The Waterfall

The coffee was absolutely delicious.

The all-inclusive resort was a perk.

I’m not sure I would do the zip-line again, but I’m glad I tried it once.

Yet out of everything I experienced on my inaugural trip to Costa Rica, the highlight of them all was a little-known local spot that my family and I decided to spontaneously visit a day beforehand. We packed a cooler, hired a driver, and set out to cross a long-time item off my bucket list: standing under a waterfall.

We had to hike a bit in order to get there, but having done my fair share in Colorado and Arizona, I wasn’t all that concerned. As we got closer, I could hear the sounds of the water and began to giggle like I used to when I was a little girl (side-note: this is how you know when I’m really happy). I had to force myself to walk slowly so that I wouldn’t trip and fall over anything, which was a challenge as the anticipation kept building. Once we made it all the way down, I couldn’t believe my eyes:

img_6045

img_5979

Swimming out to the surrounding rocky area was a little bit tricky; I wore my gym shoes so as not to risk cutting my bare feet, and apparently was so excited that I forgot to take my glasses off at first (I did go back and put them away, but initially I wanted to make sure that I was able to literally see it all). I put my arm muscles to good use throughout, and eventually clawed my way up and around, standing close enough to be under this sight to behold, but far enough away from the edge so as not to lose my balance.

There aren’t words to truly describe what I was feeling in that moment, but grateful would be a good start. I know that not everyone gets to do something like this, and certainly not everyone who deals with physical challenges like I do on a regular basis. I was thankful for legs that can move and eyes that can see. I was thankful for the risk we took in asking a stranger to get us there (and back). I kept saying, “thank you” over and over again, sometimes in my head and sometimes out loud.

img_5944

img_6046

I’m not sure if I jumped off of anything or just slid back in off the rocks (probably the latter, because I’m not a jumping bean like my sister and didn’t trust what was at the bottom). We swam around for a bit, and at one point I tried to duck under the fall and so that I would be directly behind it. The current was incredibly strong and aimed to pull me in several directions, where I became panicky and momentarily thought I would get sucked under. It was somewhat scary because my body was getting tired, and I’m not exactly skilled at treading water. I eventually found my footing and stopped to rest in the shallow end.

Before we left to head back to the resort, I stopped and said a quiet prayer in front of this amazing creation. I had dreamed of doing something like this since I was a child, and knew that I would always remember it. If not what it looked like, than definitely the freedom and wonder and awe that I felt in the midst of it. I’ve never been a travel fiend, but this made me want to explore more. It also dawned on me that a lot of my bucket lists aspirations have to do with water. In my lifetime, I would like to experience the following:

Swimming with dolphins (technically I’ve already done that, but I would like to do it in a place where I’m not with a boatload of people and have a little bit more time to enjoy being around one of my favorite animals).

 

Slow dance more often; I haven’t slow danced since my senior prom, but I don’t have to be at an event or party. It only takes two people, am I right?

 

Be kissed in front of Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom.

 

Witness sea turtles hatching, or just look at sea turtles. Turtles in general are adorable!

 

Have one of my essays be accepted for publication.

 

Sit on a rooftop and watch the sun rise in Chicago.

 

Meet the Blackhawks, or at least catch up a game up real close.

*I’ll keep adding as I think of things. This is just a shortened version.

I’m a dreamer. I’m a romantic. And I don’t mind it at all.

Back To The Beach




It was my first Southern experience, and about six years since I’d been to the ocean. I admit to being partial to Florida, but was slowly captured by the Carolina charm: there are at least a dozen radio stations playing country music and you can’t really go anywhere without hearing it. People call you darlin’ and say “bless your heart” without even having to know your name. I discovered that crab cakes aren’t half bad and have taken a liking to pink lemonade mixed with sweet-tea flavored vodka. I was once again painfully reminded that it’s possible to get ridiculous sunburned on a cloudy day, but also when it’s only sixty degrees. There are junk shops and tacky eateries for miles, although I found quite a few things that I don’t regret spending money on.

The weather kept us on our toes, as it usually goes whenever we travel somewhere with sand, palm trees, and water. It actually turned out quite all right, though I was determined to savor this trip either way: I kept my TV and internet usage to a minimum unless it was for work, as I usually do when I’m intend to relax. It made me wonder why people are so eager to unplug when away from home, but don’t try to give themselves healthy breaks the rest of the time. Why is it that we can’t incorporate the occasional umbrella drink, a nice meal, or quality time with those we care about into “real life”? Isn’t relaxation just a much a part of it as work?

I discovered that to truly savor something, you have to embrace all things encompassed in that moment, including your emotions. In the beginning, there were a few times where I ached for my Dad and brother to be there, as I miss all being together at once. I became frustrated over my sister’s anxiety about the lack of sunshine, and at one point we debated on making the ten hour drive just to see a few rays.

We stayed, and I’m grateful for it. The sun did makes several appearances and I came home looking like a bronzed lobster.

But nothing compared to the joy that I experienced when on the beach: the smell of saltwater and suntan lotion. Walks on the edge of the tide and finding a mixture of seashells and Bible verses written in the sand. The usual regret of thinking that anything below SPF 15  was enough, and the comfort of cool sheets at night that soothed the itch and burn of my Midwestern skin. I’m not sure if I would live in such a climate year round due to the danger of hurricanes and intense humidity, but the sound of the waves definitely makes me feel at home. It’s a place where I can experience God on a deep level and cry happy tears, surrounded by everything involving the natural elements of creation. 

The week culminated in people-watching at a beach club, while carrying on an unexpected but needed conversation. I don’t want to call it an epiphany per say, but in the days that followed I realized how emotionally liberating the exchange was. And I started to see that maybe it’s not necessarily about “letting go” as much as it is choosing to look at a situation differently.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with family-related changes these past eight months. There’s been sadness and confusion, which is normal when there are a lot of unknowns involved. Yet I was also angry and scared, as though I couldn’t let it out and terrified of losing what I’ve always known, even if most of it was complicated and imperfect. Realistically, it’s completely natural (if not expected) to start building your own life once you’ve hit your twenties. I was recently reminded of something that my best friend said to me before we left college, that change doesn’t mean that relationships have to end, they just take a new shape. And while in one aspect something is coming to an end, in turn I’m creating my own traditions and pursuing my own path. Granted, divorce is still hard and hurts everyone involved, and in a way there’s no fully getting over it. But I do believe that there is light after darkness, and new beginnings after big changes. 

There’s a lot more that’s tough to articulate in one post, but I came home feeling like new life was blooming, despite the twenty-degree chill and bits of snow still on the ground. My heart is full and my soul is feeling less heavy, even if on certain days it doesn’t seem that way. 

Spring is here, and sometimes all it takes is a trip to the beach to see it.