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Green grasses survive the winter; peeking up through snow

Green grasses survive the winter; peeking up through snow

OK, what shall we talk about today first?  Stalking the wild robin or Yooper Blog? Time to visit the coin jar, find a penny and toss it in the air.  How about:  Heads = robins,  Tails = Yooper Blog.  You’ll just have to wait for Spring Photos until later.

The penny says…one moment please for the toss…tails it is!  We shall discuss Yooper Blog.  Specifically, a blog called Yooper Steez, also referred to as The Ultimate Upper Peninsula Blog.  It’s part of a website promoting our beautiful northern peninsula of Michigan, and you might want to check it out.  The promoter of this website is Justin “Bugsy” Sailor and he’s actually the brother of one of our son’s friends from high school.  So we’ve watched this fellow grow up and it’s cool to see him promoting our wonderful Upper Peninsula.  (A Yooper is a resident of this fair peninsula, and Steez means “style with ease” according to Bugsy.)

And guess what?  Justin asked me to write a guest blog and send some photos.  For some reason, this wasn’t an easy assignment.  Do check out his blog.  (You don’t have to read what I wrote…you regular readers already know the scoop.)  Just scroll through his blog and, if you look through photos, you can witness people wearing Yooper Steez t-shirts from around the world.  Our son’s photo is actually in there…from his winter vacation in Zihuateneno, Mexico.  See if you can find him.  Any Yoopers among you might even want to buy a t-shirt.  I’m pondering it myself.

Look!  The leaf melted a perfect leaf-hole in the ice

Look! The leaf melted a perfect leaf-hole in the ice

As for stalking the wild robin, I am still shaking my head.  Last night Barry said, “Hey, have you seen any robins yet?” and I swear my heart stopped for a moment.  Because…unbelievably…I had forgotten about robins.  Forgot about them completely. 

Which is the oddest thing, considering that every year for the past thirty years we begin our robin-search in late March.  My good friend, Lyn, celebrates a birthday on March 27th and so often a robin appears to announce Spring.  The only excuse for forgetting robins is my vacation down in Florida last week.  But, still, that’s not much of an excuse.

The minute Barry mentioned our migrating state bird, my eye fixated on the lawn.  Again and again, searching for that harbinger of warm weather.  My husband thinks he spotted one while I was in Florida, but it wasn’t a definitive spotting.  We need a definitive spotting. 

On the way to town today, I surveyed every scrap of dry land.  No robin, no robin, no robin.  Then I started thinking about spring photos when…suddenly…a bird that looked suspiciously like a robin took flight over the car and landed on a telephone wire.  But you couldn’t really tell.  Was it or wasn’t it? 

Final decision:  not a definitive spotting.  I will let you know when we’ve stalked the wild robin and can definitively identify it.  A photo may or may not accompany the stalking.  Stay tuned.

Sideways view of bristly sharp grasses sticking through leaves

Sideways view of bristly sharp grasses sticking through leaves

Finally, Spring Photos.  There are thirteen interesting ones I’d love to post for you.  Unfortunately, there’s not enough space.  Alas.  I’m also not sure if those of you in more southern climes would “ooohhh” and “ahhhhh” over the ferns and wintergreens and other greenery that’s wintered under the snow.  But we Yoopers are enamoured by green at this time of year.  Any green.  Light green, dark green, vibrant green, green poking through snow or under ice.  (Were you amazed by the perfect leaf-hole in the ice?  I thought it was the most amazing sight.)

So here’s a final light-ish green photo in this spring series.  March is “going out like a lion” tonight with the wind howling wildly, so I wanted to get this published early, in case the power goes out.  Happy Spring to all!

Beautiful lichen...or is that moss?  Anyone know the difference?

Beautiful lichen...or is that moss? Anyone know the difference?

The mystery of an eggshell

The mystery of an eggshell

Yes, dear reader, it’s been 100 days now.  One hundred days of opening the door, walking outside.  Through blizzard, through frigid thirteen below zero days, through a tropical vacation down in southern Florida.  It’s been everything.  It’s been fun, it’s been not-so-fun, it’s been a learning experience, it’s been the best year of my life so far!!  (OK, I’ve said that before.  But this year is hands-down one of the best, so far.)

