Tag Archives: Florida

Spontaneity

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. And most of what occurred had not been planned.

It was a gorgeous Florida winter day– one of those days that feel like heaven. Not a drop of humidity, or searing sun rays, or biting cold. The gently warm sun mixed with cobalt blue skies and fresh cool breezes kept the skin wanting more and the eyes closing in pleasure. A long bike ride was the only thing I’d planned because I knew the weather was going to be heavenly and I had no work or appointments scheduled. Just me and my bike and the trail. But right before I left I had a strong instinct to message a former coworker to meet along my trail ride for a coffee at my favorite local coffee shop. He immediately responded that he was excited to meet up with me. This coworker was an integral part of my sanity during our Covid-related lay off and unemployment benefit fiasco.

I pumped the bicycle peddles hard so I could make my route before meeting my friend. There were other bikers on the path, sometimes in my way (I wanted to soar instead of putz). Even the bugs had no time to fly away from my racing speed (there were some caught in my hair, some on my sunscreen-covered lips). I breathed deep and let my frustration flow away with the breezes. As soon as I entered my favorite park, with its many windy trails underneath the hammocks of oaks and cypress, I felt the emanating presence of god. I have never been a religious person. But I let god, as I’ve come to know this feeling of love and light and peace and gratitude, wash over me and flow outward.

I couldn’t stop looking at the tops of the trees, or inhaling the scent of orange-blossom. I even turned my headphone volume lower to hear the birds singing and chirping in the late morning.

My meet-up went well. It was so nice to see my friend after so many weeks. We sat under a pagoda, sipping our coffee concoctions and swapping stories of our latest accomplishments, work drama (his, not mine), and relished that we were both free from our old job that although had its many teachable and fun moments, a sheer relief to be unbridled by the stress and consumption of it all.

On the ride back I went through the park again, and stopped at the butterfly garden. There were yellow and orange butterflies flitting about, big bumblebees visiting each blossom that hadn’t been there just two weeks ago.

When I arrived back to my neighborhood I stopped at a neighbor’s house, as my son was doing some light yard work there as a side job. We talked about school and friends and the future week’s plans as he gathered pine needles and dusty mulch and I draped my arms over the chest-high fence. We made a date to run errands later and get dinner out.

Teenagers can be a moody, emotional mess at times. And you might not know which you’re gonna get. Today he was in a wonderfully light and playful mood, devoid of the usual school stress and pulsating exhaustion. He drove us to Home Depot, where I’d planned on purchasing a screen for our back slider, so I can let the breezes in without the critters and insects. He rolled the large platform cart along the aisles and I playfully asked if I could ride it as he pushed. I felt playful, too. We finally found the particular screen door (it was the last one left) and he questioned why we needed a cart so large for this light door and that he could just carry it, no problem. I was grateful he was there with me as these types of errands always seem to stress me.

We had dinner out together in between our errands. The conversation never lulled, there was no iPhone in sight, and he opened up to me without prodding or hesitation. We sat there fully present, chatting and laughing and eating like so many parents of teenagers don’t always get to do. Fully present. That’s what I’ll tell him to do next time there is a lull in conversation with his girlfriend. Sometimes you don’t have much to say. And that’s ok. Just being present is what is needed. In that moment, at that table, there were no distractions. I felt heard and appreciated and not an embarrassment as us moms can sometimes be to our teenagers. Just living and breathing we are dorks.

Our last errand before home was yet another home-improvement store, this time to buy an anti-squirrel bird feeder and seed, so I can invite more birdsong onto my lanai and into my life. Once again it was playful and helpful and not at all the chore I thought it would be.

When we arrived home he brought in the screen and promised to help me install it tomorrow. I don’t know how I’ll cope when he one day flies the nest. It’s too daunting to imagine. How pointless. We have today, whether planned or spontaneous.

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All the Flowers of my Childhood

In a dream I saw them
as clear as light
All the flowers of my childhood
The greens and golds
I walked past at midnight
Wispy dandelion seeds swept along cedar
by youthful breath
Clover necklaces
with knots in their stems
Distinct as the flowers of my adulthood
White and exotic and some
bearing fruit
Others only peeking long after
sun gone to slumber
Reds and yellows and umber
Some I cannot name
yet some the same
As those in the garden of
spirit’s infancy.

