I’m Going to Miss Bob

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Have you ever come to a fork in the road in your life where you had to make some hard choices? See that picture above? That’s Bob. A rather rare species of wood stork. Bob illustrates what has been a rather hard choice for myself and my family.

Wood storks like Bob only live along the far southern coast of the United States. Seldom do they frequent your yard and you have the chance to get to know them up close and personal. But, I had the opportunity to get to know Bob and so many other wonderful things over the last ten years on Pine Island, a barrier island off the Gulf Coast of Florida.

We discovered Pine Island in the spring of 2009 quite by accident. It was love at first sight. It is a wildlife lover’s paradise and a slice of Old Florida thrown in for good measure. Pine Island used to be a place primarily for commercial fishing, until the tourists discovered it. It still isn’t frequented as much for tourism as Sanibel Island or Marco Island due to its lack of sandy beaches. The beaches are rocky and filled with mangroves. But if you love wildlife, beautiful tropical birds and fish, exploring and hiking, and really nice people, you would love Pine Island.

We started going there every year, at some point during the cold Kentucky winters. Since it is off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida, it is warm and dry all winter. Lovely weather. We loved it so much we bought a small place there. But time marches on and it finally became obvious that the drive of 1100 miles one way was going to finally be too far and that finding a housesitter for weeks or months on end was going to be impossible. We made the decision to sell our place on Pine Island. That certainly doesn’t mean we’ll never go back. It does mean we won’t be residents and we won’t be wintering there in the future.

There are so many things I’ll miss. Bob, of course. The beautiful fishing pier at Bokeelia. The little town of Matlacha. The awesome seafood. That beautiful ocean. The weather (but only in the winter!). The really nice and often delightfully eccentric people. The wonderful restaurants. The opportunity to observe exotic wildlife and birds up close and personal including ospreys and bald eagles. The chance to see my friend, Amy, and so very much more.

To me, Pine Island represents one of those wonderful interludes in life that you love looking back at and it makes you happy that you were there and sad you had to leave. I’ll always hope to go back. But, if life happens and for some reason, I don’t make it back to Bob, I’m a lucky girl that I got to be there at all. Not everyone gets to experience such an interlude in life. Maybe I’ll write about it someday.

Now it’s time to move on to the next Great Adventure and we’re thinking the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior, the land of my ancestors.

I wouldn’t trade my time at Pine Island, and with Bob, for the world.

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#weekendcoffeeshare -7/18/2018

 

Good morning! Welcome to my #weekendcoffeeshare! Grab a cup of coffee or tea off the kitchen island. I believe there is also decaf of both there and some green tea. Help yourself to whatever your pleasure is and join me in my study.

I hope all of you are well and happy and getting along well with your writing projects. I’m proceeding with my novella and have had time to do some writing this week. I am working on the characters right now, fleshing them out, making them interesting. Do you use Scrivener? I am using it for my character studies as it seems really convenient for that, but I use Microsoft Word for my actual manuscript. This is the first time I’ve used Scrivener, so I’ll let you know how that goes. Do any of you have experience with that program?

I’ve also spent the week following the story about the environmental devastation in Florida. If you’re in the U.S., I’m sure you’ve heard about it. If you’re not, you may not. In short, the Gulf Coast of the Florida peninsula is being devastated by chemical runoff from the sugar cane operation around Lake Okachoobee. There was already a red tide on the Gulf Coast. Now, the runoff has caused a blue-green algae bloom that has caused a massive fish kill. Hundreds of sea turtles have been killed, which breaks my heart. Thousands of fish. This will impact the people of the Gulf Coast and their jobs for years to come.

We have a small place in Florida right in the middle of this runoff. We don’t think we can even go back except to get our belongings. Even then, it will be dangerous to our health. Tourism will be dead in Florida this coming winter which will destroy their economy. It’s very sad and unnecessary. I’m a bit of a political activist, so I’ve been involved in this during the week. A picture of the blue-green algae slime that is so toxic is below this post.

I’m also involved in trying to tame my wild puppy, Tucker! He’s so sweet, but completely out of hand at 5.5 months old. I’ve had five corgis in my life, but never a corgi with his temperament. I told my husband that his needs are above my pay grade! Together with his breeder, we’re trying to find a professional trainer for him. Not only will that be good for me, it will be good for Tucker. I have to be trained as well. I have to learn the secrets to controlling him and he has to learn to control himself. Herding dogs, like Tucker, are alphas by nature. After he’s trained, I want to involve him in something fun for him. I’m going to enter him in herding trials and let him do what comes naturally to him.

