In Search of My Kindred Spirit – An excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit

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Today my thoughts are with those affected by the hurricane. My friends in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, seemed to have fare a little better than the other coastal towns like Wilmington. So in honor of them, here’s an excerpt from my book, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, to be released Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Hope you enjoy it.

The essay is titled, Finding My Kindred Spirit, and it talks about finding a perfectly inspirational place some search for all their lives. I was lucky to find this place of calm about 7 years ago. So drawn to this spot, I return year after year…

“Two days later, on a radiant Carolina morning, with canteens and cameras in-tow, hubby, the dog and I, made our journey down the beach to the Kindred Spirit Bench from the 40th Street beach access. Along the way, we took time to soak in the sights and sounds – seagulls soaring overhead, driftwood wash ashore, and children building sandcastles.

Arriving at our destination, my carefree animal child with the ice-blue eyes hopped up on one of the two weathered benches aside her Earth Mother. We cast a gaze onto the flat hard sand watching passersby carefully select seashells from the shallow tide pools.”

Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak. The quote below precedes the essay in the book.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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Life on the Wall (Bloody Bay Wall) – Excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

Good morning everyone! I hope our neighbors due south are staying safe in preparation for hurricane Florence.

Today I’ll be sharing an excerpt from “Life on the Wall”, my diving adventure with friend Sheila and divemaster Zam, about the first time I cast a gaze on Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands.

Hope you enjoy!

“Keeping the wall as my visual landmark, I fin-kick and swim downward. Pressure builds in my ear canals. Pinching my nose with my thumb and forefinger, my cheeks puff as I force an exhale, clearing my ears.

I check my depth gauge, which now reads seventy-eight feet. Glancing to my right, I study the blue abyss. An immense Caribbean reef shark, sleek and gray, appears unexpectedly out of the chasm. I inhale deeply from my regulator, and hold my breath — an action forbidden in scuba diving. I quickly remember to exhale.”

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“The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are truly adjusted to each other, who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of mankind.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

 

The Pillars of Hercules – Sneak Peak from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

This sneak peak below was taken from an essay I penned for Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits titled “The Pillars of Hercules” – a dive site off the craggy coast of Cayman Brac, teaming with tall pillar corals and magnificent macro life. Our divemaster and boat captain for our adventure was Craig Burhart – also unforgettable. He lead our group from Chesterfield Missouri (Y-Kiki Divers).

Here’s the excerpt from “The Pillars of Hercules”

“Donning my equipment over my sleek swimsuit, I jumped in giant-stride from the dive platform. The tepid water temperature felt invigorating on my skin. With only ten pounds in my weight belt, I dropped effortlessly to the sea floor. Russell followed close behind. The sun’s shadows danced on the rocky bluffs below the surface.

While drifting along the crushed seashell bottom, in the distance, I recognized the regal coral described by Craig. Tall butter cream pillar spires swayed softly and reminded me of bottle brushes, flourishing with banded butterflyfish and hogfish snappers. Close up, their bristles were actually polyp tips that opened and closed.”

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Well, I hope that little teaser peaked your interest enough to visit my blog next Tuesday for a sneak peak at another essay.

For more about Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets click here. The book releases on September 25, 2018.

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

 

Yoga with Baby Goats & a Coastal Irish Pub – my newest publications

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Copyright Shenanigoats Yoga 2018

Good Morning Everyone,

Normally, I don’t post freelance publications on my blog. My blog is mainly inspirational posts and content. But…I’m just so excited on how these two assignments turned out, I wanted to share with you.

The first is a story on Shenanigoats Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee titled “Got Goats” (published in Long Weekends Spring Summer 2018) and how much fun goat yoga can be!

The second is a three-page spread on Fibber McGee’s, Sunset Beach, North Carolina’s only Irish Pub with a coastal flair, titled “Luck of the Irish” (published in South Brunswick Magazine Spring 2018). Sunset Beach is my favorite place to vacation, and Fibber’s is amazing!

So here you go! Enjoy the stories, and feel free to leave comments below.

