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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)

Blow, Wind, Blow...

Wild wind whips the palm trees

May I say the wind tossed the palm tree fronds around vigorously today?  She chopped up the Back Bay waters, frothed the tides to and fro, and chopped the surf on the Gulf with gusto.  The wind held all the cards today.  She didn’t blow herself wildly into a hurricane (it isn’t even hurricane season!) but she did dance upon the land and waters here on Fort Myers Beach.

Wind and hurricanes have shaped the land in these islands and bays for centuries.  It’s a fact.  If one chooses to live down here in the warm sunny swamplands, one witnesses storms of great intensity.  These “blows” contain the capacity to destroy and create, to completely change the views and vistas. 

I learned today about Hurricane Donna, which tore through the island in October, 1960, creating havoc.  In 1944, a wild spiralling hurricane struck, covering the entire island in water and destroying many buildings.  Every year thereafter for almost a decade, a hurricane roared through, including the vicious storm of ’47 that also washed over the entire island.  (or so sayeth the Island Sand Paper.)

Hurricanes shape and re-shape the landscape endlessly

Hurricanes shape and re-shape the landscape endlessly

Before the 1960’s this end of Fort Myers Beach was mostly sand and dense mangrove with a few scattered cottages.  Early residents probably would stand with mouth agape at the scenery these days.  Can’t you just see an old-timer pointing up at a condominium saying,  “What’s that?  What’s a condo?” 

Old wooden piers once jutted out into the Gulf of Mexico, but there’s only scattered remains of the posts nowadays.  I believe the following photo shoot features a cormorant or anhinga.  If you have a magnifying glass you can discern.  The Anhinga’s beak is pointed for spearing fish and the Cormorant’s beak is hooked for grasping its prey.  (or so sayeth Florida’s Fabulous Waterbirds book.)

Waterbird sitting on post of once-massive Santini Pier

Waterbird sitting on post of once-massive Santini Pier

Hurricane Charley came a visitin’ a few years ago.  2004, to be exact.  This one struck with 150 mph winds and created big-time damage in south western Florida.  The south end of the island (where we’re staying) fortunately enjoyed low tide when the storm hit.  However, the north end of the island featured high tide, and the waters careened across the landscape.

When the tide began to recede, a manatee rested in the middle of the street.  My dad said the island had been evacuated, but three fellows who couldn’t or wouldn’t obey orders remained.  They put ropes around the manatee and pulled it a half block to the shore.  After awhile, the great storm-stunned creature swam back to the depths.

Hurray!

to water the manatee returned safely...

to water the manatee returned safely...

My dad offered another Hurricane Charley legend.  Here at the condo, as the storm waters were receding (or had receded, I’m not clear on this part) a woman stepped out of her car.  A long yellow water snake bit her calf as she disembarked and…I’m sorry to report this…she couldn’t shake it off.  To the hospital she went.  I am also not sure if she entered the hospital with snake attached, or if it let go before that moment.  It was not poisonous.

Egrets in the hurricane-created lagoons

Egrets in the hurricane-created lagoons

One of the hurricanes shaped the lagoons that harbor the Bird Sanctuary by which we hike most mornings.  I am almost…almost…wanting to whisper “thank you” to the wild winds that created that beautiful nature preserve.  However, we probably shouldn’t be praising hurricanes too loudly around here.  At least not until we get back to Michigan…

North Fort Myers Beach:  can you find a place to lie in the sun?

North Fort Myers Beach: can you find a place to lie in the sun?

Think of all the ways to have fun on vacation in southern Florida in March.  Here’s a handful to choose from:  para-sailing, boating, kayaking, sunning, jet skiing, walking, shopping, eating out, snorkeling, scuba diving, shelling…oh there’s probably a hundred more possibilities.

Look at all those folks sunning on North Fort Myers Beach!  I can’t quite imagine stepping over sunscreen-slathered sun and beach worshipers (“excuse me, excuse me”) looking for a place to lay the beach towels or perhaps prop the umbrella.  Way too many people for me! 

