Tag Archives: Florida

The Differences

Dear Readers. I have ventured far from home and have neglected this space in favor of Florida. This holiday, I sunk into a deep relaxation unlike any I’ve known. I went home. The other home and, for the first time in a long time, settled in.

The holidays are always a bit emotional, especially for those of us who live far from those we love, but this year all of that was hidden under the extended time we had to be there. The weeks wrapped me in the contentment of an old quilt and was strong enough to give me time meditating on the differences.

Things are different down in America, down South, and in Florida. People talk differently, dress differently, spend their time differently. As far as I can tell, it’s these differences that make us like or not like something. ‘I’m glad to be here because here people do this or that thing. I like this or that thing better that that other thing from over there.’ Does that make ‘here’ better? More ‘my speed’? I was on this idea so much that I made a list.

Junebugs, pick up trucks, state roads, and styrofoam. Lizards, restaurant inside gas stations, spanish moss, trailers, sandy feet. Screen doors, coolers, creeks, cypress knees, and sensor lights. Saying ‘hi’ to everyone you pass. Waving with your first to fingers to people you pass while driving a car. Vegetables cooked in salt water. Drive through liquor stores. Parking lots. Sweet tea in a to-go cup. Wind chimes. Sand dunes. Woods with floors lined in pine straw.

Then I thought that is this very desire – the need to classify differences – that should be avoided. These things, the strange things, or, in my case, familiar things, are not all there is.  Can we not turn our sensitivities, our perceptions, to what we have in common instead? Would we even want to?

Today, back in Vancouver in the rain and the grey, I’ll make a little promise to look instead  for commonality. The noise of the water on the shore, flip flops, people who like boats. Sea gulls and sunburns to come. My list so far is short, but I’m working on it. Perhaps this will ease the sickness for the homes I have and, if I’m lucky, maybe those I’ll have in the future.

 

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First glimpses of winter

November’s end has brought a smack of winter weather and it’s that time of year when I usually mis-gauge the weather and leave the house dressed inappropriately. It’s raining. It’s really raining. It’s windy. It’s dry and cold, but the ground is wet. We’ll take the bus. The bike. There’s a cold front. The sun is out. How other people seem so comfortable these is beyond me even after living three winters here.

I get it right sometimes, but more often than not that’s because I’m carrying a pile of hats and mittens and extra socks and a different coat, which, if you’re doing much on-foot traveling, is a pain. It’s usually when I’m getting ready for a day like this when I miss the ‘Floridian lifestyle’ – not so much because of the cold, but because things are easier when the only pair of shoes you need are plastic flip flops and a hoodie is your go-to coat.

But to the diligent goes the reward I suppose, and the rewards of winter are already peaking out from behind grey clouds. I’ll be making some trips back upstairs to switch jackets for a while and I’ll probably step in at least one puddle in shoes that I forgot to waterproof spray, but at least I’ll be greeted with beautiful views.

Yesterday, we hung out at Acadia Beach for a while looking at winter’s visiting ducks and spotted some of the first snow on nearby mountains. The thin winter clouds are also here now and make for some really beautiful skyscapes.

A big white monster.

A big white monster on the Sunshine Coast.

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The view from a different kind of beach paradise.

And winter has a way of making us appreciate things familiar in a new way. Take the Bloedel Conservatory where we went for the first time in the dark the other day. You know, because it’s dark at 4:15 now. Good thing we have a secret tropical garden right here in town that happens to look like an alien ship in the right kind of fog.

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Bloedel looking almost alien in a winter sky.

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Impending Gloom

So, at the risk of sounding like one of those people who creates a problem and then complains about it, the time has arrived where things outside turn, as my favorite Irish buddy would say, ‘a bit grim’.

This will be, I think, our third winter here in Vancouver. I say ‘I think’ because it might actually be our fourth. At this point, Vancouver and I are in that steady phase of a relationship, not yet five years in but longer than two, where time has started to pass in unrecognizable ways. The kind where, when the time is actually counted up, you don’t feel like what’s happened in your life matches the resulting number. It feels a bit like when you are dating someone for longer than you normally do. On most days it’s nice – things have gotten comfortable, you know each other pretty well and can hang around happily without doing much. Then there’s the days when you see that lingering weird thing about the person that you don’t much like. Maybe they have an anger problem. Maybe they have smelly feet.