Should I list all 100 activities enjoyed outside?  A solstice party, walking on snow, sitting under a spruce tree, dogsled races, meditating outdoors, dozens and dozens of walks, winter camping, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, filling the wood room, winter festivals, roof shoveling (scary!),  outdoor art shows, after-dark explorations, reading outside at 10 degrees (brrr…),  learning how to photograph all sorts of wild creatures & natural phenomenon, boating….OK!  That’s enough. 

Mostly I’ve simply walked outside and listened to the stories that nature wants to share and then just…elaborated on them a tiny bit.   Way fun!  (Much more fun since the shivering during below zero days has abated.  We hope it’s abated for this year anyway.)

Looks like a field of acorns to rake up, doesn't it?

Looks like a field of spruce cones to rake up, doesn't it?

We shall add raking to the list, as of today.  I surveyed the extensive litter of spruce cones beneath the pine tree with a sigh.  You’d think one might feel more enthusiasm for a little spring spruce-up (no pun intended!) but the yard-cleaning-up energy seemed slow to start.  Instead I peered down at the oddest thing.  An egg shell!  Where had it come from?  I looked up and down and attempted to solve the mystery. 

Here are two probable answers:  1)  from a nest up high there in the spruce or 2) it’s a broken shell from our compost heap that somehow migrated beneath the spruce. 

Before beginning the raking, I meandered out to check the mail.  Guess what’s lying beneath a pine tree near the mailbox?  Another nearly identical egg shell!  If it wasn’t the 100th day of this blog, the title would be:  The Day of the Egg Shells.  Are they falling from the sky?

Time to rake.

Tinest perfect feather hidden among the spruce cones

Tiniest perfect feather hidden among the spruce cones

The first ten minutes of raking I was a bit unenthusiastic, but after discovering the above feather my spirits lifted.  I needed the wheelbarrow to load up the spruce cones, but it’s buried behind lawn tractor and snowmobile in the shed.  What to do?  I found two large white buckets and snow-scooped the cones into the buckets.  Carried them across the lawn and dumped them.  Maybe ten to twelve trips.  By then, I was enjoying the rhythm of outdoor spring cleaning.

Getting reaquainted with our rake

Getting reacquainted with our rake

No need to worry; I’m sure there will be plenty more outdoor chores this spring…

Concentric ice circles in a forest pond

Concentric ice circles in a forest pond

You know that scrunched-up exhausted shoulder-achy feeling you get when you’ve stared at the computer too long?  Especially when it’s work-related. Let’s say you’re figuring out numbers to put in an Excel spreadsheet and you’ve been staring fixedly at the application for an hour or two or three.  And your eyes suddenly feel blurry and your head aches and you suddenly feel like you can’t spend another minute working…

Everyone knows what to do, right?  GO OUTSIDE!  Don’t listen to your boss (unless, of course, going outside will get you fired.  Then you might want to reconsider.)  Don’t listen to your own Mind complaining “it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too windy, it’s too rainy, I don’t want to, there’s nothing to do…”  Don’t listen to weathermen or forecasts, husbands or partners, children or pets.  Just open the door and go outside.

This comes with a set of instructions.  Your instructions are thus:  you must allow your feet to lead you where THEY want to go.  Do not allow the Mind to set the perimeters.  The Mind will say something like “Go to Starbucks” or “Go get a pistachio ice cream cone”.   Ignore.  Instead, follow the feet. 

The feet led me to all sorts of interesting sights today.  (I kind of thought we’d be going across the road, but you never know for sure until you’re there.)  The first thing that took my breath away were the concentric circles in the ice.  How gorgeous.

Perfect circle of green moss barely dusted with snow

Perfect circle of green moss barely dusted with snow

Then followed the above photo of green moss.  I brushed away the excess snow, just lightly.  I swear fairies lingered nearby.  You could hear their wings.  Unless those were chickadees or red poles fluttering nearby.  But everyone knows the fairies use these moss-circles for their own mystical purposes.  I can’t presume what.

Yellowed oak leaves in a cluster

Yellowed oak leaves in a cluster

I swear you can’t walk a half dozen feet without finding something absolutely intriguing.  Of course, anything that’s beneath the melted snow is fascinating. You wonder how it survived the winter.  You wonder what you shall find in six steps. You know you will discover something…because the feet have wisdom that bypasses all our plans and ideas.

Walking north, and then east, and then meandering south (yes, falling in snow-covered frozen mini-ponds, at least three times.  But the water never crested the boot top, so it was OK.)  Suddenly, a six foot circle of matted deer fur appeared.  Hmmm….  I surveyed the area for bones.  For clues.  This looked like too much fur for a deer sleepover.  This looked like…winter-kill.

