Camping Lesson

There are many lessons to be learned from camping if one chooses to pay attention.  Some are quite practical, such as having enough propane for the stove, closing windows if there is any possibility of rain, to bringing the right … Continue reading

Rainy Days

Sue’s thoughts:

Hmmmm …. What to do on a rainy day in a tiny trailer?

Well, first off a cup of coffee. Making coffee is bit more of a ritual in the Snoozy than at home so it is a pleasant way to greet the day. Then some quiet reading before Dennis gets up. I had originally meant to check my emails, but my phone was dead, I forgot to charge it, so no hotspot. Instead I had to resort to a hard copy book or my Kindle, which also meant I had to turn on a light. This morning I chose “The Voice of Knowledge” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Interesting reading and the rain lent itself to a contemplative mood.

After Dennis got up I had a second cup of coffee and some morning conversation. Dennis had charged his phone so he reported that the rain was supposed to last all day. After a light breakfast of yogurt Dennis went to the Ranger Station to surf the Internet and I took the quiet time for meditation and some more reading. Unfortunately, no yoga, there isn’t enough floor space in the Snoozy.

The rain was even more intense when Dennis returned so we shut up the trailer and went into St. Petersburg for lunch at the Museum of Fine Arts. We had a wonderful repeat lunch from our previous visit there and enjoyed looking out the large windows at the rain drenched harbor. After lunch it had stopped raining so we went in a few art galleries and then drove back to the campground.

Back at the trailer all was dry and well. The sun was struggling to stay out so we went for a long walk. There was some wind so we stayed on the nature trail and off the beach. The rain made the wooded area lush with dense beautiful ferns like a rain forest. It was quite spectacular. Conversation was good and the exercise was reinvigorating.

By now it was dark so we made a simple dinner and sat outside to eat. As Dennis was warming Naan on the grill a raccoon jumped on the table just several feet away, luckily no food was on the table yet. They are out of control here. Now we are inside for the evening with some reading and writing, and then off to bed.

Den’s thoughts:

When we were contemplating buying the trailer and camping pretty much all winter I often wondered what on earth we would do if it rained all day. Just sit in this tiny, clammy fiberglass box?

We’ve just finished the seventh month of camping and dealing with rain has not turned out to be the problem I anticipated.

Rain began late yesterday evening and continued through about 3:00 PM today. The sound of the rain as I’m laying in bed with the roof only a foot or so over my head is very soothing. I can hear every drop but am snug and dry.

Nothing like a dark rainy morning to trigger the mental snooze alarm, several times. I got up about 8:30 AM and it’s 9:00 by the time I’m dressed, bed’s made and coffee is ready. My first cup and usually Sue’s second one. Another cup of coffee, some “whadya wanna do today” conversation and another hour has somehow gone by. An easy breakfast of cereal, fruit and yoghurt doesn’t take much time and neither do the breakfast dishes.

At 10:30 I went to the park office to suck up some free wifi. The time really flies when I’m surfing the Internet especially when it’s raining and there’s not much else to do anyway. Today I spent an hour working on our travel plans for New Mexico in April and another hour researching solar panels for the trailer.

The park office has three rangers whose main job seems to be checking in new arrivals and answering questions. One of the young men reminded me of Andy on Parks and Recreation, mostly because of his voice and willingness to pontificate on almost any subject. Two of his more interesting riffs were on the general excellence of Mini-Cooper automobiles and why the government was ignoring the use of Thorium as a nuclear reactor fuel.

Anyway, around noon the weather service issued a tornado warning and soon worried campers started coming in asking about tornado shelters.

Camper: “Is this building the tornado shelter?”
Andy: “No”.
Camper: “Where should we go then?”
Andy: “Well the concrete block bathrooms are probably stronger than your tent or trailer so I’d go there”.
Camper: “Will there be a warning siren if a tornado is spotted?”
Andy: “No”.
Camper: “How will we know if we should take shelter in the bathroom?”
Andy: “The trees will really start blowing around”.

