PANAMA CITY BEACH — It had been more than a year since my last visit, and that simply was too long. I returned last week, at least in part, because I was seriously in danger of losing my Zen.
The Zen Garden Market and Lotus Café is a little oasis of peace and nature at 707 Richard Jackson Blvd., Panama City Beach. (Visit ZenGardenMarket.com for more info.) I wrote about the garden itself in 2011, and interviewed (“Dear”) Prudence Bruns there shortly after.
And I knew it would be a good lunchtime escape from the world.
Two small manmade waterfalls beside the café’s outdoor seating area lend a gentle background noise of burbling water on stone, splashing of water into water, nearly inaudible noises of small bubbles floating down stream and popping. One waterfall feeds a small circling stream, the other aerates a koi pond.
Waterfalls and beaches are both good places to pick up the positive effects of negative ions, according to WebMD.com. Negative ions are charged particles in the air that increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, “resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy,” the site says, citing Pierce J. Howard, PhD, director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C.
I don’t know much about charged particles, but I recognize the value of a time out in a tranquil environment.
Add the touch of breezes in oak limbs and magnolias. A creaking pine trunk. Bird calls. Something skittering in fallen leaves under a lush tropical plant.
So I walked among the limbs, the flowers, and silent yellow butterflies playing chase, alighting on red fronds, circling into the clear blue sky. A monarch perched on a leaf, slowly opening and closing its wings. A yellow jacket’s buzz went quiet as it settled onto the fanned leaves of a palm.
A squirrel investigated me, the interloper. Slowly moving closer, first on tree limbs, then on open ground, then by scurrying from one nearby flower pot to another. I stood very still, waiting for the animal to lose interest.
Manmade noises carried, occasionally intruding. Low voices in conversation at the tables. A hush of traffic, sometimes louder and changing in pitch as a large truck moved along the scale of the Doppler Effect from one end of the boulevard toward the other. A door clacking shut.
I breathed the cool air and felt the sunlight on my face.