Environmental issues and character studies for my novella have been at the top of my list this week, along with dog training, of course. What have you been doing this week?

*Thanks to eclecticali for hosting #weekendcoffeeshare!

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The Sounds of the Gulf of Mexico

 

IMG_1407I stand on the pier listening to the sounds of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s always overwhelmed me just to see the Gulf or any part of the ocean. When I get accustomed to seeing it, then I begin to listen to its sounds. There are far more sounds than sights.

The Gulf is generally a calm body of water. If you just listen to the sound of the water, you will hear it gently lapping at the beach or whatever lies at its edge. Other places, such as the island where I live part-time, it laps at the mangroves trees along its banks. Mangrove forests surround parts of my island. They serve as fish hatcheries, protection from hurricanes for the island, and many other purposes in tropical areas. If the tide is coming in and you are at an area where there are rocky beaches, the water sounds like it is slapping the rocks with that sound of slapping turning into almost a cracking sound as the tide comes in faster and faster.

If you are facing the Gulf and not a bay off the Gulf, the sound differs. If the tide is coming in and hitting rocks or a sea wall, you hear a percussive sound, almost a booming. If the Gulf is stirred up due to a storm, the sound becomes almost thunderous and to some, very exciting.

The sound of the Gulf or any part of the ocean appeals to something primitive, perhaps embryonic or even evolutionary, in most of us. It soothes my moods and evens out my temperament. It makes me feel at home.

The Past

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It was fall. The leaves were just starting to turn and it was still warm. Not hot, but warm. The nights were crisp. They were on vacation in a beautiful place. There was a crescent moon and they went for a walk to get a better look. It had been years since they had even taken a walk together. There was no romance between them.

The landscape was flat, but there was a small hill in front of them. They climbed the hill to get a better look at the moon. In front of them was the ocean. He took her hand to help her up. He held on. Her instinct was to let go, but she made herself let him hold her hand. It had been years since they had even held hands. His hand felt foreign to her.

The moon over the ocean was beautiful, casting another moon into the ocean. He had always enjoyed the moon shadow but had never seen it very often over water. Usually just on land. She was a child of the sun. Over the years, she had become afraid of the dark. She didn’t know why. She found herself taking deep breaths, hoping to avoid a panic attack because of being in the dark. He gripped her hand tighter. He knew.

They stood there for a long time. Talking. Reminiscing about all the past years. He wanted to talk about the good times. She could hardly bear to remember the good times, but she tried. Good times with him seemed so very long ago. When he mentioned them, she tried to remember and laughed with him even when she had forgotten something he remembered completely. She had blocked out so much.

He told her he’d like to spend the night there on the beach. That he had sleeping bags in the car. It was his birthday. She hated to disappoint him. She felt like she had spent years disappointing him so she agreed. He found a good place and put the sleeping bags and a cooler with her water and some snacks down. They got in their sleeping bags. If he had done this years ago, she would have been pleased.

They laid there and talked for a while. Not about anything significant. Just about the beautiful place they had found here ten years ago. He reached for her hand. He fell asleep while they were holding hands. She laid there awake for a long time, thinking of how they had been only roommates for so long. How she didn’t know how to be anything else with him now. His hand was warm and made her feel safe. It made her remember the night they met. How he’d made her feel safe that night too. So long ago. She listened to the ocean all night.

She thought of what his mother had said all those years ago.

”It doesn’t matter if you love each other. You come from two different worlds. It will never work out in the long run.”

How right she had been. But, for some reason, they had always hung on to each other even though they would have been so much happier with other people.

She watched the sunrise, her hand still in his. What he didn’t know is that, now, she was sick.

 

Journal: My Respite…..the Bat House – Nov 6, 2017

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When I went in search of a Pine Island sunrise, I found fog, but I also found a gem of a tiny park in the community of Matlacha. This park is called Bat House Park and you can see the Bat House and plaque in these pictures. There are also a few benches, a small number of parking places, and an awesome place to fish in Matlacha Bay.

This bat house is for the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat which can eat up to 3,000 insects each in a night. It’s located at the base of the “fishingest bridge in the world” and is a great use of a tiny pocket of land.