Happy Monday! It snowed here in the Midwest last night, so I’m loving it!

Peace out,

xoxoxo

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South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 90

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 91

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 92

The Grateful Jar 2017 – What are your Blessings?

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Feeling the effects of cabin fever set in, I made reservations for New Year’s Eve dinner at Pangea, voted one of twelve best new restaurants in the St. Louis area. It was located in an area called “Newtown”.

The bright and contemporary restaurant was bustling with servers dressed in black, scurrying back and forth between table delivering cream-colored plates of aromatic delectables. The hostess seated us behind a half wall, far away from the brisk night air streaming in whenever the entrance door was opened.

The menu was set for the evening – Ricotta Knudi, Filet Mignon and Shrimp, Lemon Elderberry Cheesecake, and Ancho Chile Chocolate Mousse. Dinner and dessert were divine; I was left craving more of that par excellence flavor. My tall glass of sparkling Prosecco was a nice complement to the dinner.

After dinner, we motored homeward. Once inside, we turned on the TV searching for the Dave Clark New Year’s Eve Celebration channel. I suppose the food was too much excitement for me, as I fell asleep shortly after 10 p.m.

Hubby woke me up with a kiss at midnight, singing, “Happy New Year”.

For the last three years, I’ve started the tradition of a Grateful Jar (or a Blessings Jar). During the year, you pen all the things you’re grateful for, and drop the small bits of paper in the jar, to be opened on New Year’s Day, or shortly after.

Today, with the help of my sweet little Ireland kitty supervising, I read through the memories tucked away in the jar.

Here are the awesome people, places, and memories that made 2017 great.

This was posted by my friend Abby. (She must have snuck this into the Grateful Jar while we were on vacation)

“Blessed by the fur babies I kitty sit. Love all 4 of them so very much.” Abby

  • Despite my friend Dave Reed going through cancer treatments, he and his wife Dena prepared a lovely January birthday dinner for me.
  • August 23 – The view of the bees pollinating the purple and white cleomes outside my window. The cornflower blue Morning Glory wistfully twisting around the deck spindles.
  • The artist, Craig Hosner, I met on Santa Rosa who constructed a beautiful American flag in the sand with all-natural materials — seashells, pine cones, and oyster shells.

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  • August 21 – The total solar eclipse visible in the Missouri sky over our house. The purple and red violet flares on the corona made me cry, it was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life, almost spiritual in nature. The stillness of the event, the birds singing, the crickets chirping – stunning!Sheree pic eclipse crop VEnus contrast copyr
  • Grateful for good friends to confide in.
  • Writing a story on my friend Janet Jonas, of Gentle Touch Canine Massage, Sunset Beach. Hearing her inspirational story and her love for animals.
  • My story on the Waterfront Seafood Shack being voted 1 of 5 top stories in South and North Brunswick Magazine in 2017 by the readers.
  • Watching my niece and nephews grow taller, smarter and stronger.
  • Thankful for a beautiful dinner and dessert with the hubster for Valentine’s Day.
  • Thankful for a birthday outing with girlfriends Tina, Peggy, Janet and Abby.
  • The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.
  • The dolphin excursion in Calabash, North Carolina, where I viewed more than 35 dolphins following a shrimp trawler.
  • Great friends and fellowship.
  • Being invited to Burbank in 2018 for a private taping of the Big Bang Theory by a special friend I met on Sunset Beach.
  • My love of cooking and baking.
  • Six fur babies that live with me and the hubster.
  • Ephraim, Wisconsin, and sunsets with the dogs and hubby on the private dock with the Adirondack chairs.

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  • Unexpected double rainbows on August 20 (the day before the solar eclipse). God sure was working that week.
  • Snow for Christmas!
  • The majestic 100-year-old white-washed barn in the neighbor’s corn field.
  • Spending Christmas eve with my crazy cousins!
  • Enjoying all the wonderful coffeehouses in Nashville with my friend Pat on a girlfriend getaway.