What, you may ask, is winter-kill?  It’s a sad fact that many of the animals don’t survive the long winters here.  They starve, they are hunted for prey, they die.  When the snow melts, their remains lie on the forest floor.

Deer hind feet

Deer hind feet

The carcass was still quite bloody and raw.  I am sparing you the photo.  (although I know just who among you readers would love to see the entire carcass.)  Other animals will probably nibble the bones for marrow during the next week or so.  Later on in April we might see a curvature of bone, matted hair and a couple hooves.  That’s all.

Would you like a final overview shot, a larger view of the landscape through which the feet hiked?  So you can fathom what the forest looks like this time of year.  Although all the sections of the forest are so different:  every section unique.

The woods

The woods

Well I hope your work-related breaks prove as interesting.  I’m back to crunching numbers now, but they’re almost done for tomorrow’s meeting.  Goodbye!

Keweenaw Bay ice begins to break up

Keweenaw Bay ice begins to break up

When was the last time you took part in  a Scavenger Hunt?  The last “real” Scavenger Hunt I participated in occurred about 7th grade.  Our science teacher brought a group of students to his home.  We all received a list of items to find and return.  The first team to make it back to the house with all the items won the hunt!  (By the way, the teacher’s last name was Hunt, hmm, odd coincidence…)

Here’s your list.

You must go out in nature and find the following items.  You can take a picture instead of bringing them to me.

1)  Pussy willows (C’mon…if I can find a pussy willow, you can, too!)

Item One...view Spring Pussywillows...Ode to Joy!

Item One...view Spring Pussy willows...Ode to Joy!

2) Sumac or Wintergreen. Your choice.  I have a photo of each.  If there’s ABSOLUTELY no sumac or wintergreen in your area, please substitute.  But don’t make it TOO easy.  Find something a little surprising.  Something enchanting.  Something that makes your heart pitter-pat at least a tiny bit.

The first time I could photograph sumac this year!  (drifts melted, you know...)

The first time I could photograph sumac this year! (drifts melted, you know...)

3) Birchbark.  On the tree or lying on the ground.  White or yellow.  But make it birchbark and think about all the lovely and practical items one can craft from birchbark.  Sing praises to the birch tree!  (Scavenger hunts are really about praising what one discovers….)

Pretty piece of birchbark, hmmm?  Just lying there in the snow.

Pretty piece of birchbark, hmmm? Just lying there in the snow.

4)  Animal scat.   Oh I’m sorry to add this to your list.  But we’re talking about a Scavenger Hunt out in nature, aren’t we?  So what’s abundant on the ground during the springtime after the snow melts?  You got it.  Scat.  Please do not pick up.  Photo only! 

Deer Scat

Deer Scat

5)  An animal.  (OK, it doesn’t need to be the same animal connected with your scat photo.)  It can be a bird.  A fish.  A mosquito.  Just capture a photo of it while giving thanks to the animal world.  Fortunately or unfortunately, in my Scavenger Hunt, the scat came from the animal posted below:

We see you peeking through those trees, Mr. Deer.

We see you peeking through those trees, Mr. Deer.

That’s it.  Five items.  Wasn’t too hard, was it?  Now send the photos to me in a green envelope (reminding of us spring) with your return envelope and I shall send you a small prize.  Because we’re all winners when we go scavenging in nature, aren’t we? Especially when we have curiosity, love and joy in our hearts!   🙂

Melt, River, Melt

Melt, River, Melt

This afternoon the phone rang.  It was my co-worker.  She wanted to meet me down by the Silver River to exchange the goods.  I slipped on boots and winter jacket, hats and gloves and drove to our meeting place.

We parked our vehicles as close together as possible, reaching out to slip the small silver package from hand to hand.  With a laugh and a wave and barely three sentences, we revved the motors and sped off.

Our exchange?  A computer zip drive.  USB Flash Drive.  Whatever you call those slender pin drives which contain valuable software.  We do these drive-bys a couple times each month to exchange our work-related material.

Today I decided to wander back by the river and view the melting.  How exciting to discover the river mostly free and flowing!  I locked the car (you never know who might want to steal the $20 in my purse) and wandered back through the brush and cedar swamp areas.

