Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bird Whisperer

royal tern
It seems like bird rescue has been in the air lately. Rick from South Florida Daily Blog paid attention to a restless, pacing mother duck outside his home and realized her ducklings were caught in a sewer. Pembroke Pines Fire and Rescue scooped the ducklings up with a net, but Rick reunited them with their mother.

Last week, I was walking at Matheson Hammock Park when I spotted a royal tern standing solo in a puddle of muddy water. Unusual, I thought. It just stood there, not preening, not drinking, not fishing for minnows with its beak. And where was its flock?

I knew then something was wrong. I tried to shoo it away (a bird like that is easily spooked and will fly) when I noticed it couldn't go far on the ground with out plopping its breastbone down when trying to spread its wings.

It looked fine on the outside and the wings spread normally. Perhaps it had some internal injury or illness.

I knew then I had to cut my walk short and rush to the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station. My first reaction was to get a box from the Red Fish Grill to transport the tern, but the restaurant was closed on Monday. Then I looked around in the garbage pails and sure enough, there was a cardboard box, just the right size.

A small miracle.

It squealed at me when I tried to grab it, but I eventually held it gently, put it in the box, which I snuggled into the front passenger seat, covering it partially with an old car rag so the tern would feel secure.

The tern was quiet during the ride. I could hear it shuffling around but it never uttered a sound. Once I arrived at the station about 1 hour later -- it was rush hour -- the staff was gone, so I left it inside one of the carrying cases outside.

I called a couple of days later and the tern wasn't doing so well. I hope he made it.

I don't know why, but I am always finding injured birds. The tern's eyes were pitch black, so dark yet I could feel it speaking to me with its gaze. The innate intelligence of birds speaks far louder than words. I'll admit, I cried a little. I'm sure it was hanging on and in pain or maybe beyond pain, resigned to this surreal experience.

Animals should always bring compassion out in us. There was nothing I could do but try to help this poor creature. I delayed my evening plans. Everything else could wait.

If you find injured wildlife in the South Florida area, contact the fine folks at the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, who are devoted to the rehabilitation release of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in and around Miami's Biscayne Bay. They accept all injured wildlife, including mammals and reptiles, but no dogs or cats. Injured animals can be dropped off 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 305-751-9840 for more information.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happiness is Light Tackle

Part 3 of 3 of my Ladies, Let's Go Fishing stories. Part 1: Women Anglers Hook Fish and Fun in Islamorada and Part 2: Inshore Fishing with Captain Bob Jones.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend light tackle islamorada

On a recent fishing trip with Captain Bob Jones as part of the Ladies, Let's Go Fishing weekend, I had a lot of time to meditate on our way out to his fishing spot and back to port -- approximately one hour each way in the prevailing wind and sea conditions. I couldn't get over how ridiculously happy I was, my heart swelling with every passing wave on this incredibly empowering feeling that I had "arrived."

I hesitate to sound dramatic, but there's a reason why I'm into this whole fishing thing -- it's something close to my heart. Fishing out in these waters with good folk was a life-altering experience for me, or perhaps, more appropriately, a return to something I had known and loved but had neglected for way too long. This trumped everything before it and made me seriously question where I am focusing my energy in my life right now.

While the wind was buffeting my face, I didn't give a damn. My heart was open and fully present. The water, ironically, was grounding. It was only three years ago I was stuck at home overcoming agoraphobia and here I was out in the wide expanse of bay with not a shred of anxiety or fear in my body. My soul was soaring. I loved every second of it.

Remember, agoraphobia is fear of being outdoors. For a long while, I couldn't even be in a car, let alone drive one. A sea craft was out of the question. And here I was, happily, enthusiastically and eagerly embracing the outdoors.

Life flashed by in my mind, but in a good way.

I remembered the treble hook caught in my finger when fishing with a hand line under a bridge on Key Biscayne at the tender age of five. Years later, as an adult during my galley wench days, sailing on Biscayne Bay with friends. The countless fishing trips to the Glades. The first and only tarpon I ever caught in Flamingo one glorious morning at sunrise. Gliding a canoe over a 16 foot alligator in a mangrove tunnel. Fishing for sea bass in northern Spain with a blind date with whom I would never fall in love. Gratitude that my last boyfriend broke up with me, as he would have never understood and supported this lifestyle -- he religiously got manicures, can you imagine him handling a slimy fish?