With me and Vancouver, it’s this:

Impending gloom.

Impending gloom.

Last week you were so nice with your warm sun and views of a mountain. Today you are grey. And I mean one-hundred percent grey. Grey skies, grey buildings, grey piles of soaked leaves all over the sidewalk. Grey.

Here’s the part where I’m complaining about something I caused myself. Who doesn’t understand that this is stuff of which the Pacific Southwest (or Northwest, depending on your perspective) is made? Who doubts the power of a literal rainforest to produce days and days and days of clouds and light rain? Who moves to British Columbia without a rain coat? That’s right, an idiot. From Florida.

This year, I’m determined not to fall victim to the gloomy bubble that is the sky above me and not to spend months complaining about it. How then will a sunbathing, flip-flop wearing, jean-shorts making girl like me combat impending gloom blues? Well, after some number of years, I can tell you it starts with a sunny breakfast.

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Thank goodness for my local grocery store owner who maintains a perpetual supply of grapefruits.

It also takes lots of candles, evenings with cool tunes on CITR or the turntable, puzzles, coffee at any hour, rain boots, fresh flowers, breaking up dark hours after diner with a walk up the street at Delany’s for hot chocolate, knitting, hockey, poutine, a sketchbook.

These will be the core strategies of my plan, but I’m open to additional research, suggestions, and, above all, not complaining. Happy grey days, Vancouver. Happy winter to us all.

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Dispatches from Kerrsidale

One of the biggest changes moving to Vancouver brought for us was life in an apartment. Each of us had previously in apartments, technically, but the buildings were more like town houses and the highest floor I ever occupied was the second one.

Our first place here was on the 19th floor and the entire place could probably have fit into the living room of the last Florida  house. The apartment we live in now is a bit bigger, but there’s still an elevator and it’s definitely cramped by my former understanding of living space.

That said, you probably don’t need all that stuff you have – small spaces force you to think about what’s important and I’ve grown to really enjoy the little place we now call home. For the next little while, I get to test that out cause we’re house sitting an actual house in Kerrisdale.

My immediate review of the neighborhood – no big park, no beach. The houses in Vancouver have all been built out almost to the property lines, so not much of a yard either. It is quiet and the houses are all really cute with features like rounded doors, angled porch stoops, and second floor bay windows. It’s also nice to not know exactly where the other person is because, unlike our apartment, there’s more than just one other place to be in a house. The other day it took us nearly a whole minute to find each other in here.

There’s also a hangout kitchen. For anyone like me who has been living in a galley-kitchen apartment lately, I’ll explain. A hangout kitchen more than just a kitchen big enough for people to be in at the same time someone is cooking. It’s a kitchen so inviting and spacious and functional that it is actually the best room in the house.

Other changes -the garbage has to get sorted, the windows have to be locked, and when you walk at night you can see into the separated homes of neighboring families.

We’re also closer to the south end of things now, so I’m hoping to do some exploration of this end of town. Southlands, Boundry Bay, Iona Island are all just a few minutes away now, so, while I will miss the beach, I’ll be happy to see what there is to see from this end. And, when we return to our little apartment, perhaps we can learn to squish back together into a small space again.

 

 

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Bowl of Sunshine

Here we sit at the height of summer.

Here we sit at the height of summer.

In the last few weeks, Okanagan Valley peaches have been making their way into grocery stores here in Vancouver and I couldn’t be happier or more impressed. When we lived in Tallahassee, we were never far from famous Georgia peaches. Spotting one of those makeshift farm stands under a tailgating-style tent on the side of some dusty road almost always warranted a stop for berries, watermelons, and peaches.

Up here, the peaches are adorned with ‘organic’ and ‘local’ stickers, which wouldn’t have seemed appropriate at all back home. They also lack the warmth of the ones you’d bite into under 90 degree blazing sunshine who’s orange color seemed to hold onto the sun itself. They did grow under a similar sun, though, and they are so incredibly delicious.