Journal: My Respite….Making it Home

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Do you see the images out there in the fog? Those are shrimp boats in the Matlacha, FL harbor. When I looked at this scene, my thought was “the ghost ships of Matlacha,” but they are not ghosts. They are real fishing boats. I took this picture yesterday morning, through the fog. I had come to Matlacha to take a picture of the sunrise, but it was socked in with fog.

Matlacha is a tiny village adjacent to Pine Island. It was a commercial fishing village turned, now, into an artist’s colony. It is a collection of neon-colored buildings housing art galleries and great restaurants. It’s very much an “old Florida” place and is only one of the villages in the Pine Island complex. I love many of the restaurants in Matlacha and will feature them in this blog as I visit them. Even though there isn’t as much commercial fishing in Matlacha as in the past, the industry still exists there as you can see by the shrimp boats in the fog.

Today, I plan to visit the Island Seafood Market in Matlacha where many of the fishing boats come in for the night. They have some of the best, fresh seafood in the late afternoon that I’ve ever eaten, after the fishing boats unload their fare. The staff is extremely knowledgeable about the seafood and can even tell the novices about preparation. I’ll let you know what I buy and have for dinner in this blog tomorrow!

We had fog yesterday and today. It’s odd for my beautiful island, although it happens occasionally at this time of year. I’m looking forward to the fog clearing so I can go to Matlacha in the early morning and photograph the sunrise, which is as beautiful on Pine Island as the sunset.

Today is a beautiful sunny day on Pine Island. We are trying to figure out what to do about our failing A/C and refrigerator. I’m still trying to unpack and will complete that task today. I also hope to get to the Bokeelia pier to get a new sunset picture in the late afternoon. I have an appointment in Ft. Myers today.

All of this means that I will probably not have time to write until evening. I am a little behind with  my word count for NaNoWriMo, but not much. I hope to catch up tonight.

I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I’ll be here for 5-6 months. That’s a long time to be away. So I’m taking some time to make my place on my island in the sun home.

 

Journal: My Respite…..Really? Nov. 5, 2017

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Life does indeed get in the way, doesn’t it. I’ve been in South Florida only a little over 48 hours. I knew there would be some upfront recovery time from the trip and some upfront time to set up my home again after being gone for many months. I was prepared for all that. I was even prepared for a little hurricane damage. But, my friends who had advised me of the hurricane damage couldn’t know the extent of it.

It seems that dear Hurricane Irma (please notice that I am not cursing though I want to) decided to, more or less, take out our central air conditioning unit as she passed our way. I assume it was water that did it, although there is no way to know now. It is also interesting that, suddenly, the refrigerator is also not working. Water? Probably. But again, no way to know. The hurricane was weeks ago. The moral to the story is if a hurricane is ever in the vicinity of your property, don’t do what I did. Don’t wait weeks to check on it. GO CHECK ON IT right afterwards. Being a hurricane novice, what did I know? So now, I get to purchase a new A/C unit and probably a new refrigerator. Thanks, Irma.

Do you know what it is like in South Florida with minimal A/C and refrigeration? Hell. That’s what it is like. Oops. Cursing. Yesterday, it was 90 degrees here. Yes, in November.

I’m going to talk to FEMA. Not that I think it will do any good at this late date, but a girl can ask, right? Maybe they will at least send someone to check and make an assessment. Next year. That’s how far behind they are running. I have to have A/C and refrigeration NOW, not next year.

Since I am ranting, I will continue! Let me tell you what the news media does NOT report. Bonita Springs, FL is a pretty major community around here. Hurricane Irma was weeks and weeks ago. Bonita Springs is STILL under water!! Has anyone even heard about that!? How can this not be a news story? Apparently, a river in the area came out of its banks and just never receded. ??? I think Bonita Springs needs FEMA and help beyond FEMA. The National Guard? Something? Does the U.S. now just leave our citizens under water?

As you know, I am here for a respite and to write. So far, respite? Zero. Writing? If you’re reading this, you are reading the first thing I’ve written since arriving on my island and it is 3:40 a.m. That might emphasize my day to you.

On the upside, I did visit the pier this evening and was lucky enough to see some friends who I haven’t seen in months there. Beautiful cobalt blue water and the pink aftermath of the sunset. Picture above. The Gulf/Bay was whitecapping tonight.