And the heartbreak I felt when an old ex took another woman fishing -- of course it bothered me that he slept with her, but taking her fishing? That was the ultimate betrayal and a deal breaker for me.

And yet I am forever grateful to him. He introduced me to this world.

Our love may have not become a marriage after so many years, but the experience of a man and a woman fishing together time and time again is almost as intimate as sex and practically as sacred as tantra. You're out there, being patient with yourselves, with each other and the task at hand. You share spaces and golden silences. You don't need to talk because you both love what you're doing and you're doing it together. (The "no yelling" part of Ladies, Let's Go Fishing is so funny to me in this respect.)

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
Nothing out here but water and mangrove islands. Gets you thinking. It's liberating.

Maybe it's the kind of fishing I love to do -- inshore, which requires predatory stealth sometimes, an eagle eye and quiet focus. There's an inner warrior, meditative quality to this style of fishing, which I can relate to as a yogi. It's almost as if I'm on the mat, connecting my mind, body and soul in an activity that I love.

There's something about fishing in remote inshore waters that puts me in touch with a part of myself that gets easily distracted by life in urban Miami -- too much going on all the time. Not that there's anything wrong with everything that the city has to offer. But for me, fishing out in the back country brings me back to my core self, where things are simple and real. That's really what my heart desires: simple and real.

And yet there is always the mystery of what lies underwater, the primordial contact between human and beast, the wonder and excitement of what might bite, the gear, the technique and the strategy. Fishing is simple and yet never boring in that way.

Since I've experienced this great weekend with Ladies, Let's Go Fishing, some of my gal pals have asked me: "I don't get it. What the hell do you like about fishing? That's so weird to me. I'd rather be shoe shopping."

Well, I love me a pair of fancy shoes just like the next gal, but on most days, honestly, I'd rather wear flip flops. Fishing is something you either love whole-heartedly with every fiber of your being, or you don't. You can't fake it. It's too much work and effort to fake it.

Actually, just like sex and intimacy, you shouldn't be faking anything at all. When I'm fishing, I feel I'm truly authentically myself. That's why I love it, because it reels in my true heart, it brings me in contact with nature, my nature, which can be wild yet calm and yearns for this kind of grounding. There is the inner wilderness we see with our hearts and the one we see with our eyes -- trees, birds, water and fish. When you fish, it call comes together. At least for me.

There is so much more to fishing than meets the eye. And that's why I title this post Happiness Is Light Tackle ... it's about following your passion, but catching it without too much baggage, not too much heavy line, weighty hooks and sinkers. Tossing out overboard whatever no longer serves you and being authentic. It's about seeing it ahead of you and casting for it and seizing whatever aligns your personal happiness with your purpose.

For me, fishing isn't just about the fish, but a completely spiritual and yet visceral exercise.

As I prepare for an event I'm organizing called HeartCamp, it doesn't surprise me at all that I had a major heart-opening over the weekend regarding my long lost love: fishing.

Fishing is a metaphor for life here. What are you doing in your life to cast forward? Are you catching your dreams? Are you following the currents of your heart? Have you checked in with the inner wilderness, far from the distractions of daily life?

Inshore Fishing with Captain Bob Jones

Part 2 of 3 of my Ladies, Let's Go Fishing stories. Part 1: Women Anglers Hook Fish and Fun in Islamorada and Part 3: Happiness is Light Tackle.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend spanish mackerel florida bay
The Spanish mackerel was released, but probably would have made a tasty smoked fish dip.

After a great day of seminar work at Ladies, Let's Go Fishing, I had the opportunity to go inshore fishing with Captain Bob Jones who operates out of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. A fellow lady angler was my fishing buddy on this outdoor excursion.