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A Morning at the Sponge Docks, Desolate

My eyes wanted to see it. Needed to see it.

The safer-at-home order has its ups and downs. However because I long to spend more time in my home and away from noise and crowds, it has not been a real stretch for me. That said, being confined to a space for many weeks, no matter how comfy, lends itself to the brain desiring a slightly altering experience, even if just a few miles from home. And exercising cautiously outdoors is good for the soul.

Sponge docks boat and sky

The sponge docks are a little mini-European getaway. Founded by John Cocoris and his hired Greek sponge divers and their families in the late 1880’s, this little corner of west Florida is the sponge capital of the world. Sponges of all kinds, plucked from the gulf waters, specialty shops, Greek restaurants, and a rescue aquarium are some of what the five senses experience. I spent countless, beautiful moments with friends and family here over the past two decades. It remains one of my favorite local places, as well as in the world.

Sponge docks sponge diver

I made my trek by bicycle on a morning I knew there’d be few people out. The spring air void of humidity and the blue skies with an occasional wispy, puff cloud an extra enticement for the journey. There were a few times during off-season when the docks were quiet and fairly empty. But I had to see them now, had to experience this usually bustling town breathing in its silence.

And I had to take a lot of photographs.

Sponge docks empty parking lot

Sponge docks empty street

Sponge docks shop door

Sponge docks empty carousel

Sponge docks bakery case

The only open bakery, which is usually teeming with people.

Sponge docks lady at counter

Besides me, this lady was the sole patron.

Sponge docks window display

Sponge docks bakery case outside

Sponge docks empty restaurant

Sponge docks cigar

Sponge docks mannequin with mask

 

Sponge docks mermaid and turtle

Sponge docks bicycle

I trekked back home with two Tsoureki  loaves. Buy one, get one free.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Time We Have

Some of us find ourselves with more time on our hands lately. Some of us are deemed an “essential employee”. Whatever your situation, and I hope everyone safe, healthy, and financially stable throughout this strange journey we’re all moving through, there is TIME– to capture, seize, harness. Our state is on a “Safer-at-Home” order. My neighbor says he’s “going out of his mind” yet in that same breath he said he wiped the grey dust off his guitar and clumsily yet earnestly strummed the strings, something he hadn’t done in years. Our community pool is closed due to the current situation. Last Thursday I strolled around the neighborhood for a much-needed leg stretch after work (I’m considered an essential employee and have been sitting in front of a computer every day for hours, not something I’m used to as a Montessori teacher). A mom and her young daughter had filled two blue paddling pools, placed them in their driveway, and were giggling and playfully splashing each other.

Although we have implemented distance learning at our school and conduct regular Zoom meetings, some of my students have taken up knitting. Some have baked sweet, chocolaty treats. Some have FaceTimed for 6 hours while watching the same Netflix series.

I have seen even more families taking walks together than usual. My brother said it is the same where he lives, 700 miles away from me. I’ve smelled the waft of charred food on grills more nights than not. I’ve heard an unusual abundance of birds singing in the tops of the oak and Norfolk pines. Gone are the shrieks of sirens every hour, the blasting hum of airplanes overhead, the smell of air thick with the pollution of car exhaust and industry.

Even though I’m still working, I’ve had a few more moments to enjoy the sound of birdsong, make brownies from scratch, read my current fiction of choice, water my neighbor’s garden, connect with friends I’ve haven’t talked to in months. At first I was consumed by the news and social media but I’m making a concerted effort to put the phone down for chunks at a time (there are some funny memes out there, though).

This week is my son’s 16th birthday. There will not be a car in the driveway with a bow on it (that wasn’t happening anyway). We will not have our usual hibachi feast with friends and family. But we will celebrate in the quiet and simple fashion we’re all becoming familiar with.

I’m just embracing the good that can come from a dire situation. And there is good here. And there is time.

(But I haven’t been to Walmart to buy toilet paper).

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Catching Scents, Memories on the Highway

Written from the screened porch at the old Earle cabin near Ichetucknee Springs, Florida
June 13, 2018

I don’t even know where to begin, it’s been so long since I’ve written anything (besides a short thank-you note). I’m going all old-school long hand as I’ve no working computer at the moment. How did I manage to journal all those years on paper? It was all I really knew. And I preferred it. Now my mind is faster than my hand. And my posture is terrible.

