Saturday, May 21, 2005

Don't Dream It...BE It

Recently, I visited Epcot with my neighbors, and we paused to watch the fountain in Future World as it launched into one of its choreographed performances. Every 15 minutes, the water shoots and arcs and sprays in tandem with a randomly selected song. I know it's random because you can get a list at Guest Services; you'll know which songs you might hear, but I was informed that they're not played on any set schedule.

Just in case you're wondering, the songs are:

Selection from Disney's animated feature "Rescuers Down Under"

Instrumental from the "Air Battle" sequence from Surprise in the Skies, a former daytime lagoon show at Epcot

Selection for a proposed Epcot show "Around the World with Mickey Mouse"

Selection from the Disney live-action feature film The Rocketeer

"Day One" by John Tesh

"Standing in Motion" by Yanni

Selection from the Disney live-action feature film Iron Will

I enjoy several of the songs, but my favorite is Yanni's "Standing In Motion." With its swelling, jubilant sounds, it's perfect for a fountain ballet. Back when my husband and I used to visit Disney World a couple of times a year (or maybe three or four or five), I never felt that my trip was complete without seeing at least one Yanni fountain performance. Somehow, it always seemed that we ended up at Epcot on the last morning of our trips, squeezing in the last few precious hours before we had to head to the airport. Often, God would smile down at me, and as we enjoyed a pasterie at the Fountain View Bakery, I'd hear the strains of Yanni and be able to cap my trip with one of my favorite Disney World experiences. Yes, the thrill rides and shows are fun, but the fountain is one of those overlooked attractions that I will always love.

That visit with my neighbors was the first time I'd seen the fountain perform since I'd moved to Celebration. I had been to Epcot a few times, but for some reason it was always shut down. Now, as we passed by at a quarter past the hour, the speakers cranked up and, believe it or not, it was Yanni! The three of us paused, watching in awe, while the oblivious crowd of tourists flowed around us. They were so intent on getting in another ride that they couldn't see the beauty right in front of them.

When it was over, I realized that for once the fountain didn't herald my leaving. In the past, it was always bittersweet because soon I'd be saying goodbye to Disney World and winging my way back to Chicago. But this time, there was no hurry to leave, and when I did finally decide to call it a day, I'd only be heading a few miles down the road. I wouldn't be 1200 miles away; I'd be in a place where I could hear the muted explosions of Illuminations right from my front porch.

This same sense washed over me again when my husband and I ate at Jiko last night. Located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jiko is an absolutely wonderful restaurant serving African-themed cuisine. As usual, the hotel was bustling with activity: tourists rushing out to catch a bus or in to crash in their hotel room or out to see the animals or take a dip in the pool or in to spend their last dollars in the gift shop. I love to people-watch, but after a while it makes my head spin!

Fortunately, the pace is more leisurely in the restaurant. We were seated by a window, so in addition to watching a constant stream of guests, we got to see Mama Duck and her five fuzzy babies swimming proudly in a pool of water. Our server told us the little ones had just been hatched that morning, and already they were swimming like pros.

When we were done with our meal and on our way back to the car, I noticed many luggage carts laden with suitcases and souvenir bags. Each cart represented an unfortunate family whose vacation had come to an end. I know how that feels from many years of personal experience; no matter how long our Disney World vacations were actually booked for, the time flew by in a heartbeat. We usually tried to stay from a Friday night or Saturday morning through the following Sunday night, giving us nearly nine days. But before we knew it, the trip would be half over. Then, like a roller coaster train cresting a hill and plummeting down at breakneck speed, the passing days would flash by. Suddenly they were all gone, and it was time to return to reality again. We'd sit, forlorn, on the benches in front of the hotel waiting with our luggage for our ride to the airport.

I used to feel so depressed, watching for the towncar to pick us up. I knew that I was very lucky to be able to vacation at Disney World regularly, but somehow it was never long enough. I suspected that even a month wouldn't be enough; even though family and friends thought I was crazy, and that I would eventually get tired of visiting the Mouse, I knew in my heart that it would never happen.

Now, as we climbed into Canyonero, I realized that I'll never have to feel that way again. I can come and go as a please at the Disney World resort. I don't have to wait weeks and months for those precious vacations; whenever I have a spare hour or two, I can sneak off and become a wide-eyed kid again, running amok in Fantasy Land. There's no more melancholy because "going home" really means going right next door, to Celebration.

This led me to ponder how fortunate I am. How many people can truthfully say that they are Mickey's neighbors? It took some belt tightening, but we were very lucky to be able to swing the move to Florida.

Of course, the move was frightening at first. Since both my husband and I are life-long Chicagoans, it was quite a change for us. At the time, I didn't think that I'd be able to keep my primary job, so I was worried about starting up a counseling practice while running my travel agency, too. It takes time to get a business going, but household bills don't wait.

But somehow, everything worked out for the best. I am able to telecommute (or would that be wi-fi/laptop commute?), and the travel agency is doing pretty good. I miss being an active counselor, but someday I'll manage to work that into my multiple careers again.

I know a lot of people who say, "I'd like to move to Florida when I retire," or "I'd like to travel a lot when I retire," or whatever their personal dream might be. Originally, my husband and I thought of moving to Florida as something we'd do many years down the road; certainly not as a spur-of-the-moment decision! But I've never had any regrets, and it's made me less afraid of risk taking. I tend to be a consummate planner who likes to look at situations from every posible angle. Only when I've considered every possibility and analyzed every potential outcome do I feel comfortable with moving forward.

That kind of approach would not have worked with moving to Celebration. By the time I would have finished doing my analysis, we'd have been priced right out of the market. It was only by acting quickly and decisively on our dream that we were able to make it reality.

And sometimes, "someday" never comes. You never know when an accident or illness or other unforseen event might suddenly shatter your world. I think about all those poor souls trapped in the World Trade Center or onboard those ill-fated airplanes on that dark day of September 11. All of their hopes and dreams were ended abruptly by the actions of hate-filled madmen. When they left for work that morning, or boarded the aircraft, I'm sure that none of them had any idea that their lives would suddenly be cut short. I can't predict the future, but if I ever find myself in a similar situation, I don't want to be thinking, "If only I'd done (insert dream here)."

All of these deep thoughts bring to mind one of my favorite quotes, taken from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Towards the end, there is a big production number, with Dr. Frank N. Furter (a cross-dressing mad scientist with a fondness for teddies, played by Tim Curry) singing, "Don't dream it, be it." That's really wise advice, especially coming from a man in make-up, a wig, and fishnet stockings. If you waste your whole life dreaming, the time for being can fly by as quickly as those precious vacation days.

I guess that I've always believed in "being." I loved horses as a teenager, but my mother was not a very supportive person. I took a bus to the stable every weekend, learned to ride by working as a trail guide, and got a job when I was 16 so I would buy and support a horse of my own. I'm 40 years old now, and I still have that horse, although he's rather crotchety and mostly retired these days.

I turned my dreams of being a writer into stacks of magazine tearsheets, slogging determinedly through the rejection slips to finally see my name in print and receive that proud first check. I did have to put some of my dreams on hold, like getting my masters and doctorate degrees, because life responsibilities and financial limitations intruded. But I never forgot them, and I'm still busy achieving them; I recently reached my educational goals, and I'm already working on the next set of dreams.

Living in Florida is another goal that I've been fortunate enough to turn into reality through a combination of luck and hard work. On all those melancholy days of returning to Chicago, little did I suspect that someday soon I would never have to do that again. Dreaming is fun, but being is so much better. And being in Celebration is a dream come true for me.

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