I did not make up one word of this dialogue, honest.

At 12:30 I drove back to our site, picked up Sue and we went into St. Petersburg for a nice lunch. When we were here last month we visited the Museum of Fine Arts and had enjoyed lunch in their entrance hall. The MFACafe is tucked into the corner of a very large indoor space and one wall is all glass with a lovely view of a park in the foreground and Tampa Bay in the background. It’s about the best you can do if you want to feel like you are outside but really don’t want to go out. We spent a couple of hours here and even let the waitress talk us into splitting a piece of blueberry cheesecake for desert.

By now the sky was lightening and the rain had nearly stopped so we put another dollar in the parking meter and walked along Beach Street browsing and stopping for another dessert of Chai (Sue) and gelato (me). By now the clouds were starting to let a little blue peek through so we went back to Fort Desoto about 4:00 PM.

A blustery wind blew away the clouds but made it too breezy to enjoy the beach so we walked from our campsite along the paved (i. e. dry) bike trail and happened upon a park bench nestled in a little grove of Palm trees offering almost complete shelter from the wind. We sat there chatting until it started to get dark.

With sunset the wind died so were able to have dinner outside on the picnic table again. The dishes were done by 9:00 PM, leaving an hour of reading and bedtime.

Rainy days really haven’t been a problem.

Heron Sightings

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The sun was shining brightly with a light breeze as we walked the beautiful, sparsely populated beach at Fort DeSoto County Park near St Petersburg, Florida.  Stopping just before the end of the island we watched dolphins swimming just offshore.  Rounding the point we came upon a couple of fishermen with the usual accompaniment of a heron and an egret waiting for a free handout or stolen morsel.  After snapping a picture (left) we continued on.  As we were walking I remembered the following poem I had written about a solitary heron that stayed aloof from human interaction.

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Check out here for more similar writings and art.

The Koreshan Unity

TortoiseCamping at Koreshan State Park was an interesting stay, quite different than I had expected. Not only is it a nice campground on the Estero River, with Gopher Tortoises, but it is an historic site as well. The Koreshan Unity was a communal society established in 1894. Like many other communal societies, the Koreshanity’s were in search of utopia and wanted to live apart from all that was evil or objectionable.

Dr. Cyrus Teed, who renamed himself Koresh (Hebrew for Cyrus meaning shepherd), first formed the Koreshanitys in Chicago. In 1869 he had an “illumination” in which a woman, Mother God, gave him the knowledge of how the earth was formed, the New Jerusalem he was to create, and how this utopian group should be organized. Seventeen years later the Koreshan Unity was formed.

The Koreshan Unity was founded on the idea of communal living and property; the goal was everyone working for the good of all. There were two levels of membership. In one level they could live outside the settlement and maintain their family units. Those who joined the Religious Order were celibate and these members lived in the Unity Settlement and worked toward the New Jerusalem. The majority of this group was women, and eight of them were the leaders of the community after Dr. Teed. They believed they were returning to Christianity the way it was “supposed” to be. There was equity of the sexes, women were ordained, and everyone had a job and place to live.

The settlers were faced with a hot, humid, bug infested wilderness when they moved to Florida, but they persevered and built a thriving settlement with beautiful exotic gardens and modern conveniences not found outside the settlement. They were one of the first major groups to use Edison’s new invention, electricity, to make everyday chores easier. They believed in classic education for all with vocational training, and provided the only cultural activities and education in the surrounding Fort Myers community. The settlement had their own machine shop, cement factory, bakery, and the only general store and post office in the community. At the height their membership was over 200 with separate groups in California and Chicago.

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Dr. Teed’s vision showed him that the earth was really the center of a closed universe with the sun, moon, stars, and planets inside a shell 100 miles thick that traveled around the earth. This was called the Hollow Earth theory.