Our day started at 7:30 AM as we pulled out of Whale Harbour in his skiff, headed to the barrier banks where the Gulf of Mexico meets Florida Bay in Everglades National Park. No sooner did we anchor and put out a chum slick, that we were catching Spanish mackerel and lady fish on live shrimp.

Lady fish are like mini-tarpons. They jump and provided good practice for a future hook-up with Megalops atlanticus. It's important to keep the line slack when a fish jumps or you could lose the fish.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
We navigated through some beautiful mangrove channels on our way out into the bay.

Since my fishing buddy and I had some experience, we were baiting the hooks and casting on our own, but not without some very important tips from Captain Bob Jones, which I appreciated. We also practiced using a dehooker, which allows you to release a fish without ever touching it. The less contact with a fish you're going to release, the better.

The day before, Captain Bob Jones had taught me how to cast a net for bait at one of the skills stations. I managed to do an OK job, with the net falling almost in a full circle. Had there been pilchards or pinfish under that net, I might have nabbed some.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend captain bob jones bait casting
There's definitely some very finessed skill involved. Practice, practice, practice is the only way to get it.

Captain Bob Jones is originally from Ohio and came from a corporate background when he decided to make a life here as a professional guide. He started fishing here in 1981 while on holiday and got hooked on the fish as well as the laid-back life and natural beauty of the Florida Keys.

I'll admit, some fishing guys can be quite scruffy and rough around the edges, which is wonderful in its own way, but Captain Bob Jones was elegant in his demeanor. With a sweet voice and relaxed attitude, it was a pleasure to fish with him on the barrier banks.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend captain bob jones islamorada
My fishing buddy actually helped maneuver the skiff while Captain Bob tried to net pilchards. She's an experienced boater and angler.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend captain bob jones islamorada
The affable Captain Bob with yours truly.

The day was a little rough, with wind blowing upwards of 20 MPH, but we still had pretty good sea legs and no seasickness on this vessel. Captain Bob Jones did a great job of keeping me relatively dry with the boat maneuvering the surface chop.

Around 2 PM, we were back at Whale Harbour and enjoyed some refreshment after a long day. I had a chance to talk to Captain Bob Jones on video.


Captain Bob specializes in bonefish, permit and tarpon in season and is available for other charters as well. Although we were spin casting, he can also do fly. Learn more at Captain Bob Jones.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Women Anglers Hook Fish and Fun in Islamorada

Part 1 of 3 of my Ladies, Let's Go Fishing stories. Part 2: Inshore Fishing With Captain Bob Jones and Part 3: Happiness is Light Tackle.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
A good day on the water indeed! That's Captain Skip Bradeen's Blue Chip Too in the background, docked at Whale Harbour.

Ladies, Lets Go Fishing exceeded my expectations this past weekend in Islamorada in the Florida Keys -- a sport fishing mecca for recreational and professional anglers.

Over the course of the weekend, we made new friends, networked and oh yeah, all the good fishing stuff – lectures from local captains, skill stations where we learned how to tie knots (the fishing kind, not marital ones), rig ballyhoo, cast a net for bait, gaff a fish, fly cast, how to position the body for landing large fish, plus conservation, rules and regulations from the Florida Wildlife Commission and so much more.

Our immersion culminated in a day of fishing on Sunday, where despite wind and chop on the water and a few unfortunate cases of seasickness, the offshore excursion ladies nailed bag limits of mahi. I chose to fish inshore, but more about that in another dispatch.


Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend Captain Lee Lavery
Move over guys, this woman knows her fishing. Lee Lavery is a licensed captain but she doesn't currently guide boats. However, she does support, promote and practice the art and science of fishing here in South Florida.

Captain Lee Lavery, who heads a South Florida chapter of Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing in Fort Lauderdale, started our beginner’s track with a basic demonstration of rod, reels, tackle and gear. She taught us about circle hooks being more fish-friendly than J hooks (you want to avoid gut hooking a fish) and how to properly handle a fish you intend to release (wet hands and always sideways). Fishing Basics also covered the differences between braided line and monofilament, what is reel drag and many additional technical details.