Yesterday I caught a scent which reminded me of grandpa Pa. It must have been a combination of raw tobacco and the rain right before it falls. I was driving my son and I along one of the many country roads, lined with farmland– corn, cows, horses, watermelon. Power lines neatly parallel to the ever-stretching two-lane highway. Pa used his handkerchief (which he kept in his back pocket) to blow his nose. His vice was chewing tobacco. His very own garden full of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten to this day.

As a teen I couldn’t imagine his existence anything short of mundane, perhaps dull. But now I see the allure. The very peacefulness of it all. Days spent tinkering in the garage, tending to the vegetables, gathering fallen tree limbs, wiping the sweat of the brow with a worn handkerchief.

I go to these trips to the springs, to the ranch, to get away from it all. To be away from noise and chatter and chores and errands and work. Here the birds sing day and night. The rooster crows. The donkey bellows. There’s no WiFi. I woke up this morning and walked in dewy grass to pet a pygmy horse.

I miss my Pa. And my Granny. It’s hard sometimes to grasp the brevity of it all– that I shall never again spend time in their presence. Their memories float along with the momentum of the highway, the rows of melon, and the fields of corn.

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Along Autumn’s Shadowy Road

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among scattered leaves
and ever-blooming hibiscus
a scent surrounds and encapsulates
a time when you were here

Lace curtains and tobacco
warm biscuits and apple butter
a long drive to your houses
the train chugging beside the highway
or heard in the distance at night

Afternoons on the red metal swing
climbing trees
stepping on crab apples
dancing clothes on the line
robust tomatoes in the garden

You came to me in a dream
respectively
young faces
and smiling eyes

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among a post-summer wind
a lamenting of the past
and an emptiness in the heart
yet peace settles in

Still I stare at the photographs
and pretend you are just a long drive
away.

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October Sunday Morning

I woke up wanting to hear A Place Without a Postcard, my favorite band’s kind of forgotten album (at least among my own collection). It’s Sunday. The final day of an event-filled short weekend. Laundry is being washed, dishes are soaking in the sink. The bamboo shade has been drawn in the office where I now sit, lest the sun’s searing, penetrating beams suck away any energy I have to make this a productive day.

October breezes are welcome. Weekend afternoon naps appreciated.

My kid is growing up way too fast. I’m trying to grasp and hold on to the smidgen of childhood he has left. I think he is, too. He always says he doesn’t want to grow up, doesn’t want to get older. Well he doesn’t have to look too far to see what it’s like to be a kid-at-heart.  Being a systematized adult is overrated. I want to wear goofy hats and laugh at fart jokes sometimes too.

I was a kid just yesterday, wasn’t I? Good lord I graduated from college 20 years ago. Is that right? Yes, yes it is. But I’m not one to start moaning and groaning about the pains of aging. Physically I don’t feel a day over 25 unless I try to read something. Mentally I feel about 60. In Yoda years that’s nothing. Our brains have an immense amount of time to evolve and grow and settle.

But sometimes I want to curl up in bed while someone makes breakfast for me. Someone drives me here and there. Someone to tell me to rake the leaves, do my homework. Long days spent staring at posters on the wall listening to tapes from the boom box. Perhaps that’s the place without a postcard?

 

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Surfing with Purpose

Friday night I went to the beach alone to watch the sunset and decompress from the week’s craziness. My birthday was the day before and truly great but the full moon preceding it roused some sadness within my psyche as well as maniacal energy in the kids at school. So let’s just say I needed some beach time, if only for an hour.

I set up my blue beach chair towards the setting sun and a band of young surfers and skim boarders. They always fascinate me as I’ve never been able to surf (only tried it twice though thus far). I will not try skim boarding. I don’t want to recreate the incident in which I thought it OK for me to attempt to ride one of those ridiculous hover boards. I’m lucky I didn’t break anything or send myself to the ER.

Surfers have this underlying known mantra of being one with the ocean, feeling the waves, living for that next curl. I had many fantasies growing up in Tennessee that I could possibly be one of them some day. I often thought about a bungalow near the beach where me and my surfer buddies would live. This image has crossed my mind so many times I’m not sure if it’s a recurring dream or something that happened in a past life or parallel universe. Nevertheless I’ve imagined this house on its stilts and the colorful cushy floor pillows inside and these cool, easy-going people and that lifestyle ever since I can remember.