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  • Winning 4 writing awards at the Show Me Writers Conference in April, and a free registration for 2018.
  • Sneaking peaks at the cats and Bordeaux watch birds and wildlife outside the French doors and the storm door.
  • The adrenalin rush leading up to hiking Twin Falls on the road to Hana, Maui. Crossing the raging stream with hubby, thinking we’re going to fall over the drop off. Finally reaching the falls. Hearing the rush of the water, the chilly feeling it left on my skin. Enjoying watching Russell swim behind the waterfall.
  • Santa Rosa Beach sunsets, savory food, yummy coffee, the Red Bar, Eden Gardens, meeting Namon and Rebecca.
  • Walks with the dogs to clear my head near the lake in Heritage Park.
  • A sneak peek at the cover for my picture book with Pat Wahler, Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat.
  • Watching Christine’s hen in Nashville lay 6 eggs in a row!
  • Finding our friend Dave Reed is cancer free, for the second time in his life.
  • Grateful for Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis!
  • Dancing the polka with my cousin, Susie, around the tables at Das Bevo while listening to the Waterloo German Band.
  • Have a publisher request my poetry collection manuscript. (Still patiently waiting for an answer)
  • Being surprised with a sandwich from Jimmy John’s by my husband, delivered right to the front door.
  • Listening to two jazz musician groups this year at Jazz at the Bistro.
  • Touring Leiper’s Fork Distillery and learning how to sniff, swig and chew whiskey.
  • Meeting David Hodges from Evanescence and Alicia Witt, the actress, at the Bluebird Café in Nashville.
  • The weird art exhibit museum event with longtime friend, Tina, where we were told by museum volunteers NOT to take pictures of the pictures!
  • Walking to the Kindred Spirit Bench with Russell, Sandra, and the dogs in October before sunset. The sky was amazing!
  • Little girls named Remy at Sunset Beach in October, and husbands flying kites.
  • Touring the Bissinger Chocolate factory with friend Abby, and wearing hairnets and coats like Lucy and Ethel.
  • Meeting tango dancers Elise and Marco on the beach at Sunset Beach in October in the midst of a pumpkin-hued sky.
  • My love of photography and writing.
  • Sharing my love of travel with my husband.
  • The ability to vacation seven times this year.
  • Grateful for my fur babies and their funny quirks.
  • Grateful I’m able to comfort friends in difficult times.

What where some things you were grateful for in 2017?

 

 

 

This Day of Infamy – Pearl Harbor – An Author’s Tribute

On this day, I’d like to pay tribute to all those who served on that day December 7, 1941, and either lost their lives, or survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Specifically, I’d like to honor my Dad, Joe, who served aboard the U.S.S Vestal in WWII as a Chief Petty Officer.

Taken from the information gathered from the U.S.S. Vestal 1988 reunion booklet, “The U.S.S. Vestal compiled one of the longest records of continuous naval service of any Navy ship. Though the U.S.S. Vestal had neither the appearance or grace of an ocean greyhound, her heart and spirit were an inspiration.”

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She first came into service in 1914 during the Vera Cruz affair, followed by service in World War I.

“At a time when most ships are faded memories, U.S.S. Vestal, at the age of 32, was awaiting the then, unknown attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December, 1941. Anchored alongside the battleship U.S.S. Arizona, where she had moored several days before, some of her crew had gone ashore to church. Others were carrying on the ship’s work and the rest were making the most of a Sunday routine.”

When the attack came, General Quarters sounded, and all hands dispersed to battle stations. The ship’s three-inch gun began booming, even though it was the only gun used in action.

“A bomb hit forward, going through four decks and exploding in the general stores storeroom. A moment later, a second bomb hit after of the quarterdeck and went through the carpenter shop, down through four decks and the double bottoms. By now, the Ole Vesta, was blazing like the goddess she was named for, as the forward bomb had started fires in the hold and was endangering the ammunition in the forward magazines. The bomb hit aft had opened the hull plating and water was gushing in.”

We all know the fate of the U.S.S. Arizona.