It is fun to eat lunch outside at Plaka’s Restaurant on Times Square, though.  Hundreds of people pass you by as you spear your Greek salad and sip a tall glass of ice tea.  A trio of Mexican or South American musicians serenade the passerbys.  On the weekends, street magicians mesmerize the crowds.  Once, while I was ordering a Blizzard in the nearby Dairy Queen, my husband lost $5 to a crafty magician.  But that’s his story to tell you.

Little girl driving a ...what would you call this thing?

Little girl driving a ...what would you call this thing?

The fellow driving that motorized vehicle (above) sweet-talked that pretty little girl into a ride.  The little girl sat with her mama and daddy and grandma and grandpa at the table next to ours.  Her eyes lit up like saucers when he placed her hands on the handlebars.  Although he wasn’t more than a step away, ready to grab her in two seconds flat.

Rainbow over the Back Bay last night, just before dinner at the Bayfront Bistro

Rainbow over the Back Bay last night, just before dinner at the Bayfront Bistro

I must say, eating out is one of my favorite vacation activities.  Last night we dined late (LATE, let me tell you, almost 8:30 p.m.!) with a passel of family members.  Mom, Dad, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, nephew’s friend.  What fun! 

Besides eating out, I am not a person for crowds or shopping.  I like to explore in nature, keeping an eye alert for a leaping dolphin or surfacing manatee.  You guys don’t know how diligently I am looking for them…just for you.  This morning, strolling along the boardwalk, I glimpsed a ten-inch circle of a manatee’s head rising above the water.  It was gone faster than you could breathe, “Manatee!”

Besides walking along the beach or Bird Sanctuary, I love to take off solo and explore the wild native underbrush.  I am fascinated with geckos or skinks, those fast little creatures darting to and fro.  The mangrove tree roots are incredible.  I have SO many pictures I could share.  Look at that camouflaged skink-fellow below. 

If you can find the skink...you win!

If you can find the skink...you win!

This evening Mom and Dad left for a party and I hiked out to the Gulf.  Instead of mingling with the beach-walkers, I veered inland back towards the lagoons and peered into nature’s nooks and crannies.  It’s Spring Equinox today, you know. (Which means it’s been three full months since starting this outdoor blog…one quarter of the year.)

Oh the interesting things one can discover in nature.  Look at these:

Mysterious prickly-pods hatching egg-like seeds

Mysterious prickly-pods hatching egg-like seeds

In honor of the Equinox I sat cross-legged for a long time hidden from the beach-walkers on a sandy circle.  Peeking through the vegetation one could see the Gulf waves rushing in to the shore, and receding out.  I thanked the Universe for this life, these gifts of nature, this earth.  And for you, dear reader, who mean so much to me.  The gift of your reading, your presence, brightens my days so much.  Thank you.  This is so much fun.

Snowy egret at the shore

Snowy egret at the shore

When you’re living in a cold northern climate, opening the door and walking outside involves effort.  One must find and pull on the snow pants, the socks, the boots, the coat, the hat, the gloves or mittens, the scarf and sometimes even the neck warmer.  Once outside the cold can pierce you to the core. 

While one can learn to even thrive in cold climates (and perhaps some people thrive naturally) in warm climates the distinction between indoors and outdoors lessens.

One opens the door and walks outside sometimes dozens of times each day when the temperature lingers between 70 and 85.  One can walk outside without shoes!  Sleeveless!  In shorts!  Shirtless!  (Well, some of us can do this publicly without social stigmas, usually the males among us.)

I find the ease between moving indoors and outdoors an incredible luxury.  Perhaps one wouldn’t need a commitment to spend time outdoors each day IF one lived here in southern Florida.  Yet, I know that’s not true either.  In summer, the heat scorches and burns and fries bare feet on pavement.  The heat wilts everyone and everything.  It would take a huge commitment to surrender outdoors to the heat every day.  Once again, it’s all relative.

