This is what bliss feels like.
We walk toward the ocean. The water feels cool as it laps against our feet. Will has his goggles in his swimsuit pocket and is eager to swim. While he delves into blue-green depths, I tiptoe further in with Piper in my arms. She laughs explosively when suddenly, I throw her into the air! — then, catching her, squat down into the water until it is all around us. Jump! Swim! She shouts.
We find shells and collect seawater in a green bucket. Will pours sand inside the bucket, then swirls his fingers around in a mesmerizing way to mix it until it forms just the right consistency — something like I imagine wet concrete to look or feel like. The mud drips off of his fingers and forms elegant patterns as the droplets stack up one by one and then dry in place, hardened by the still fiery October sun.
Later in the afternoon we leave to explore this new-to-us town. We find a shop called simply: Scandinavian Gifts (Baked Goods & Grocery). I want to explore. Where I think that I will find aisles of foreign food, I find colorful linens, aprons, clogs, Christmas ornaments, trolls, branchy wreaths hanging from the ceiling, Swedish horses painted on everything, a mobile with tiny Viking ships, and for some reason – a little shelf with Russian nesting dolls. I am equally delighted. All of the crafty, folksy, unique and global treasures fixate me for some time. Will and Piper join me in the store, and there we spend a good hour until the shop closes and the restaurant next door opens.
We eat at a little place called Veg, which has separately dedicated vegan and gluten free menus. We share a bowl of creamy butternut squash soup that comes in a tall ceramic cup and feels warm in my hands. The soup is delicious, and tastes a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. Our salad is shredded kale piled high with purple cabbage, carrot and beet sticks, pea shoots and sunflower seeds. The dressing is sweetened with orange juice, but also includes crushed dried papaya seed for a taste of something a bit unusual. Our dinner is literally a steaming volcano of layered quinoa, spinach, marinated Portobello mushroom, and mashed potato with a cherry tomato on top. The chef clearly loves food — cooking and playing with it! Yet, as unbelievable as our dinner tasted, it was dessert that truly satisfied and delighted me. Both of ours came served in delicate dessert glasses. Mine was hot, with a deep chocolate brownie topped with several generous scoops of vanilla coconut ice cream and drizzled with caramel and chocolate. Help. Everytime I take a bite it feels as though little fireworks are going off in my mind. Piper is asking for more ice cream, please? Will’s glass is filled with the creamiest, most fulfilling coconut cream pudding topped with toasted coconut. It has been years since we have eaten pudding. It takes a lot of restraint not to eat his dessert, too. I balance the sweet with a rare cup of coffee. It comes with a little decanter of almond milk. I pour some in, and Piper finishes the milk remaining in her “baby cup”.
The sun looks like it is setting now, so we hurry back into the car and drive once more toward the water. We arrive to an orange sky ablaze over a calm ocean, whose waves have crept quietly up the shore since we last sought it. I am in awe — we all are. A group of friends sit near the shore with a bottle of wine. A couple leans in close to one another. The three of us walk barefooted in the sand. Skimmers glide across the water catching their evening meal. Tinier shore birds scurry along the sand. The sky is almost a rainbow now, with reds and oranges, purples, blues, and blacks. The stars begin to peek out of an ever darkening sky. I feel overwhelmed with the vastness. The sight of the stars are almost unbelievable, because it has been that long since I have gazed upon them. To see them with my family, in this moment, is something I will always remember. We all lie down in the sand, and gaze at the sky. Some stars are really planes. But mostly, the stars are stars, light years away, but always there.
This is what bliss feels like.