Commander Cassin Young received the Medal of Honor, for his heroic efforts. After the U.S.S. Arizona exploded, with extreme calmness, he moved the Vestal to an anchorage distant from the Arizona, beaching it, thus, saving his ship.

Dad received orders after the U.S.S. Vestal was repaired and set sail in August of 1942 to the South Pacific. He told tales of going ashore on New Hebrides where the shipmates traded candy and cigarettes with the island natives in exchange for a good night’s sleep on the beach, while the islanders kept a watchful eye for enemies.

During his tour, Dad visited the South Pacific islands. I imagine those landscapes must have been untouched at that time. Dad spun tales of throwing a boomerang on the beach in Australia, and yes, it did come right back to him! I still have that boomerang – it hangs above the door from the kitchen to the garage, in an upward position – catching all the luck and good fortune it can.

I discovered that as a molder, it was his duty to dive underwater to repair submarines. I didn’t learn this until after he had passed away. Maybe this is why I have such a passion for scuba diving and the underwater world.

Did you know that during the two months that followed August 29, 1942, the Vestal completed 963 repair jobs for 58 ships and four shore installations? Saratoga, South Dakota, New Orleans, North Carolina and five destroyers were just some of the ships.

Anyway, I could go on and on. But I won’t.

All I know was, he was my hero.

I cherish a crumbling photo album he compiled from the 1940’s, displaying photos of Mom, my brother, my aunts, and his friends in the service, places he’d visited, communique’s, and items he cherished – one being the letter Mom wrote to Dad announcing the birth of my brother, Richard.

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I even found a small business-size card inducting him into the “Ancient Order of the Deep” as a “Trusty Shellback” for crossing the equator aboard the U.S.S. Vestal on August 20, 1942 signed by Davy Jones and Neptunus Rex, bearing two red seahorses and an official imprinted seal. (smile)

My only wish – that I knew ALL the stories he had to tell, not just bits and pieces.

People, if you have the time, sit down and listen to your grandparents and parents tell their stories. Ask them details, find out what happened the day you were born, talk about historic events – because time is precious. Before you know it, it’s flown by, like a gust of wind.

If you get the chance, visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii. It’s hard to even comprehend the ‘big’ picture of what happened that day, until you visit.

Oil still surfaces from the depths of the U.S.S. Arizona today in pools of rainbow hues. Some say it’s the souls of those who perished. It’s such a somber and emotional experience.

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My thoughts and prayers go out to all those families today, of those who served in World War II. May you all have a blessed Christmas.

Peace out and Love,

Sheree

 

A Salty Dog, South Walton, & a Romantic NYE

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On a spring visit to the Destin/Santa Rosa Beach area of Florida, Russell and I, craving a hearty sea adventure, headed west to nearby Destin Harbor for a relaxing gulf catamaran cruise with Captain Pam Kane and Smile N Wave Sailing Adventures.

Some might say Captain Pam is a salty dog. As a girl, she even missed days of school to help crew on a friend’s sailboat to feed her passion.

Her 31-foot custom built catamaran equipped with 43-foot mast, and Bimini top, offers tours for swimming, snorkeling, visiting the grass flats, searching for sand dollars, and romantic sunset cruises. Even though it was a cloudy day for us, we still enjoyed our time on the water, hiking out on the aqua-colored net, feeling the cool sprays of ocean on our legs, and getting to know more about Captain Pam.

Pam started sailing about thirteen years ago and calls the ocean “God’s bathtub.” “If you can’t be happy on the water, you probably can’t be happy anywhere.”

“On moonlight cruises, it’s so peaceful. The dolphins are usually active, and meteor showers are common. What’s neat is that there are more than 30-50 dolphins all local to the area.”

The more Pam and I talked, the more I felt like I’d known her for a long time. She just had one of those easygoing personalities, ocean spirits, and sweet souls.

Her greatest joy is witnessing excitement on people’s faces, especially first timers  – first time sailing, and first time in the gulf.

“People love relaxing, and the quiet solitude of being on the water,” Pam says.

So if you’re in the Destin area, go support a local business. You might just have the time of your life.