First discovery.  A dead raven.  I will not burden you with the entire obituary photo with bedraggled wet and wild feathers askew in all directions.  Instead, you may view its claw.  (The nitty-gritty nature enthusiasts among you may want to lean closer to examine it; the more squeamish reader may scroll rapidly on to other photos.) 

Raven's claw

Raven's claw

I walked on to the left, attempting to get as close to the river as possible, without falling in.  The snowy/icy terrain proved a bit slippery.  Surprisingly so, as we’d recently gained a half inch of light snow since morning.  Over there, hanging in a tree, a strange-looking piece of fur caught my eye.  What the heck…?  Any theories why this small piece of deerskin hangs by a wire in the middle of the woods?

Deer hide with fur hanging from tree (on small wire)

Deer hide with fur hanging from tree (on small wire)

This brought back memories of my attempt to brain-tan a deer hide back in the early 90’s.  I had just attended the Tom Brown Jr. Wilderness Survival School and learned the basics about tanning a deer hide by hand.  You utilize the brains rather than chemicals, although my memory is fuzzy about the process after all these years.  I do remember spending hours and hours and hours and hours attempting to scrape and soften that hide.

Oh my goodness!  I do believe we have an ancient photo of that very event.  (You will also be disappointed to know that I did not succeed in tanning the hide properly.  It never really softened into a supple piece of leather.  No.  Instead it turned into a hard four-foot potato chip.  I eventually painted designs upon it and gave it back to the Earth as a gift.)  You will also be interested to know that our basement did not smell like perfume for that week.  The children even mostly stayed in far corners of our small house, attempting to stay clear of the smell.

Deer hide meets Kathy

Deer hide meets Kathy

Back to today.  I shall leave you with a non-animal photo to appease anyone more interested in the mineral world.  How about some stones peeking through the snow?  Beach stones gathered last summer up in the Keweenaw, planted beneath flowers close to the house.  (We’re bound to have one blog devoted entirely to beach stones next summer.  Like shells, they’re tremendously appealing, aren’t they?)

Melting snow reveals beach stones in garden

Melting snow reveals beach stones in garden

Apparently this is "God's Country"

Apparently this is "God's Country"

Hey, I’m home!

Yesterday, on the airplane, a discussion ensued among the passengers about our Beloved Upper Peninsula.

One fellow started thus:  “The more you travel, the more you realize what an awful place we live in.  The rest of the country has spring, and look what we’re coming home to!” 

We all peered out the window (all of us with window seats, that is) and viewed the snow-covered ground.  Some of us nodded our heads in agreement.  Others of us remained silent, neutral or politely disagreeing. 

I sympathized with the complaining fellow.  I know how long our snow lasts.  How long winter lingers and lingers, sometimes like an unwelcome house guest.  Yet an “awful place we live in”?  Now, now!

View the sign which sits squarely at the bottom of our hill.  “Welcome to God’s Country!” it proclaims.  (In December, when our daughter was home, a small sign jutted beneath it saying, “House for Sale”.)  We laughed and laughed about that one.  To think of someone wanting to move away from “God’s Country”…

Apparently the house sold, and a newcomer lives in God’s Country (or this godforsaken land, depending on how one views it).  I must admit, once, a long long time ago, I viewed Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a godforsaken land. 

When I was about ten or eleven years old, our family traveled throughout these wooded landscapes.  We stayed in an A-frame cabin over in Mass City.  The mosquitoes, seemingly as big as small birds, bit us.  Ninety degree temperatures roasted us. We utilized an outhouse, as indoor plumbing did not exist at this camp.  My dad and brothers roamed the land with abandon, but Mom and I stayed enclosed in the camp and read our books.  I remember, distinctly, praying to God to get me out of this “godforsaken land”.

Honest. 

So guess how my prayers were answered?  Of course!  God laughed in glee and said, “Ah ha!  The perfect place for her to live.”

And so it was. 

And guess what?  It has slowly and surely changed from “godforsaken land” to…dare I say it?…one of the best places in the world to live and grow and enjoy and thrive.

Snow on the south side of the road

Snow on the south side of the road

The above photo and the below photo might not be the most artistic, but I would like to set the scene for you.  On one side of the road, snow remains.  Although so much has melted in the last eight or nine days. The drifts seem to have disappeared like magic.  There’s a thrill in the air!  Spring!  Hurray!

