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.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Florida: The Aftermath

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The final analysis on the aftermath of Hurricane Irma isn’t in yet. In fact, it won’t be in for a long time. Why? Hurricane Irma isn’t over yet. Rain is still falling in northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and….well…rain will  fall in other states due to a low pressure that was Irma where hurricane rains should  never fall. Sandy already grabbed the title of Superstorm and, indeed, it was, so what are we going to call Irma? Surely, it is deserving of a title of something other than “hurricane.” Maybe phenomenon? Natural disaster? I like “force majeure.” Translated “a superior force.” There has never been another hurricane like it in recorded history.

I’m not going to quote figures in this post. I will only say that millions of people had to be evacuated from their homes in Florida and some in other states. I don’t even want to guess at the dollars in property damage not only in South Florida but in northern Florida where such damage was unexpected. As far as the Keys are concerned, the situation there is almost more than I can bear to think about. Rescue and recovery are on their way to some of the Keys that are literally underwater and others with terrible damage. I fear hearing the death toll. I only hope more evacuated than we think. Property damage in the Keys? Unbelievable. I honestly believe we will never know the death toll from Hurricane Irma.

Photos of flooding from Hurricane Irma

Millions of people experienced high levels of stress and anxiety as we watched Irma plod across the Atlantic. We tried to secure belongings and figure out where to go and what to do on a level never seen before. The situation in Houston with Hurricane Harvey was bad enough. Hurricane Irma affected an entire state. More than one state. A natural disaster? Certainly. Some say a natural disaster on a level never before seen in the United States.

From my point of view, a week of my life is gone. Lost to Hurricane Irma, The Weather Channel, and every news channel I could find. I wrote very little, my primary occupation now. I seldom left the vicinity of a computer or television. Thank goodness for my good friends who kept me company and provided sympathy. I wouldn’t have survived the week without them. I have a personal stake in Florida, but my stake is more the people I’ve met in Florida than my own property. More the “old Florida” I’ve grown to know and love than any tourist trap or attraction. I grieved for Florida this past week and will for a long time to come as it will take a long time for Florida to rebuild and recover. I hope to be there, at least some, to help.

The frightening part, at least for me, is that hurricane season isn’t over yet. I have to believe that any other hurricane will be only a pale reminder of Irma. I shouldn’t say that. The oceans are warm, too warm. Monsters are growing in them.

 

#SoCS – 9/9/2017 – Motive

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What a bad time for me to write a stream of consciousness blog post! There is only one thing streaming through my consciousness and that is the situation in Florida and the Caribbean islands due to #HurricaneIrma. I suppose my motive for writing this post at all is a bit of catharsis. You see, the hurricane is about to come roaring up through the Florida peninsula, clinging to the Gulf Coast, and I own property on a barrier island off the Gulf Coast. Chances are, nothing will be left after being touched by a Category 5 hurricane.

My own property isn’t my only motive in writing this blog post. I also want to call attention to the 5.6 million people who have had to be evacuated out of Florida. That is a huge number of evacuees for me to wrap my mind around. There is going to be massive property damage in Florida and many of these people may not be able to go home for a while. Just like the people of the U.S. have helped the people of Houston after Hurricane Harvey, please help the displaced people of Florida who are victims of Hurricane Irma.

Now to continue to sit, wait, and watch the Weather Channel (and the weather online). It’s a bit like watching a train wreck and not being able to look away.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Approaching Florida

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Hurricane Irma is still a Category 5 hurricane at 2:00 a.m., Friday, September 8, with winds at 160 mph. The winds of this historic hurricane stayed at 185 mph for an astonishing 35 hours. Just because they have dropped to 160 does not mean that Hurricane Irma is not as strong as ever. It is still a strong Category 5 hurricane, showing no real signs of weakening. It is currently lashing the Turks and Caicos islands, moving toward the southeastern Bahamas. Puerto Rico did not sustain a direct hit, but it did sustain heavy damage. Irma is approaching South Florida and is expected to arrive there by Saturday evening, with tropical storm force winds possibly arriving earlier.

Since I blogged #HurricaneIrma last night, it has done massive damage to island nations. Hurricane warnings are up for portions of Florida, Cuba, Haiti, and all of the  Bahamas. By morning, hurricane warnings will likely be up for all or most of the state of Florida. Storm surge warnings are up for all of the Bahamas, South Florida, parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and parts of Cuba. Surge amounts vary from 3-5 feet to 15-20 feet, but it is an inexact science.