She also made recommendations on bait. “If all else fails, if you learn one thing today” Captain Lavery explained, “use squid.” She then also pointed out how you can be creative – one fellow angler once caught a sizable grouper on a piece of fried chicken.

The more experienced anglers followed an intermediate track in a different room, but all of us had a chance to work with all of the captains at the different skill stations.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend Captain Rick Rodriguez
Captain Rick Rodriguez of Sea Horse Charters sported a serious tattoo. The local air force veteran lectured on bottom fishing.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
Each of us received a hardbound notebook chock full of information, including a section from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Conservation was a constant thread in our lectures and conversations – every good angler is also a steward of the environment. It's one of the things I love about this outdoor sport; it brings me closer to nature and the Everglades, a unique Florida ecosystem that is dear to my heart.

It may seem ironic to put conservation and fishing together in the same sentence, since we are, after all putting undue stress on the fish. But there are ways to fish that minimize damage to the animal and the old days of handling fish inhumanely and keeping every catch for bragging rights are long gone.


Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
I finally invested in a microfiber shirt with zippered vents. The fabric dries quickly if you get wet out on the drink. Sylvia M is a familiar face in a small world. I met her during the St. Augustine Pirate Festival last year! Her husband is a fishing captain.

There were sixty women here ranging from ages 16 to 75 taking it all in and not all of them were local. Some hailed as far as Oregon, California and Quebec. One of two mother and daughter teams in attendance were originally from Michigan. They currently live in St. Petersburg. "I moved to Florida a couple of years ago," said the daughter. "I wanted to learn how to fish for real now that I'm a Floridian."

Another couple of gals came from Virginia. "We fish on the Potomac River and the beach for striped bass," one of them explained. "I thought I knew some things about fishing before, but I'm learning so much new information."

The educational value of LLGF was perfect for me, an inshore angler with some prior experience who needed a serious refresher course. But in addition to learning, I was moved by the incredible camaraderie of the group. Put a bunch of women in the same room with a desire for one thing – fishing – and you have beautiful empowering energy.

Many of the women showed up without there husbands, proving that you don't need a man to follow your passion for fishing. That being said, some husbands were present supporting their wives' love of the sport, including of course, Betty Bauman's other half, the inspiration behind it all.

Some single women were part of the scene as well. Lisa T from Pompano Beach confessed that it wasn't hard to meet guys, but definitely hard to meet one that is open to the idea of his woman fishing. "I miss fishing more than I miss my ex," she said. "I need a Plan B."

There was amazing mentorship from the more experienced anglers and just a general sense of mutual support. According to one angler, women fishing with women is definitely a cordial activity. "Women don't compete with each other like men do," she said. "We rally and support each other."


After lectures, we had lunch, saw a fashion show and moved on to the skill stations, where we received hands-on practice. My first skill station was passive -- simply sleeping under a fiberglass image of a tarpon mounted over my bed at Holiday Isle's Postcard Inn. Tarpon weren't available for us this time of year. Megalops atlanticus is a migratory fish and many have moved on to the Gulf of Mexico to winter while enjoying a few margaritas. They'll be back full-force in the spring though.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend at Holiday Isle Postcard Inn Islamorada
Talk about immersion, I even got to sleep with a tarpon at the beautifully remodeled Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle. I'll catch you again someday, you wily fish you.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend Betty Bauman
Can a petite, slim woman catch a big fish while standing up? You betcha, especially if you balance your body correctly. Betty Bauman would later "attach" a human diver to her rod to demonstrate the technique in the pool. "Reel down, pull up," she kept repeating.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
Pat K of Clearwater practicing a fly cast with world-record holder fly fisherman Captain Jim Anson, who can show you some secret Peacock Bass grounds in Miami. Pat had come a day early and landed a 35 pound cobia during an offshore fishing trip with Captain Skip Bradeen of Blue Chip Too Charters.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
Elizabeth B from the gulf coast was filming a TV pilot show. Seen here practicing casting a net for bait with the "teeth" technique. Captain Bob Jones was leading this skill station.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
Theresa M gaffs a grapefruit for practice. A gaff is a large hook attached to a pole used to bring a fish on board. It's not as easy as it looks. Theresa helps run an invitational fishing tournament called Fishing for Dreams in St. Augustine to help children with life threatening medical conditions.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
Susan O from Miami has been fishing since she was a little girl. "I started fishing at a young age with a pole and bread," she said. "I've learned so much this weekend. No guys ever took the time to show me a better way to cast."

