There's no such thing as an ugly day
It's mid-day and I've been sitting at my computer for most of it, writing my column and finishing my newspaper assignments.
As soon as I finish writing and send the articles to via E-mail to the newspaper, I call my girlfriends to go to the beach. Jeanne and Linda usually wait for my call, knowing that as soon as I finish writing I want to be outdoors.
But this time, they are not home and my other friends declare that it's "not a beach day." The effects from an offshore storm are kicking up wind gusts are obscuring the sun. Weather predictions call for a stormy day.
But I know from experience that there is no such thing as "a bad day at the beach." I also believe there is no such thing as an ugly day, regardless of where you live.
Every single day offers a different face, a different adventure, and a different way to celebrate life.
So I head off alone to Englewood Beach, knowing that even a dreary day offers visual delights. When I get to the beach, I'm pleasantly surprised by a rare sight - an empty beach. There are no fishermen, no swimmers, and no sunbathers. Everyone must have decided it wasn't a good beach day.
I feel like the richest woman in the world as I soak in the solitude before me. The thought comes to me that "by myself" is not the same as "alone." Somehow, alone sounds lonely, but "by myself" is just the beginning of exploration.
I'm what they call "a people person" and I always surround myself with friends and stay busy with activities. So this rare beach solitude comes like an unexpected gift.
I am not alone at the beach. I'm joined by hundreds of seagulls, more than I've ever seen in one spot. Maybe the storm is motivating them to launch one huge fishing expedition before the weather gets worse.
There is also the striking sight of a large convention of Royal Terns on the beach, much to my delight. With their bright orange beaks and tufts of black feathers on the back of the head, they make a beautiful picture when the wind ruffles their feathers. I mentally kick myself for forgetting my camera.
But maybe it's good that this day is not about activity. It's about standing still long enough to drink in the beauty of life. I use all my senses to appreciate the scene before me.
The Gulf of Mexico is like a good child that seldom gets rowdy unless a storm is approaching. I like hearing the crash of waves on the beach and feeling the spray of water carried by the winds to gently wash my face.
I pay close attention to different variety of sea gulls, spotting laughing gulls and herring gulls as well as two darker, larger gulls that look like they indulged too long in a free smorgasbord. A pelican soars by overhead, then dives into the water for his own dinner.
I realize that I'm more attentive to nature than I usually am on the beach. When I'm with friends, I'm busy chatting and don't focus so much on my surroundings.
I take a slow walk down the beach and find about a dozen teens with surfboards and another half dozen propped against a wall. Why is it that weather never deters a kid? It's only when we're older than we declare a day to be "too windy" or "too cold."
Those of us "bigger kids" who love the beach thrive here, regardless of weather.
I've had rainy, windy days when I've donned a hooded rain jacket and walked the beach, happy as a pig in mud.
I've also enjoyed "beach days" when hurricane winds threw biting sand in my face and my clothes got so soaked they had to be wrung out.
The point is, we can find beauty and joy in every day. You don't need a beach. You don't even need sunshine.
All you need are eyes to see the beauty of the world around you.
I can remember plenty of rainy days in Pennsylvania that I loved for the very reason I enjoyed my dreary beach day - instead of seeing only dreary skies, I looked to see the beauty around me.
I love the sound of rain on a roof. And sometimes I felt driven to grab an umbrella and walk in the rain. Did you ever notice how the air smells differently during a rain? It's as if someone sprayed air freshener.
Even when trees are stripped of their leaves, there is plenty of beauty to see outdoors. I always liked to watch the squirrels scurrying through the dried leaves and bare trees mean I can better see the birds.
And when snow white washes our world, it's a perfect time to go for a walk or just look out the window, noting how beautiful everything looks.
I met a woman who now carries a camera with her wherever she goes. It's not that she takes wonderful pictures.
The camera, she said, is just a device she uses to force herself to see her world differently.
Now, she teaches art and urges her adult students to carry a camera.
"You don't have to snap a picture," she said. "Just learn to focus on the small wonders before you."
Regardless of where we live, those wonders are everywhere.
We just have to train our eyes to see them - and take time from our busy lives to inhale the beauty of life.