The projected track of Hurricane Irma has changed since I blogged last night. It is no longer expected to track up the east coast of Florida. Instead, most models put Irma tracking directly up the middle of the peninsula of Florida. Since Irma is such a large hurricane in geographic size, wider than the Florida peninsula, it will affect most of both coasts. Barrier islands off both coasts are under mandatory evacuation orders.

The impact of Hurricane Irma’s effect on the coasts depends on when it makes a northward turn. The closer it gets to the eastern coast of Florida before it makes its turn, the more it will also impact the Gulf coast. If it doesn’t turn until it gets closer to the middle of the state, then both coasts will be impacted. The northeastern side of the hurricane will be most severely impacted with the western side less so. However,  hurricane force winds extend in every direction 75 miles from the center of the hurricane.

Writer’s Note: Once again, I find myself speechless. There seems to be nothing at all to add except this. To anyone reading this still on a barrier island off the Florida coast, if you can still evacuate, please consider doing so. To everyone else in my adopted home for six months of the year, please stay safe.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Leeward Islands

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Hurricane Irma has set a record. It has had sustained winds of over 180 miles per hour for the longest period of time of any Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. It has left a horrible path of destruction in its wake through the Caribbean islands. As I write this blog post, it is passing north of Puerto Rico which seems to have escaped the worst of it with the eye off to the north.

The small island of Barbudo has been totally destroyed. From what we can determine, almost every house there has been either totally destroyed or very heavily damaged. The island has only around 1500 people. A cell tower reinforced by steel was snapped in half. The islands of St. Martin and St. Thomas have sustained heavy damage. St. Martin is said to be 95 percent destroyed by observers. Communication is down and full information is not available at the time of this post. The islands of Hispanola and Cuba are next on the agenda. Photos of Hurricane Irma damage

At this time, the path of Hurricane Irma has slightly changed. It is now projected by most forecasters to go up the Atlantic coast of Florida and hug the coast of the Carolinas. The cone of hurricane force and tropical storm force winds extend all the way west to Apalachicola, Florida on the panhandle. The storm is 350 miles wide in one direction and 500 miles wide in the other direction. A few forecasters still think it will veer off into the Gulf of Mexico and go north along the west coast of Florida.

At some point, most forecasters expect Irma to take the turn north. At the time of this post, they thought they were seeing some changes in the eye wall called an eye wall replacement cycle. They think it might be indicative of some weakening, but we will not know that until morning.

Writer’s Note: After viewing some photos of damage to the Caribbean islands, I am shaken. I can’t add personal thoughts to this post, but I encourage you to look at the photos especially if you are in the projected path of the storm. Please evacuate if you are.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – First Day

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The monster came from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The oceans were getting hotter. They were creating these monsters. As it traveled across the Atlantic, the monster gained strength. It was called #HurricaneIrma. Before it reached the Caribbean Sea, it was the strongest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic. If there had been a Category 6, it would have been that. But there wasn’t. Wind gusts over 200 miles per hour. Sustained winds at 185.

I couldn’t bear to look away from the weather maps. It was like watching a train wreck. Maybe like watching the end of a dream. That monster was on a path that seemed to collide with my magical island off the coast of Florida. Unless a miracle happened, it would definitely collide with the state of Florida. If it didn’t weaken, I couldn’t bear to think of what would happen to the big cities. To the people in the big cities. I hoped they all had left, but I knew they hadn’t.

Then, there was my island. This winter was to be the first winter I would spend on my island. I lived at sea level. Not a half mile from the coast. Wind and storm surge were the enemies of my home on the island. Could it survive this storm? Winds of 200 mph unless it slowed down? The answer was no. It could not. It was only a small place. Not that secure. Not that steady. Not hurricane-proof. But enough for me to spend the winter. I knew I would probably not have that chance.

I’d been going to the island for eight years. I’d made friends. People I care about. What about them and their homes? I couldn’t bear to think of it. Of them. As I watched the monster draw closer, it became about them. Some had lived on the island all of their lives. Others for many years. I was a newcomer. Some were going to ride it out on the island. Some were leaving. The thought of those staying on the island scared me to death.

It’s 4:30 a.m. I can’t sleep tonight. My island, my friends, my new home are all in danger. I may never get to spend a winter there. What will it be like after this storm? What will Florida be like?

Stay tuned. I’m blogging #HurricaneIrma.