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
Tying knots is an essential skill for anglers. Seen here, the hands of Captain Bruce Pollock demonstrating a "uni" knot.


On Sunday, most of us chose to go fishing either inshore or offshore. Everyone had a successful day out on the water.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend Islamorada mahi whale harbour
These ladies went fishing out of Whale Harbour and caught their limits of dolphin (mahi). Other anglers caught tuna, yellowtail snapper, pompano, redfish, mangrove snapper and more.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing Weekend
The reward, besides the experience itself: a delicious meal among new friends.


Charlotte U from Sebring was an absolute beginner but also an absolute darling. This grandma was determined to catch a fish she could eat no matter what. And she did! I interviewed her during our Saturday night social hour at Pasta Pantaleo's art gallery in Islamorada. Pantaleo paints beautiful canvases of marine life and fishing scenes.


Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing, the "no yelling" school of fishing for women, holds similar workshops and experiences four times a year throughout Florida. The 2012 seminar schedule includes Southwest Florida/Naples: March 16-18, South Florida/Ft. Lauderdale: April 20-22, Treasure Coast/Stuart: May 18-20 and Keys/Islamorada: Nov. 9-11.

To learn more, check out a video a video interview of Betty Bauman I shot while fishing with this legendary lady angler about the inspiration behind the school. (In a nutshell, she got sick and tired of her husband yelling at her while fishing.)

Whether you are new to fishing or an experienced angler, these workshops are a great way to acquire much knowledge and practice skills in a fun, stress-free environment while networking with others who have similar interests. Keep in mind you can't learn everything about fishing in just one day though. Fishing is a lifestyle and lifetime passion with plenty of room for growth. Just like most else in life, practice is key. Workshops like this reinforce the practice.

I was also told that the paperback Baits, Rigs and Tackle by Florida Sportsman king Vic Dunaway contains everything you could ever possibly want to know about fishing in Florida.

And don't forget to understand and practice your conservation regulations. Learn fish identification and keep your fishing license current. More information at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

44 Going on Goofball

baby photo"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few," wrote Zen Buddhist Shunryu Suzuki.

That smile portended so much. I'm still a goofball, mischievous kid inside. Will I ever grow up? I hope not.

If I've learned one thing, it's that wisdom and joy are not mutually exclusive.

Happy birthday little girl. You've come a long way.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Fishing the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal with Betty Bauman

Fishing with Betty Bauman and Jeff Berardelli
Yours truly finally got her hands on something long and hard yet flexible.

About two weeks ago, Betty Bauman, founder of Ladies Let's Go Fishing, gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to go fishing on her new boat. Well, of course, I said yes! The occasion? Videotaping for CBS Miami's Aquatic Adventures, a TV segment hosted by meteorologist and accomplished angler Jeff Berardelli.

We launched out of beautiful John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania, got live bait at the 15th Street Fisheries and then tooled around the intracoastal for half a day among the mangroves, barges and docked cruise ships of Port Everglades. Airplanes flew above us as they landed or departed from FLL. I'm very used to fishing in the Everglades back country far from civilization, so it was interesting to be out on such an urban body of water.

The Baumans usually fish out in the ocean, but it was quite choppy and that's why we chose to cast inshore.

One of our crew was a young woman who had taken a Ladies Let's Go Fishing seminar in the past. She hails from Ohio originally and she got our only catch, a small puffer fish.

Fishing with Betty Bauman and Jeff Berardelli
Betty is becoming a great mentor for me. She works very hard to put these events together for lady anglers and I really admire her.

Fishing with Betty Bauman and Jeff Berardelli
Jeff was fun to fish with ... he's from New York originally. All water babies will love his Aquatic Adventures.

