Tag Archives: Saint Croix U.S. Virgin Islands

chapter seven


Dear Beth,

Happy New Year! I’m excited to kick-off Living Chapters 2014-style with you in your new whereabouts of St. Croix. Knowing this short term move will help determine if this island will become your new home, I can imagine your challenge over the next few months will be to stay in the present and not get overwhelmed by questions of the future (isn’t that always the challenge?!)

You’ve become somewhat accustomed to migratory living over the last couple of years with short stints at a pool house, carriage house, boats and friends’ couches. While you never expected to make any of these places a permanent nesting ground, you found ways, especially through Living Chapters and the help of friends, to make yourself at home by being very intentional about the ways you have chosen to live. Knowing I will play a role in keeping you grounded this month as you embark on your latest adventure, I’ve been wondering how do you connect to a new place while staying connected to yourself?

I want this month to be a mindful exploration and reflection of your surroundings. Throughout January I am asking that you use your senses as well as your creative faculties to create a field guide to St. Croix. As your partner in crime I too will make a field guide for St. Paul, my recently named home that I’m in need of getting better acquainted with.

Here are the requirements:

Your field guide should include 4 maps, 6 walks, a daily written reflection, and 3 interviews. Each week you’ll share one of these things on Living Chapters. They should be accompanied by some sort of reflection (which may or may not be derived from your daily log). The daily written reflection is intended to be more of a space for you to develop a writing practice and keep connected to yourself.

After every walk I want you to make a list of everything you remember seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. I also want you to collect something from each of your walks that you can bring home into your domestic space to create a sense of place.

The interviews should all be done at your home over a simple meal that you’ve prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. The interviews should be designed so that they give you insight into some aspect of St. Croix, i.e. culture, history, food, etc. It’s entirely up to you who you choose to interview.

Lastly, I gave you a copy of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost to accompany you this month as inspiration. She refers to each chapter as one of her maps. Her writing is beautiful and meditative. Early in the book she references a quote by the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno that I want to leave you with, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”

Have fun in St. Croix!

 Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

this ship is shipping on…


Looking back at the the prologue, the first entry I posted before starting to live out any chapters, I noticed that I wrote about the idea of “letting go”. I wanted to let go of control, and of planning my life in a detailed way. The goal was to learn to trust and to watch life roll out in an organic way. I was curious to find out if it was possible to be guided by instinct or inner direction, (or in my case my friends) while at the same time be able to continue to make distinct and direct decisions for myself.  Through trusting my friends and trusting the process and also by addressing my resistance and fears, I do feel that I am just starting (after six months) to understand the balance that is needed for this to happen. Maybe with another six months practice, I will be able to utilize these lessons to help me move forward.

During the past nine months, I have been living on a boat upon Spa Creek in Annapolis, MD living as fluidly as I could taking each month as it came written for me, one day and challenge at a time.  The Living Chapters guidelines that I set up for myself, pre-project, somehow made this floating lifestyle seem much more manageable.  The rules and outline of the project gave me a distinct structure that I have been following as closely as I could.  If I found myself doing something that seemed a little out of the ordinary or questionable (like jumping rope in the airport in Boston or hanging out in an isolation chamber) I could point directly at the project outline for an answer to why this was happening and it just didn’t seem that strange anymore.  I was accomplishing a task rather than making an “odd choice”. And even though I have been asked by external sources to do all these tasks, the self-created guidelines reminded me that it was my choice to follow through with them whether I liked it or not. I sometimes even chose to elaborate on them.

Deciding to live on the boat before Living Chapters began, was in a sense creating a space and such a guideline to start out this adventure: giving myself a physical structural reason to live without excess belongings, a place to create new habits, to adjust to a more simple life style, and allow myself financially to continue working part-time only. Somehow diminishing my living space and eliminating the excess stuff, opened up new opportunities and new ideas. This choice brought me personal freedom and time to explore different ways of living. I feel that the process of living out these chapters openly is doing this as well.