This life never came into fruition in that way, but I’ve gathered bits of it here and there and incorporated it. I live close to the beach and keep beach and river items in my trunk at all times. There’s always a sprinkling of sand on my floorboards. I can paddle board pretty well. And in these moments of beach-going if there are surfers about I tend to gaze out and watch them.

I noticed a few yards away from the band of them a young girl of about seventeen skim boarding by herself. She had a perfect athletic body, tanned skin, long blonde hair. And she could skim the hell out of that board. She had such purpose in her movements along with gracefulness and strength. She did this over and over, never falling off, never an instance of hesitation. And she wasn’t doing it to impress anyone. She was in her own world, accomplishing a feat not easily obtained. I reveled in this girl, this kick ass girl who was ripping it up out there and in that moment seemed to have such confidence and talent. I thought about myself at that age and in no way could compare as I hadn’t near that kind of self assurance, strength, free spirit.

But perhaps this girl doesn’t always convey or encompass these qualities. Perhaps she struggles with something deep down and this is her solace. This is the thing that keeps her grounded. Perhaps she doesn’t always have it together as she does right here on this beach with all these boys in the distance and pelicans flying low in the golden horizon. But thank God or the Universe or Neptune or hell all three she found something she’s good at. And can hopefully take that with her when she’s not in the warm gulf whitecaps.

All of us humans have struggles. Some days are more arduous than others. If we find that something which keeps us from going mad, something that gives us a freedom and sense of peace not unlike a breeze in our hair, water lapping at our feet, or personal triumph, then we should try and incorporate it as much as possible. And do it with purpose just like that young girl in the surf on a random Friday night.

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Farewell September

We came back to thank god
all is ok
but the stench of humid decay
and fallen trees
rises like a bubbling swamp
and nighttime loneliness
pricks mockingly at the heart

Flood waters and sink holes
rip and drown requisite dreams meant for peaceful sleep

Blinding sunlight falling with the spit of rain
I want to sleep next to the open window again

A disconnect with those who stayed
and those who love but far away
a rash urge to flee again
or chop off all the hair
and wish it to grow back times ten

You are not sad
and I hope you never have to contend

I’ll take it all and bear through it as I wish September to end.

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Mass Exodus

I hear the sounds of my youth outside the window, the various chirping and buzzing. And although so familiar also so distant to me now. The heat and sand and multitude of adventures of my home now for 16 years calls to me.

It was a mass exodus out of my beloved state of Florida. Those of us fleeing north in a perpetual gridlock. At one point I blew bubbles out the window to lighten the mood. 

This monster of a storm barreling towards us is imminent. And now it is hurry up and wait. Those who’ve stayed to fight it out have boarded up their homes and filled their tubs. I want to be there to hold their hand through the eye of it. But I can only send well wishes and pray to the Universe to have mercy, weaken this thing. Mother Nature in all her glory and zen can turn to desicrate within minutes. 

Before moving to Florida over 16 years ago I lived in Tennessee, in and around Nashville where I was born and raised. It will always be a part of me. Hell, I’ve got the ever-present accent to prove it. There are family and friends there I hold dear to my heart even when we go months or years without being in each other’s presence. 

My memories scatter over various times in my life. There was college and TV production shows we birthed and sent out into the airwaves over late nights and early mornings. There was childhood where the cedar trees in my backyard over looked the creek where we spent days exploring and trying to catch crawdaddies. There were the high school days of triumph and aggravation. Bonding with those of the same heart. And through it all my brother somewhere close by. 

So now I stay with him and his family in their home in Tennessee while we all wait for this storm to spin and crash its course. The course that is battering where my life is now. In all its quirkiness and troubles Florida is endearing to me and I wear it with me always. Even in the suffocating heat of August and the rainy hurricane season of September I still regard it with adoration. Various memories here, too. The birth and growing up of my son. The friends made from various other parts of the country who all came down for one reason or another. The beach, the springs, the trails, the cute little towns, all the parks, even the bland strip malls and constant flat earth. I love it all as I did when I’d come to visit in my youth. And of course the freeing opportunity to wear flip flops all year round. 

Oh Florida, and all of you there. Please be safe. Keep your walls in tact. Crouch and fight and breathe. And rise again with the sunshine waiting for another day. Those of us who fled will be back to hold and rise with you. 

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