I forget that it is morning! It may be my morning to try to catch a sunrise. After all, why go to bed now! Sunrise is only 2.5 hours away and a friend told me tonight about a wonderful place to catch it.

Stay tuned…..

 

 

#weekendcoffeeshare 09/30/2017

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It’s been a long time, months, I think, since I’ve welcomed everyone for a #weekendcoffeeshare. I’m glad to welcome you now, into our coffee shop. The owner has a nice setup for us. Several kinds of coffee and tea this morning. Danish and other pastries. Please pick your pleasure and join us. I’m so glad to see all of you!

If we were having coffee, my only excuse for not being here recently is that I’ve spent the summer writing. Writing a novel and recently starting another long-form fiction piece that, I think, is going to be a novella. There is a growing market for novellas now. I’m excited about them both.

Other things have been going on as well. The last time we spoke, I think I had lost my dog, a wonderful companion. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Betsy. I lost her, at only four years old, to a terrible genetic illness afflicting only a few breeds. Since I don’t “do” life very well without a dog, I picked out a puppy soon after Betsy’s death. I still mourn her and always will. Now I have Hanna, who is the wildest, craziest puppy I’ve ever had. She was 3.5 months old when I got her and had spent much of her life in a crate. She is now 6.5 months old and is terribly well-adjusted for the most part. Hanna is a “designer” dog or a dog bred like a Goldendoodle, a mix of two breeds. She is half Havanese and half Lowchen and it seems to be a good mix. She’s beautiful, funny, smart, and healthy. If I can live through her puppyhood (a challenge), she will make a wonderful companion. Here is just a head shot and I’m sure you can see what I mean:

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We are currently working hard on obedience training!

My summer has been completely filled with training and raising Hanna and writing up to 12 hours per day.

Now that October is almost here, I am getting ready to go to my little home in Florida for the winter. No idea yet when I will go. Hurricane Irma devastated Florida and did a lot of damage to the island where I live. I had some damage at my own home. Hurricane season doesn’t end in the U.S. until November 30, but usually hurricanes subside during November. This year, the Atlantic Ocean temperatures are still very warm. I won’t go to Florida until the ocean temperatures cool and until I’m sure that the infrastructure has been restored on my island. It makes it hard to know when to hire a housesitter! I hope to spend Thanksgiving there, but who knows? Everything is uncertain this year. The hurricane damage to Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys is unbelievably awful.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that’s all that’s been going on with me. I’d love to hear what’s been going on with all of you!

#SoCS – 9/16/2017 – Gratitude

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Gratitude is an emotion I don’t think I express often enough. Tonight, I feel gratitude, but a range of other emotions as well. I’m grateful that I’ve been lucky enough to find out that my little home in South Florida only sustained minor damage from Hurricane Irma. There was some minor outside wind damage. Nothing that isn’t fixable. I hope there isn’t any damage on the inside. It, according to a friend and neighbor, doesn’t seem to have had any roof leaks. I think I dodged a bullet where some, where I live, weren’t so lucky. The infrastructure on my island is having a little more trouble getting up and going. The National Guard has been called in to help folks out with issues like food, water, and ice, along with getting the power and water back on.  This is on one little island off the Florida Coast. Extrapolate that to the entire State of Florida, very little of which was spared. When we can go back is anyone’s guess.

Along with grateful, I’m also puzzled. I’m hearing very little news coverage of the cleanup and fixup efforts in Florida and Texas. Considering that Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey affected something close to 15 million Texans and Floridians, not counting us snowbirds, I don’t quite understand this. Where is the national news coverage? Cities in Florida were devastated. We all know about Houston. The Florida Keys are a news story themselves. If I’m missing something, including the right news coverage, someone please point me in the right direction. I watch very little television and almost no frivolous television, so maybe I am missing the coverage I would like to see.

I’m also sad tonight. I have heard some disparage others who have second homes in South Florida that they either lost or that sustained damage. Maybe that seems like excess to some folks, or conspicuous consumption, but as someone who has a very small and modest second home there, I would like to say a word about it. I worked very very hard for many years in order to be able to afford to live in Florida during a few winter months each year. It took a lot of education and even more years of hard work. I’m sure I’m speaking for many people with second homes in another state. Others could have worked as hard as I did and reaped the same rewards. It is unnecessary and cruel to celebrate loss of property for people who spent their whole lives working for it. Rant over.