This morning’s bowl of peaches, just as sweet as you could imagine, brings me thoughts of those hot summers even under today’s cloudy skies. Thanks for that, peaches. And please do stay a while.

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An Inward Season

Yesterday it took a literally astronomical event to get me out of the house. The Perseid meteor shower to be exact. For anything less, I simply couldn’t be bothered. Sunshine, warm weather, Saturday on the beach? Keep it. I am tired. A quick trip to a dark place I managed, but when I looked up last night I was more impressed by the thin cloud spread over our skies than by the few streaks of color bright enough to cut through. Even August is taking a break of summer it seems. I think it’s time to acknowledge that I am too.

Is it a case of being spread too thin? Have I fallen into the terribly predictable and cheap habit of saying I don’t have time for the things I like? Am I simply too hot and too surrounded by excited, happy people running around getting tans and having loud get-togethers in public places? Or is it that this is the time of year I have decided to rest all my resentment of the seasons upon?

In the place where I’m from, the weather doesn’t change that much through the year. Neither does the length of the lighted day. Sure it’s colder in February than in June, but you can still swim in some Februarys. Here, the seasons are strong. They pull people’s personalities this way or that. Try and find a sad looking person on the streets out there and you’ll be looking until the rain boots get taken out of the closet in October. But theirs is not a marathoner’s strength. The seasons here are sprinters.

Summer, with its 4 am bird call alarms and sunsets that stretch into the double digits of evening’s clock, feels like it’s over before we had time to adjust. Already the paths outsides are littered with  little dried up carcasses leaves that were new only last month. June’s broods of baby animals have broken out and can be seen lumbering around alone in the dark. Each morning feels measurably darker. On a walk at night, you already feel the cold sensation on your arms that makes you reach for a trusty sweater. Late August already approaches.

In this seemingly inward-facing season, perhaps these are the clues I’ve been missing; these are the turns of each day that I have been ignoring. Are the changes slipping past me upsetting my biology? Should I be storing some kind of energy for what I should know is coming? Soup recipes? Warm blankets? Puzzles and other things to do in the dark at 4 pm?

As I write, I hear thunder in the clouds outside. We will have showers today for only the second time since the end of June. Water will start to sweep the dried up leaves down towards the culverts and crevices. Summer isn’t over yet, but I can count on the day when the rain will return and remain for weeks. The wind will pull the petals from the flowers and we will bring our umbrellas. I will not get to see the Perseid this year as we will swing away from this place in the universe before the sky here clears. What I am I to do then besides adapt, adapt, adapt? Today I have a hope that I can begin from this place of acknowledging my ignorance since, after all, it’s this place from which I am so often able to find direction. Even under a clouded sky.

 

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Picture Memory

At my grandfather’s house there are dusty cardboard boxes of photographs and trays full of haphazardly stacked slides. My mother keeps shelves of heavy albums with clear plastic covers in a cabinet in the room that used to be mine. I have SD cards full of digital backups wrapped in paper or in little plastic baggies scattered about my desk.

What do we have in common?

Those precious times when, while cleaning or reorganizing, we stumble across an image we’d entirely forgotten about.

photo

This morning I found this shot taken on Black Creek back home in Walton County at a spot where Turkey Vultures come to roost. The sunset was calling them back to skinny pine resting spots where they then squabbled over who would sit where for an hour or so into the darkness. The slow movement of black water mirrored their decent from sky soaring all of the hot afternoon.

The beauty of scavengers is sometimes hard to see. Those who feast on what’s left behind can leave the impression of desperation and depravity or remind us of images we’d just as soon turn away from. This particular evening, the happenstance of my being there when the group returned left me with none of those sad feelings. I’m happy to see this image again to be reminded of the peaceful smallness I did feel that night.

Later I learned that the similarity of vulture species found in the New World to those from the Old World is the result of what’s called convergent evolution. This means that these birds aren’t genetically linked to the older scavenger bird species that exist on other continents; they did not decent from birds that look like they would be their ancestors. The “daily life” similarities of the two groups (what they eat, how they look) arose entirely separately and, you might say, coincidentally. Speaking as a person transplanted, this offers the comfortable contemplation that certain things need doing (and certain animals will fill the holes) no matter our place in this world.

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