Fishing with Betty Bauman and Jeff Berardelli
Behind-the-scenes videotaping of Aquatic Adventures. We could see fish in the depth finder, but they weren't hungry apparently.

Fishing with Betty Bauman and Jeff Berardelli
It was a windy day and nothing was biting. We tried lures, live pilchards and frozen shrimp.

Fishing with Betty Bauman and Jeff Berardelli
Don't order these with your conch fritters.

Betty's husband grew up in Fort Lauderdale. The affable guy told me that catches were active here back in the day, so I hope our hard luck didn't speak to the deterioration of this marine environment. John U. Lloyd State Park is an anomaly here -- a beautiful barrier island with no beachfront condos, but chock full of native plants, enormous dunes and mangroves. In spite of this, we couldn't even spot a mangrove snapper, which you might expect to find here.

Anyway, it was a great occasion to practice my casting skills. In Jeff's video, he says it had been a long time since I had my hands on a pole, but that's not true Jeff, I took a few pole dancing classes last month. Now a rod, yes. It had been a long time for that!


In a true tale of angling romance, Betty actually met her hubby at a fishing event. She started this "no yelling" school of fishing so that women could be empowered with fishing skills and the guys would stop complaining. When I asked Betty where I could find me a fisherman, she hinted I should move to the Florida Keys.

Now there's an idea I could bite.

As they always say, a bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office and truth be told, it wasn't a bad day at all. And I know I must have done ok, because there was no yelling from the menfolk in the boat.

Fishing with Betty Bauman and Jeff Berardelli
I'll probably end up buying one of these tank tops though I like to wear long sleeves because of the sun.

Follow me on Twitter next week @vicequeenmaria, November 11-13, as I live tweet my fishing adventures in Islamorada from Ladies, Let's Go Fishing. I won't be tweeting if I have a rod in my hands ... must concentrate and focus on the potential strike.

There's still time to register for the event if you are interested in attending the seminars and fishing trips.

To see me and the rest of the anglers in Jeff's Aquatic Adventure TV segment, click over to CBS Miami.

Below is my interview with Betty. Sorry for my bra strap showing. I've lost some weight and my clothes are loose. I need a fishing wardrobe stylist.

Is fishing better than sex? Find out in the video.

If you'd like to hear a full interview with Betty on my co-hosted radio show Social Chats, visit our podcast page.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Listening to My Heart: Rethinking Celibacy

lovers embracing sex and the beach
I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

First of all, this whole Kim Kardashian divorce crap, which is an insult to humanity and a prime example of why you should never follow celebrity lives as a role model. Here I am potentially avoiding marriage and others are making a mockery of this institution.

And then, I have a very refreshing personal conversation with Laura Doyle, a best-selling author and relationship coach, whom I will be interviewing twice next week, once during my co-hosted radio show Social Chats and the other in person at the Women's Success Summit, where I will also be a panelist on the first day. Laura is the author of two books, Surrendered Wife and Surrendered Single; she also creates workshops for single women who find dating a challenge.

In her most recent Surrendered Single e-newsletter, Laura says that love is our birthright and that we really shouldn't put off or delay on dating. In general, she basically believes in good old fashion courtship, love, honor and respect. Women need to act like ladies and men need to act like, well, men.

I first learned of Laura's work when I was a tango aficionado many years ago, dancing several days a week in the local Miami milonga scene. A woman on a tango bulletin board introduced me to Laura's concepts in the book Surrendered Wife, the tips from which she was following meticulously in her marriage to a man who also happened to be her dance partner.

Tango is a beautiful metaphor for relationships.

It's all about give and take, energy exchange, understanding masculine and feminine and the dynamic involved between the two. For a woman, it's all about letting go, without being a doormat. It's about having power without having to wear the pants all the time. Opening yourself up to receive is very powerful on the dance floor, but also in life.

It intrigued me.

There is a part of me that wants to fly off the planet and scoff at Laura's advice -- the independent, happy part of me. My life is rich without a man or intimacy.