(The story on Captain Pam didn’t make it into my published AAA Southern Traveler story, but check out the story below to see what did.)

AAA South Walton Style pg34 Nov Dec 2017

AAA South Walton Style pg35 Nov Dec 2017

A Thousand Sunsets…

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The last week in August, my husband, canine kids and I, spent four glorious days in Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed at a quaint inn with cabins in picturesque Ephraim, Wisconsin.

Marinas and docks dotted the curvy shoreline, and sunsets were spectacular. We set aside 90 minutes each evening to meander to the inn’s private dock, complete with white Adirondack chairs.

Four evenings brought lively conversations with other guests from the inn – a family with a young boy who loved to fish, a baby boomer couple who wiled away hours during the day searching for the perfect winery, a grandma with her children, and their children who gave the dogs repeated hugs, and a doctor and her husband who hailed from flooded Houston, but were afraid to check texts and voice messages for fear they would be homeless when they returned.

Just as the people we met were unique, so were the sunsets – pastel pink clouds, blue violet strands dancing across the glassy bay, ebony silhouettes set against golden-hued horizons – no two alike, painted by God’s hands.

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And no matter how routine our sunset ritual seemed, I welcomed the hand-holding with my husband, and the dogs’ tags jingling as we stepped lightly across the two-lane road, to settle on the wooden Adirondacks. I never tired of this. It was our time to chill. No schedules. No worries. No expectations. Nature doing what nature does best, in all its splendor.

During the day we visited new coffeehouses, ice crea20170827_192050 cherry crumblem parlors, creameries with homemade gelato, chocolate establishments, gift shops or restaurants or markets selling cherry-themed products – cherry crumble, cherry pie, cherry salsa, cherry jam, cherry granola, cherry juice, and cherry spumante. You name it, we tried it.

We hiked along fairy-forest paths that paralleled aquamarine harbors, sank our feet in sandy beaches sometimes tripping over pebbles, stood atop cliff outcroppings with lofty expectations of jumping in (well, at least my husband), traipsed through sunflower fields, visited art galleries, observed an authentic fish-boil from the porch of our tiny cottage, and frequented dog-friendly cafes and restaurants. A special thanks to Buttercups Coffee in Egg Harbor for loving on the dogs so sweetly.

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I’ve not felt this relaxed since our anniversary trip to Pearl Harbor, and the grandiose waterfalls, beaches, and stunning scenery in Maui, Hawaii.

But of course, travel back to that familiar place is inevitable – home.

Last evening, I listened for the beauty at our abode –

It showed me favor in the crisp fall air with crickets chirping, coyotes wailing, the faint sound of a motorcycle revving its engine in the distance, the monotonous hum of our refrigerator, and the sound of voices from the television on the lower level.

Four cats reposed in harmony – one cleaning and preening velvety fur and precious paws while sniffing night air, another curled up on the sofa, one more playing hide and seek in the tunnel of the kitty city condo, and one waiting at the garage door for Daddy to come home from a long day’s work.

Two goofy canines slumbered on the king size master bed complete with tons of throw pillows. They dreamt of running as they yelped and fidgeted.

It’s nights like these I cherish the ceiling fan pushing cool air downward from the open window as I nestle ‘snug as a bug’ under the covers.

It’s times like these that remind me of the thousand sunsets of my life I’ve been lucky enough to share with loved ones, by quieting my mind, and realizing that beauty is universal.

Stop. Listen. Observe. Feel.

Quiet your mind, and look for the sunsets in your life. What you’ll discover might just be amazing!

Peace out and love,

 

Sheree

 

 

Just Listen for the Beauty

This has been a popular post; so I’m sharing with you again.

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I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

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I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

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Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

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Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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The Spirit of Aloha

My husband planned a surprise trip for our anniversary, and presented me with the itinerary at my birthday dinner. We’d be traveling to Hawaii – three nights on Oahu, eight nights on Maui.