Morning sparkles on the Back Bay

Morning sparkles on the Back Bay

My mom noticed the glints of sunlight shimmering across the water as we drank our morning coffee on the lanai.  The first rain in weeks had sprinkled the grasses and palm trees and asphalt after we awoke, but soon abated. She sent me scurrying for the camera, down the elevator and outside to capture the diamond-like sparkles.  Effortless.  No pulling on boots.  No bracing for the cold.  Skin met warm air…a certain sense of freedom pervades in this tropical world. 

We hiked out to the beach again, choosing to wear our Teva sandals and wade across the lagoons to the Gulf.  My mom and I admired the birds, especially that beautiful egret above.  Later, looking in the bird book, she said somewhat reverentially, “That was a snowy egret!”  We carefully turned the pages back and forth between egret and snowy egret.  The snowy egret is known for its “golden slippers”. Yes, a snowy egret, indeed.

Long expanse of beach

Long expanse of beach

We waded in the Gulf.  It felt like lukewarm soothing salty bathwater.  Small shells, abandoned by their underwater occupants, littered the sand beneath our feet.  We spoke of possibly shelling down on Lover’s Key sometime this week.

Shells underfoot

Shells underfoot

We sipped a drink at the Holiday Inn before walking home and eating shrimp pasta salad for lunch.  Afternoon:  swimming laps in the pool, cross-ways, head under the water.  Most of the ladies keep their hair dry and coiffed, not wanting to ruin hair-dos with chlorinated water. 

People smile and want to make conversation, but I feel strangely silent and quiet.  Not many thoughts gallop through my mind.  Hands cupping the water, pulling, stroking, feeling the bathwater temperature.  Feeling no separation between water and self, simply the sensations of dissolving boundaries, floating, almost disappearing.

I could get used to this.

By the pool

By the pool

Ibis in the Bird Sanctuary

Ibis in the Bird Sanctuary

First morning in Florida.  What to do?  Obviously, the first thing we always do.  Take a hike down through the Bird Sanctuary, out to the Gulf of Mexico along the white sands behind the Holiday Inn, then meander along the shore to the Outrigger.  At the Outrigger we linger beneath the thatch-covered tiki huts drinking orange juice or coffee (take your pick) while laughing with family members.  Ahhh…we’re in Paradise.

My dad always looks up at the jets flying into the Fort Myers Airport, sighs and informs us:  “Another bird coming in to Paradise.”

He rode his bike to the Outrigger and my brother walked along the sidewalk, but Mom and I took the “Kathy Walk” through the Bird Sanctuary.  They call it the “Kathy Walk” because my mom usually only walks it when I’m around. When other folks (like my sister-in-law) accompany her, it’s referred to in that infamous manner.

Oh how I love this walk!  Years ago a ferocious hurricane blew wildly through the south end of Fort Myers Beach, altering the previous landscape.  It left small lagoons between the condos and the beach.  Here great wild birds pause to peck underwater creatures, to float, to dive.  We’ve seen egrets, pelicans, ibis, oyster catchers, sandpipers, terns and even the elusive pink spoonbill.  How I wish a pink spoonbill will appear before the end of my vacation.  You would ooohhh and ahhhh to see this magnificent creature.

Instead you may view another pink creature playing along the shore.  She stared so fixedly at her pink pail and shovel, lost in imaginary worlds, that she barely even noticed our passing.

Digging by the shore

Digging by the shore

We watched flocks of seagulls spreading upward from the sand in white undulating waves of birds.  Another photo I would love to share with you, indeed!  We plowed through deeper sand walking from the shore back to the Outrigger.  It’s a good work-out.  Kind of like going to the gym.  While it’s a snap walking atop the harder crust of compressed sand, deep sand stretches endurance.  By the end of this week we’ll be fit and in shape.  (You believe that one?)