The north side of the road (upon which the south sun shines)

The north side of the road (upon which the south sun shines)

See the big ant hill?  Isn’t it a beauty?  Maybe later this spring or summer we’ll peer closely with the camera and get a fabulous shot of hundreds of ants scurrying to and fro.  Look at those dried leaves!  Aren’t they beautiful? (Because you can see them!)  Isn’t anything that appears when the snow melts intriguing? 

I expected to be blase and ho-hum after the vibrant colors and luscious beauty of southern Florida.  Unexpectedly, the opposite reaction occurred.  I snapped more pictures in a half hour today than two days ago at Fort Myers Beach.  The woods appeared more gorgeous in its muted spring peeking and poking through leaves and snow.

Here’s a theory:  a strange phenomenon occurs when we’re surrounded with colors and greenery.  We start to shut down.  We’re perhaps a big like drunken sailors, unable to take in the phenomenal boldness of the surroundings.

Around here, it’s a subtle beauty.  One learns to get really quiet…to slow down sight and sound and perception.  To look for shades, for gradations, for elusive lines and shadows.

Reflecting like a mirror

Reflecting like a mirror

So I’m glad to return to the blessed land that elicits such a reaction out of folks.  You love it, you hate it, but you learn to live here.  And if you surrender deep enough to it, the land shows you her secrets and gifts.

So glad to be home again!  Let’s see what Spring shall reveal…

Keep melting, please.

Keep melting, please.

Dawn along the boardwalk

Dawn along the boardwalk

When we were kids, my brothers and I used to play a game.  When we left home or my grandparent’s cottage up on Lake Huron, we began a litany of “goodbyes”.  Goodbye house.  Goodbye bikes.  Goodbye cottage.  Goodbye lake.  And we especially always said goodbye to a blue-painted barn about a mile north of our small town in the Thumb of Michigan.

This morning, as dawn stained the horizon lemon chiffon, I took a cup of coffee down to the boardwalk.  Today’s outdoor commitment had to happen early.  The car leaves for the airport in a couple hours and the plane wings northward to Detroit, and on to Marquette.  If all transpires smoothly, I should be home by 9:30 p.m. to view the melting snow and (of course) dear Barry.

So it’s time to say goodbye to southern Florida.  I’m ready to go home, even though it’s been a magnificent week.

Goodbye, Vibrant Colors.  (Please come visit us up north soon.)

Oh color!  What gifts you share with us...

Oh color! What gifts you share with us...

Goodbye, pool.  Goodbye, canals.  Goodbye low tides and high tides.  Goodbye rolling surf of the Gulf of Mexico.  Goodbye beautiful Back Bay.  Goodbye seaweed and beach grasses and creatures large and small.

Beach beauty

Beach beauty

Goodbye, Mom and Dad.  I love you guys so much.  You are the best parents in the Universe.  Thank you for sharing this beauty with all of your children.

OK, there’s probably six milion other things to which to bid farewell.  Enough of this!  It’s merely a prayer to fare-thee-well until we meet again, if the Universe so desires.

But shall we just offer one more goodbye to the mostly-invisible dolphins and manatee?  They’re camera-shy.  Or perhaps wanting to show themselves as an unexpected gift on another trip.  Blessings to you in the deep waters!  May you continue to inspire and heal our planet and consciousness.

BUT, never despair, dear readers!  I saw a leaping pair of dolphins last night down in Naples.  Are you ready for this amazing shot…?

How did these dolphins leap from the water into the streets of Naples?

How did these dolphins leap from the water into the streets of Naples?

See you in Snow Country tomorrow.  Can’t wait to say Hello snow, Hello spruce tree, Hello red berries growing in the woods.

Dad and Mom

Dad and Mom

Would you like to meet my mom and dad?  Readers, these are my beloved parents.  Mom and Dad, please meet my readers, many of whom are dear friends. 

My dad is the skipper of the above deck boat, which we were fortunately able to navigate out on the Back Bay late this morning.  The wind has been howling something fierce.  It’s prevented much boating this trip.  Usually we ride the boat down to Parrot Key or Matanzas for lunch.  Parrot Key has the best sweet potato fries. (We went there yesterday, by car rather than boat, and we nibbled some of Dad’s fries, as Mom and I ordered delicious salads instead.)