But there is that other part, the one that is missing some goodness that we all deserve. Love is part of life's bounty. Want to get to me? Make me listen to a cello score or talk to me about planning a beach wedding. I am the hardest cynic and yet still the softest romantic.

Walking alone at dusk in the rain today, with the easterly wind blasting my face and the herons flying by on Biscayne Bay, I really, truly seriously had to ask myself: "What the hell are you waiting for, you idiot? Why are you delaying love? You are about to turn 44! For Christ's sake, woman!"

Laura is absolutely right. Why the hell am I postponing love? Heartbeats are on borrowed time for all of us. We are only leasing our bodies. Days are getting shorter this time of year but life is slipping away even if I should have many years ahead of me.

Her advice also terrifies me, because honestly, in spite of the dozens of networking and social events I attend practically every day, I am not meeting *the* man.

Even though I go out and have no issue experiencing things or need a lover to enjoy them -- I seriously take childish wild grateful pleasure in every breath I inhale -- that man hasn't manifested himself.

Is it a Miami thing? A *me* thing? Every fucking interesting guy on the planet seems to be attached or has been attached and is wearing some sofa king size baggage; I just keep chalking it up to "well, this just means some better chap is wending his way to me."

But I also have to be honest with myself. What message am I sending out? I must be wearing some incredibly supersonic shield to be keeping so many would-be lovers away from this devoted affection I could offer. I guess if I don't publish a fucking ad on the proverbial Craiglist of life, no one is going to answer.

Obviously, if I say the shop is closed, no one is going to want my incredible mind-blowing services.

So maybe I need to rethink this whole celibacy thing. Maybe there's something inside of me that's afraid or resisting and I wouldn't be surprised. Previous relationships involved a person who had a serious mental condition and the other one had me subject to physical violation.

Laura made me think of a place I'm not comfortable visiting, even though I am a travel writer. There are continents, rifts, deep oceans and airy caverns in my heart that would require a passport and a major TSA x-ray. I simply shouldn't hesitate to visit me, be in me and live me all the time, right?

Why don't I go there?

Because it hurts.

And in my mid-40s, I'm fucking exhausted. Just tired of it all. Can't a guy just show up and be real?

And that's what it has been like for me this last week, contemplating all of this. I'm thinking Laura and the tropical deluge that kept me from my long walks outdoors were in 'angel' cahoots to provide me with some insight. And when I finally stepped outside, I could see things through a glass darkly.

I have to deal with that inside part of me that is easy to ignore when you practice yoga poses. This is controversial: can contentment lead to ignorance? Being happy in your body but ignoring your soul? Yoga is about connecting mind, body and spirit. Can you be too happy for your own good?

Sometimes you have to dig deeper, forget about having the tight ass and look at what you're doing emotionally. Sometimes this involves going to happy hour and drinking a couple of martinis instead of doing asana. You just have to say 'fuck it' -- my soul is calling me. Yes, even physical 'yoga' can be a distraction from your ultimate spiritual purpose, if it keeps you from connecting to that part of yourself that still needs nurturing, development and evolving. Bramacharya is perhaps holding me back. All that 'feel good' granola stuff might be sugar-coating ugly shit I need to face.

I need to take a good look in the mirror.

What does a woman have to do to make herself open to love without risking all her dignity and sanity?

I think this is a question I'm still asking ...

Oh, let me repeat the question:

What does a woman have to do to make herself open to love without risking all her dignity and sanity IN SOUTH FLORIDA?

And I know this isn't just a single woman thing. Divorcées out there know what I'm talking about, too.

Don't get me wrong. My life is rich in deeply spiritual, meaningful connections. My heart bursts with agape love all the time like it's baby lemurs playing in romper room for sheer joy. (And you know I've gone there.) But I'm longing for a deeper intimacy that doesn't come from such connections. I'm listening to my heart.

What else can I say? Even though I'm questioning my heart's current method and being perfectly honest with you here, I know I'm still following my heart. Dear readers, get in touch with that. It's the only thing you can truly hold on to, no matter what phase of life you happen to be experiencing. Be true to yourself, even if that truth is raw and uncomfortable.

We'll see what happens ...