Living on water, has been the closest that I have been thus far to the physical realization and feeling of “letting go”. I have enjoyed floating and respected the dwelling for its practical, simple, and independent living.  The boat itself as a home base has kept me strangely grounded in these changing months.  Like the rules of the project, it has given me a structure for being here, and it has held a place for me in Annapolis.  But as the seasons shift and winter arrives, I have decided to depart, drift away from the dock for a bit and metaphorically sail south. It is time to practice letting go just a bit more and take on the spirit of “saying yes to what life throws at you”. I have been given the opportunity to try out a new living situation and have decided to take it.  As of the end of November, I have abandoned ship and will be floating between staying at homes of friends and loved ones for this reflection month of December.  And although sad to leave “Morning Star” and the marina in general, I am excited to see what the warm air of the new year will bring.  In January, I am taking a hiatus from my job and will be setting up camp on a tropical island for a while. So in the first few months of 2014, you will find me living out new chapters on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.  Exactly what will manifest there and how long I will stay is still unknown. Only time and possibly the next few chapters will tell.

me on morning star


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30 seconds of silliness

Take 30 seconds to be silly today. That is one lesson I learned from this month’s unpredictable wild card!

Leave it to a 9-year-old to tell me exactly what I need to do to make Zen meditation work for me. Wear a mustache attached to a pair of ridiculously over sized glow-in-the dark glasses! Of course… it’s the perfect remedy to all questions and conflicts with my meditation practice. Interjecting a bit of silliness into my goals and intentions has never hurt me before, why should I stop now?

As Agnes stated, leave it to the free minds of children that are always searching and seizing the moment for a good opportunity to have fun. I truly do feel like we could learn a lot from those younger minds if we paid attention more. I must remind myself as well that in the times in my past when I have found myself becoming stuck, stressed or too serious, I have always gravitated toward youth to help ease the overwhelming feelings or situations. Not only do young people continuously keep me on my toes and in the moment with their unpredictability but their sense of themselves and the world keeps me laughing and questioning. The two things that I believe are necessary for nurturing a balanced mind and spirit.


These photographs were taken before leaving St. Croix. I had received the wild card gift when I arrived on the island but had not read the actual wild card challenge at this point. Upon receiving the gift, I immediately thought that this would be the perfect thing to do with the glasses. (Grace and I must be on a similar wave length) During the second week of meditating, (before receiving these glasses) I was actually having difficulties with wandering thoughts and some negative thinking. I was getting a bit hung up on thinking I was “doing the meditation wrong” or not doing zazen in the “right” way. Since then my thoughts in mediation have moved away from these self-critical places. Wandering thoughts still bubble up and rise to the surface but they are much less negative or critical and I don’t struggle with them as much, I let them evaporate when they reach the surface. It’s starting to feel a bit lighter in a sense.

So thank you Grace for not letting me fall only into the “oh so serious side” of meditation. Thanks for reminding me that mediation practice does not have to be perfect or meet a certain standard that has been prescribed. It is simply a tool that will help us find what we need for ourselves. Grace’s wild card tells me that we don’t have to be always searching for some kind of bliss in the subconscious or somewhere out there in the universe and we should not expect mediation to do that for us – we do that for ourselves. The glasses as they itch on my nose while I am meditating remind me that I make my own bliss and happiness right here in the moment laughing and appreciating the rare and sometimes odd gifts that the wild cards in life bring to me.

Note: I also want to thank Cosmic Jim Naeseth, Living Chapter’s tried and true Referee and my good friend. He may not be a kid, but his mind is young and free and always inserting a bit of HUMOR in every situation that he finds himself in. This past trip to the island was for the purpose of sorting out the million details and decisions that he needed to make while building his dream house in the tropics. Thank you to Jim for letting me be a part of his sometimes serious and serendipitous adventure.  I feel lucky to be along on his journey at this point in my existential chapter.


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.