Maui garnered a spot on my bucket list for quite some time, and I was truly excited to visit the land of breathtaking landscapes and exotic flora. Along our journey, everyone we met greeted us with a warm Aloha – a Hawaiian expression of love, hello, and goodbye.

Here are some examples of Aloha I experienced while visiting the islands.

  • The Arizona Memorial – 1,177 men lost their lives on December 7, 1941. The somberness and quiet solitude touched me as I observed the oil still spilling to the surface of the water from the ship. Some say it’s the souls of the lost sailors. I’ll always remember the feeling that overcame me – one of emotion, one of loss – an Aloha goodbye.20170428_092710 oil copyr
  • Al Rodrigues, the 97 year old Pearl Harbor Survivor, we met outside the Arizona Memorial gift shop signing his book. He hugged us so tight when I told him my dad was on the USS Vestal that was moored next to the Arizona.
  • The wild, windy southern shoreline of Black Sand Beach and Makena Beach was a welcome ‘hello’ as we strolled the seashore for shells and photo opportunities.
  • A warm Aloha evident in the latte art in a cup of espresso from Bella Surf Café.
  • The exotic coastline, mixed with the cool evening air at Surf’s Up, a hidden gem and lookout point on a mountaintop. It’s so peaceful there, you can hear your voice echo. The sunsets on the west side of the island are phenomenal.

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  • Rachel and Anthony, a young couple we met at sunset at Surf’s Up. They were loving life traveling this great land, spreading the spirit of Aloha.
  • The white, friendly dog and smiling lady at Julia’s Banana Bread roadside stand along a dangerously, curvy mountainside street.

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  • The brackish cliffs near the Nakele Blowhole, and the untamed ocean.
  • The road to Hana with 617 turns (some hairpin curves) and infinite drop-offs.
  • The hike to the pristine pools beneath Twin Falls, and the way my body felt when I stepped gingerly into the midnight-hued cold water. The rushing sound of the falls was delightful.
  • The tangy taste of a Lilikoi tart at Kula Bistro.
  • The refreshing dessert, named ‘Coconut’ at the Mill House Restaurant. A mix of white cake, chilled coconut sorbet, and coconut meringue mirrored the look of a mini Baked Alaska, and tasted like a cool slice of heaven.

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  • Our farm to table anniversary dinner at Pacific O Restaurant while gazing at the sunset.
  • The fragrant aroma of eight varieties of lavender at Ali’I Lavender Farm high in the Kula Mountains.

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  • The foggy mist on the side of the mountain near the lavender farm.
  • The King Protea in bloom.

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  • The paragliders floating along the mountaintop in Kula.
  • The wind in my hair, and the sun on my face aboard the Trilogy catamaran.

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  • Ladies with plumeria, gardenia, and pikake tucked behind their ear lobes.
  • The romantic sounds of the Hawaiian language and their meanings conveyed through song.

These things and more, I find to be the spirit of Aloha for me – a lingering and everlasting feeling of love, hello, and even goodbye.

For Hawaiians, the Spirit of Aloha is a way of life – spreading kindness, compassion, and grace. Their values – ‘to care for, and do what’s right’. Sustainability to all natural resources is key in Hawaiian life – evident in the vegetation, the flora, the food, the people, the farms, the animals, and the waterfalls. I felt refreshed by the universal beauty around me, and invigorated by the friendliness of the Hawaiian people.

And isn’t that what life’s about — embracing our aloha, giving back to community, to the environment, and each other?

Peace out and Aloha,

Sheree

Lighthouses, Beaches and Waterfalls – Oh My!

Last year I had the opportunity to explore the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, not once, but twice!

I was invited on a press trip by the Pure Michigan group (puremichigan.org) to visit the Keewenaw Peninsula with a group of journalists at the beginning of summer. At the end of August, I visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and beyond, with my hubster and two canine kids. Many of my adventures included lighthouses, beaches, waterfalls, and great food.

Here’s my 5-page feature story with photographs published in May/June AAA Midwest Traveler. It’s also online, as well.

Hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did!

Peace out,

Sheree

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Just Listen for the Beauty

I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

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I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

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Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

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Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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