Off we went today out on the bay today!  I must sadly report, once again, that no dolphins leaped out of the water in perfect curvature for a photo.  One dolphin’s fin did surface, and it may have even leaped, but it quickly and stubbornly slid back into the waters to fish for lunch.  I pleaded, I begged, I appealed to its loving and compassionate nature…but it did not comply.  Some boat trips we’ve been surrounded by the silvery leaping creatures.  Apparently, they’re playing shy this week, at least to us.

Captain Dale (with our condo directly behind the boat)

Captain Dale (with our condo directly behind the boat)

Dad navigated us over to New Pass and Dog Beach.  At first the wind whipped up the waves and rocked the deck boat a little vigorously.  My mom held on to her golf hat, fearing it would fly in the bay.  It began to feel a tiny wee bit chilly.  But as we slowed down to motor under the bridge, the wind abated and felt comfortable again.

Dog Beach.  Anyone with dogs loves this popular destination.  Can you imagine a beach where dogs run free, barking and scurrying and socializing with other dog-folk?  We wanted to get a clear close-up photo for you, but the boat’s depth-finder read “eight feet” and Dad decided to turn back toward deeper waters.  Can you see the dogs frolicking?

Dog Beach (take out your magnifying glasses & view the dogs)

Dog Beach (take out your magnifying glasses & view the dogs)

It proved a little interesting maneuvering the boat back into its slip.  The wind prevented a faultless docking.  But Dad did it!  Mom helped with a long stick-like plastic pole which assisted in guiding and pulling the boat back onto the lift.  I stood around rather helplessly, not much help to these seasoned boaters.  Instead, I took pictures of pretty leaves floating near the dock.

Leaves floating in water near boat

Leaves floating in water near boat

Finally, a promised photo for my daughter.  She begged for a picture of the lanai in the condo.  How many mornings have we sat out on the chairs sipping coffee and eating my mom’s prized “Fruit Bowl” filled with papaya, mango, grapefruit, oranges, pineapple, grapes and kiwi? Oh joy!!  We didn’t eat the standard Fruit Bowl this trip, a fact my daughter is lamenting even though she’s up in New York City (because she loves it so much).  Instead we enjoyed honeydew, strawberries, grapes and kiwi.  Delicious!

(I am not 100% sure if the lanai should be included in an outdoor blog.  Are decks and lanais “outdoors”?  Yes, there’s a door you close between the condo and the lanai.  But there are also windows with screens which can be closed, to keep out the wind, sun and temperature.  Anyone have an opinion?)

Lanai in condo looking out over Back Bay where we boated

Lanai in condo looking out over Back Bay where we boated

Shells in bright green seaweed

Shells in bright green seaweed

Today I walked along the beach, alone.  Thinking about beauty and…well…things we determine are not quite so beautiful.  How every place and every person contains parts which don’t photograph as well. 

Sometimes, when we first visit a place, we fall in love with all the beauty.  Our eye follows loveliness; we admire this and that.  We view the palm trees and sigh at the way they sway in the wind.  Our heart thrills to the surf, to the low and high tides and white beaches and arching dolphins.  Beauty surrounds us.  It’s where our eyes so often follow, the thrill of the gorgeous.

Today the shores of Fort Myers Beach lie strewn with seaweed.  Brownish-greenish seaweed everywhere.  It’s not…how should I say this?…pretty.  My mom and I have a theory (only a theory, mind you) that a rougher sea might blow the seaweed out into the depths.  In the meantime, it lies thick, like an eyesore, blemishing the white shore.

Thick layers of seaweed wash in against the shore

Thick layers of seaweed wash in against the shore

I have another theory that beauty exists in most everything, although sometimes it’s hidden.  You have to search deeper to see the patterns and glow and light which becomes obscured.  A feather resting in the midst of brown mud-like seaweed perhaps reminds us of that possibility.  To look a little more intently for the hidden patterns of beauty, rather than immediately dismiss our minds labeling things as “ugly”.

Feather in seaweed

Feather in seaweed

Several years ago my mom introduced me to a friend here in the condo.  Her name was Kay Fisher Lewicky.  She was in her 80’s then.  She grew up in Austria before World War II, marrying a half-Jewish fellow.  Her family worried for their safety and urged them to move to Paris.  Still, they were sent to the camps.

She said the prostitutes imprisoned in the camp saved her.  She was young then, and the “ladies of the night” convinced the guards not to take her away, and harbored her among them.  Both she and her husband escaped (don’t ask me how) and moved to New York City.  She later became the personal massage therapist for Neil Sedaka and in later years, when he came to this area to sing, a limousine brought her to his shows.

