Ah, summer—today’s the first day! The very name of the season evokes a Zen feeling. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Zen?” Meditation, relaxation, calmness? Vacation—a break from the everyday life? Associated with Zen Buddhism, this powerful three-letter word enjoys a positive place in our modern vocabulary.
It has come to describe people, places and things that equate to feelings of clarity and control, brought about by experiencing wonder, beauty and life’s simple pleasures.
These Zen moments can last just long enough for us to catch our breath, recharge our batteries and return to our daily challenges with a bit more energy—a fresher pair of eyes.
For me, Zen equals Hutchinson Island, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. No matter what I have going on in my life, time spent here in this quite beautiful place always gives me the clarity and calmness I didn’t know I needed until I arrive.
While this locale is very vacation worthy (think long weekend or longer), sometimes I only have a day… but I’ll take it! Time to share my recent island Zen day with you.
Cute and cuddly critters like puppies and kitties can give us that warm-and-fuzzy Zen feeling in our hearts almost instantly. But what about H2O critters? One visit to the Florida Oceanographic and Coastal Center’s stingray feeding program with melt your heart and calm your nerves quickly, as you learn how to pet and feed these entertaining rays.
Time for a pop quiz! Rays are a type of:
Answer: A) Fish! They’re just a lot flatter then your average finned swimmer. And these Coastal Center residents have their barbs filed down regularly, so there’s no chance for human visitors to be hurt.
My family and I have paid them many visits over the years, and we never tire of interacting with these amazing sea critters.
Along with the rays, rescued sea turtles and game fish enjoy ocean-fed pavilions and lagoons throughout the 57-acre property. The nature trail and visitors center—even a butterfly garden—and several hands-on displays help educate (as they entertain) patrons of all ages.
Watching this facility grow over the years gives me a good feeling inside too. The employees are friendly, knowledgeable and dedicated to sharing what life is all about for their marine residents.
Directly across the street from the Coastal Center sits a modern museum with a flare for transportation: the Elliott Museum. Since their invention, classic cars from almost every decade are on display in a garage-type setting.
But before you happen upon these vehicles, you’ll find variations of bicycles as they evolved from styles of yesteryear, leading up to the most significant style of all: the precursor to the automobile. Sterling Elliot was the inventor and manufacturer of this pre-auto contraption. He managed to own quite a few patents, several having to do with modes of transportation. Many of his inventions greet you near the front entrance.
I enjoyed discovering those early bicycles and tricycles—many of their parts made from wood—as I made my way to the temporary exhibit: kites from around the world. I’d never thought of using these quiet, aerodynamic works of art to tell stories or share history, but show-and-tell they did.
My price of admission to the Elliott Museum included entry to another museum a few miles down the road: the House of Refuge. So down the road I drove.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, walking into this structure was truly a step back in time. Located on one of the island’s backroads, the serenity of this area made it difficult to imagine the building’s once historical purpose: to serve as a haven for shipwrecked sailors.
But the rocky beach was a reminder to me that the ease and success of navigation was largely dependent on the weather—and at what angle the shore and the ships met.
Looking forward to dipping my toes in the sand, I headed north to Jensen Beach. Plenty of sand and shore awaited me, along with a very welcome ocean breeze. Time to stretch my legs!
I start to relax just seeing this place from the parking lot. As I pass the Sand Dune Café (a nice walk-up by the way!) and head toward the water, I notice the most artful sandcastle I’ve ever seen: a sea monster of sorts 🦑, facing the ocean. Very impressive—kudos to the sculptor!
The monster facing the ocean. As I continued walking along the beach, I remembered some sage advice I hear often whenever I’m visiting the shore: never turn your back on the ocean. At least not when standing at its edge.
Ready for some refreshment and a little late lunch, I head a bit farther along the road to one of my favorite watering holes: Kyle G’s. Lucky for me, there was an available seat at the bar outside that included a perfect ocean view. James the bartender created a wonderful white sangria at my request. I enjoyed it very much, along with a delicious plate of fried oysters. My final Zen moment of the day.
Whatever your plans for summer, I hope you fit in a few activities designed to help you relax and recharge. Safe travels, and enjoy your Zen moments! J 🏖