Tiki huts at the Outrigger bar

Tiki huts at the Outrigger bar

It’s a three mile walk from condo to the Outrigger and back again.  Today we didn’t return home until almost noon.  How much do you want to hear about our leisurely vacation?  I’m sorry some of you are envious… 😦   I wish you could all be here, too. 

Do you know there were actually people around the pool this afternoon complaining because the clouds obscured the sun and wind whipped the palm trees to and fro.  They actually uttered the words “cold front”.  Ridiculous!  These people don’t know what “cold” is.  It was 78 degrees.  I lay atop a beach towel by the pool and baked.  Not a boiling bake where sweat drips off your sunscreen lotion, but a luxurious slow bake that warms you down to the frozen innards.  I’m sure there’s still frozen innards, deep inside, after this long winter in Upper Michigan.  The whirlpool helped melt away any remaining frost.

Immature coconuts in those palm trees (I think that's what they are)

Immature coconuts in those palm trees (I think that's what they are)

One last photo for my husband.  Hi Barry!  I’m posting this just for you.  Just think, if you were down here you might be catching a little fellow like this for our grill.  It’s only about seven inches long though, and the fisherman threw it back in the Back Bay.   Ooops, sorry, didn’t mean to rub it in…

Baby red snapper (once again, I think that's what it is!)

Baby red snapper (once again, I think that's what it is!)

…was I dreaming?  Could it be true?  Had spring fever finally overcome rationality?  Could that be a palm tree growing next to Lake Superior?  Could it suddenly be 80 degrees?  What was happening?  Was I losing my mind??

Palm tree branches waving in the breeze

Palm tree branches waving in the breeze

 Enough joking!  Michigan’s Upper Peninsula couldn’t grow a palm tree if it tried.  And for 80 degree temperatures to hit our thermometers it would be mid-summer.

Instead, I have flown half way across the country to beautiful Fort Myers Beach, Florida, to visit with my mom and dad for the next eight days.

YES!!!

This involved getting up at 4:10 a.m., two airplanes, a bagel in the Detroit airport and a blessed bath of hot air when we finally walked outside at the Fort Myers airport about 2 p.m.   Double YES!!!  YES!!!

Gorgeous Florida yellow blossom

Gorgeous Florida yellow blossom

My camera searched for vibrant colors.  Rich green leaves.  Splashing yellow and red and blue flowers.  From white winter snow drifts to…exotic blossoms.  It feels like one has awakened into a dream of summer.  Summer isn’t a hope and a prayer after all.  It exists.  And I get to play in it for the next week!  (and that means you all can play alongside me…)

Shall I set the scene for you? The condo where they spend four to five months a year has seven floors.  It oversees a point of land overlooking the Back Bay, a brackish backwater filled with dolphins, manatee, pelicans and egrets.  The Gulf of Mexico can be glimpsed out their front door, about a half mile to the west.  We’ll walk there tomorrow morning, through the Bird Sanctuary, a walk infamously known as “Kathy’s Walk”, don’t ask me why.

My parents have been coming here about 17 years now; I’ve visited off and on during those years. Last year I came twice, once with husband and once with daughter.  This trip is solo, as everyone else has other commitments.

Hungry blue heron begging fishermen for fish snacks

Hungry blue heron begging fishermen for fish snacks

So, you want to know what my outdoor experience has been today?  You wouldn’t believe it!  Besides the fifteen minutes lusting after everything green and vibrant and multi-colored in the landscape and wildly snapping photos, I attended a St. Patrick’s Day party down by the pool.  I was introduced to a dozen people, every one named Bob and Bill, and enjoyed the most fantastic potluck. 

I could get used to this kind of outdoor adventure, let me tell you.

Condo St. Patrick's Day party

Condo St. Patrick's Day party

It’s now almost 8 p.m. and I’m almost ready for bed.  Here’s a theoretical question for you.  Should I go down for a soak in the whirlpool before bed?  Let the spa hot water jets melt away and dissolve all those memories of 13 below zero and six foot snow drifts?  Goodnight, dear reader…

Anyone care to join me...?

Anyone care to join me...?

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