St. Augustine: My Holy Land

Spring break has arrived out of NO WHERE. Is this the price for being happy? Life is just going to fly through like a locomotive on crack now? At least when I was sad, I lived moment by moment. I analyzed every detail, every thought, every emotion. I guess for everything you take, you give a little too. You have to ask yourself, “Do I want to live a life of dragging myself along, trudging though each day so slowly that I can distinctly remember the acorn I saw half-buried in the ground and the dead flower petal I watched float down from a tree? Or do I want to live a life of dancing through each moment, so high from happiness that I have to stop and remind myself to notice the acorn, and appreciate the flower petal?” Alright, so I guess the second statement is the obvious choice…glad I clarified that with myself.

So where was I? Ah, yes, the beloved spring break. My mother picked up my wonderful roommate and I from our dorm, and we drove straight to St. Augustine.

*Side note: My mom and I like to go on spontaneous excursions called “Michellie Trips” (that’s our names combined). This tradition began exactly a year ago when our original plan to go to The Keys turned into an extended vacation where we also visited Miami, Jacksonville, and Daytona. On these trips, we eat a lot, try to watch every sunrise, and walk for miles exploring every square foot of our environment. In this case, Mary Sloan was apart of out Michellie trip*

st-augustine-flagler-college.jpgAs soon as we turned entered St. Augustine, I new that it would not be the last time I visited. The cobblestone roads, the 1900s houses, the plethora of art galleries and coffee shops….it was love at first sight. I felt like I could almost here the town whispering Welcome home Ellie. And there’s this college there: Flagler College. These students are basically living in a piece of historical art. The coquina buildings followed an auburn and tan color scheme, expressing the heavy Spanish influence on the town. It took my breath away. To think that I could live in a castle, like Spanish royalty, is mind blowing.

Though this trip only lasted three days, it was amazing. There was no partying, no clubbing, nothing that gave me an adrenaline rush (well except for performing at an open mic night with Mary Sloan at a bar), but that’s what made this trip so great. Each morning we woke up slowly. We would sit on the porch with our bed heads and sleepy eyes, telling each other of our bizarre dreams. One morning I lazily strummed my guitar. Mary Sloan and I attempted to sing, but mostly just laughed at our croaky morning voices.

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In the afternoon we would stroll into town, awing at the old houses and the Spanish architecture. We weaved in and out of shops, buying the occasional coffee or square of fudge. We made a point to take our time in every art gallery. Who would have thought that there were so many artisans in Florida? There was this painting by an artist named Dimitra Milan…I can’t really explain why it evoked such strong emotions out of me, but I probably could have stared at it for an hour. It felt almost as if there was a string attaching my heart to the artwork.

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“She dances in the abounding depths of the waters with the octopus. She starts to feel what its like to be one. Stretching and fitting into tight places. Teaching her the right balance of knowing how far to go before she becomes something else. Rising towards the light, she knows who she has to be. She must stay true to herself, but know how to fit into those tight places.”

Dimitra Milan

It’s something about the way that her body is contorted. Her outfit resembles a school uniform, and her finger nails are painted a juvenile pink. It’s like her naive view on the world has slowly started to disintegrate, and she’s been immersed in the darkness of reality. Society becomes foreign tentacles, pulling and contorting her in different directions with impossible standards and contradicting statements. “BE YOURSELF, BUT ALSO BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, BUT ALSO BE UNIQUE, BUT MAKE SURE IT’S THE RIGHT KIND OF UNIQUE.”

But one could also say that her enemy is not society, but her mind. Yes, she’s immersed in darkness, but the darkness is not around her, it’s inside of her. She tries to fake it. She paints her nails, she does her hair, but nothing she does will stop the downward spiral. The tentacles coil around her limbs, jerking her in opposing directions: the struggle between two realties: light and dark…hope and doom.

The art was definitely one of my favorite parts about St. Augustine. We met an artist, Rick Metz, who actually paints with fire. So, not only am I in love with this town, but the people  also did not cease to amaze me. When evening rolled around, we would all agree on a restaurant that caught our eye and go there for dinner. Our first night there was my favorite, because we ate in a piano bar. The pianist played his songs so effortlessly. It looks like he was simply tickling the keys. He ended up giving me his card and telling me to email him about some songs to play in order to get out of my comfort zone (after lecturing me about playing the songs I have already mastered in piano rather than taking risks).

On the last day, we went to the beach. One thing you should know about Mary Sloan, is that she is in love with the ocean. She has told me on several occasions that she wants her ashes thrown into the water, and that she would get married on the beach if being Catholic did not require being married in a church. It was an overcast, windy day, therefore the beach was deserted besides a few committed fishermen. We originally did not have time to make this stop, but as my mom drove along the Atlantic Coast, she saw our faces pressed against the window looking longingly at the water. That was the deciding factor. My mom whipped the car into the first parking lot that she saw, and gave us the look that said go on, and be quick. Mary Sloan and I jumped out of the car, kicking our shoes behind us. Our feet thudded against wooden stairs and then it was sand. I watched Mary Sloan run. I could feel her heart throbbing at the vastness of the water. I started running too, and when I caught up to her we both froze at the shore. We waited, watching the tide slowly creep up towards our toes. The water enveloped our feet and we giggled uncontrollably like two children that had never seen the ocean before. We danced in the sand and gazed at the water and picked up sea shells. It was such a beautiful moment, and the perfect way to end this trip.

 

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