She created and painted shells from the beach, making art and beauty from the leftover chips of shells.  From the “ugly” cracked pieces, she saw beauty and made little creatures which sometimes won awards in local craft shows.

Kay's shell creations

Kay's shell creations

Some folks might deem the following creature “less than beautiful” but look at that symmetry of legs and shell and strong pincers on that crab!  A mother and her son, wading out a bit further than the seaweed, showed me the dead crab in their pink bucket.  “The seaweed killed it,” the eight-year old boy told me solemnly.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I asked him if we might photograph the crab.  He agreed, and we crouched on the sand for the dead crab’s obituary photo. 

Ode to the crab which died recently

Ode to the crab which died recently

Finally, there’s certain shells prized around here for their round shape and five petal-like pores.  Most folks consider them beautiful.  I looked for one this week along the beach, but only broken chips remained.  Once, several years back, hundreds of live ones blew in along the Gulf.  The live ones aren’t so beautiful, or so people will say.  They’re gray and covered with a velvety skin of movable spines.  After they die, the shell remains and bleaches white.  Beachcombers collect them, prize them, carefully protect them against breaking.  Here’s one my folks have here in the condo:

Lucky beautiful sand dollar...yes?

Lucky beautiful sand dollar...yes?

I think an admirable goal is to allow our gaze to expand until we can view beauty in mud, in thickets, in broken shells, in brown seaweed, in broken lives.  Let’s keep trying, shall we?

Hidden beauty behind the condo

Hidden beauty behind the condo

Good evening.  I’m tempted to start counting days that remain here in southern Florida before the big silver & red plane rises through the clouds and soars toward the Midwest.  Tomorrow, Tuesday and then…heading back to snow country on Wednesday. 

But we won’t dwell in the future for more than a second.  Let’s stay here in the present.  I’ll show you some more random photos tonight, probably not embedded in any coherent tale.  The above photo shows the view you’ll see peeking through a curtain of leaves overlooking a backwater channel.  I love tiptoeing back there and peering in the underbrush. 

A wise person looks around for alligators and snakes.  Mom says there’s a small alligator sunning away over on the golf course, about a mile away.  Otherwise, you never see any of the scaly exotic beasts.  If I see one, I want an escape route, especially if it starts slinking this-away.

Close up leaf veins

Close up leaf veins

So, what was today’s outdoor adventure?  Let’s pick two.  The first really fun time happened this morning around the pool.  After looking for a manatee or dolphin for you for ten minutes (sigh…) I gathered a notebook and began writing down by the pool.  Oh can you imagine the joy to write outside?  No freezing fingers!  Oh luxury! 

I probably shouldn’t tell you about what I wrote.  You will scurry away from this blog and never return, convinced you’re dealing with a mentally-suspect person.  But it was such fun!  Since it was Sunday, I was praising life, the Universe, God and the swimming pool with gusto in the white notebook pages.  Trying to put it all on paper, you know. 

But then I got a little carried away and started imagining if inanimate objects could talk…what they might say.  When I started writing about the beach towel on the nearby reclining beach chair, and what it might say…it was probably time to close the notebook and take a hike.   We creative folks tend to get carried away sometimes. (This is an exercise in the book “The Artist’s Way” called “Morning Pages” where you write whatever stray thoughts wander through your mind…a fascinating and fun process.)

Tropical blossom

Tropical blossom

Later in the evening my mom, dad and I took cold drinks out to the boat, along with our books and magazines, and read.  The folks own a deck boat, which resembles a pontoon.  We’re hoping to go out on it tomorrow or Tuesday. It’s been so windy we’ve not ventured out on the Back Bay yet. 

As we were reading, a few boats motored by in the channel.  My mom uttered, “I wonder if there would be an interesting picture…” and just as she spoke a manatee surfaced!  I grabbed the camera, turned it on and focused.  The manatee disappeared.  Never to re-appear.  It’s going to be a gift of the Universe if we photograph one of these elusive fellows in the next few days. 

I bought three books today at Borders, using a Christmas gift card.  No lack of reading material now! 

Finally, one of the best parts of being in Florida:  enjoying the tropical fruit.  Oh look at this papaya cut open!  Are your taste buds salivating?  Leaving you all now and heading to the frig for a juicy morsel…

Yummy papaya (before seeds scooped out)

Yummy papaya (before seeds scooped out)

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