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He had perfected a proof that he demonstrated around the country to explain his vision and to recruit new members. Dennis immediately determined that the proof doesn’t work!

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The Koreshanity’s believed in the resurrection of the body and so when Dr. Teed died December 22, 1908 the members left his body outside in a washtub sure he would rise on Christmas Day. The health department demanded they bury the body after a week with no discernable resurrection. He was buried on the tip of Estero Island, but shortly after his burial a hurricane washed the coffin out to sea and his body was never recovered. Hmmmm…..

After Teed’s death the settlement began to lose members. The land was deeded to Florida in 1961 to become a state park with the remaining four members to live there until their deaths. Hedwig Michel, the last surviving member died in 1981 and is the only member buried on the property.

Very fascinating historical sites to visit if any of you are ever in the area. Surprisingly interesting good ideas side by side with mistaken beliefs. How often do we find this to be true?

Adios Isla

20130216-073148.jpg We had four more days of enjoying the island and hanging out with George and Diane. From my vantage point back here in Chicago now our whole experience on Isla Mujeres seems like a really intense, really nice dream.

We were lucky enough to land in a place where every day was like the nicest day of the summer, good friends were around all the time but not too much, there were lots of interesting restaurants with good food and not too expensive, we were seldom out of sight of the ocean and often walking barefoot on the sand but never cold, didn’t have much to do but were never bored. Ahhh….

This picture says it all: A sunny afternoon at our favorite restaurant enjoying lunch outdoors with G&D, our bare feet in the sand and the ocean fifty feet away.

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An extra bonus for me was going to yoga twice with Sue and Diane. Sue has been doing yoga for some time but I had never seriously tried it. Diane said the instructor was great and the studio looked nice, a simple screened room up in the air under a thatched roof, so I thought, “Why not?” It was an eye (and mind) opening experience – something I definitely want to explore further – and an unexpected gift from Isla Mujeres.

Adiós hasta la próxima vez.

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Stand Up

20130114-180914.jpg Today Dennis and I went stand up paddle boarding by Nokomis Beach, what a fun experience!! Nicole with SUP Englewood was a big help. The day was perfect for it; sunny, 80 degrees, warm shallow calm water, and only a slight breeze. I had been watching people do it for a couple of years and talked about wanting to do it. Yet I almost found myself saying “no” I didn’t want to go.

In my mind I had started a litany of good reasons not to go. The first was the possibility of injury. Next, perhaps it was too hot and sunny in the middle of the day; earlier or later in the day would be better timing. Money is always a good excuse. Finally, I hadn’t slept well and my shoulder muscles were sore from canoeing yesterday.

Luckily I stopped myself from saying “no” and analyzed what was preventing me from embracing this opportunity. I realized it was the fear of taking a risk, specifically the risk of not being able to do it. If I had been unable to get up I would have been embarrassed, felt foolish, uncoordinated and old.

Instead I had a wonderful time and neither of us even fell off! It was so peaceful paddling down the river listening to an osprey call to it’s young with only the swish of my paddle disturbing the stillness. I can’t wait to go again!!

There’s something liberating about not pretending. Dare to embarrass yourself. Risk. -Drew Barrymore

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Florida Scrub Jay

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This evening listening to Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan, while making dinner on a one-burner gas plate, in a camping site far from home, I realized I was doing what I wanted to do forty years ago.  Life has a serendipitous way about it that we don’t always appreciate or recognize.

Yesterday Dennis and I hiked out to see an eagle nest with two fledglings in it.  A volunteer with the park service was there to supervise and had set up a telescope for viewing.  My immediate reaction was disappointment because the nest was so far away that even with a telescope the babies were only visible as a movement above the top of the nest.  The previous spring we had been at an eagle nesting site in Tennessee and were close enough to see one of the parents deliver a live fish to the fledglings and watch them kill and devour it.  While a bit gross it was fascinating.  Viewing these eagles in the nest was nothing compared to the previous year’s sighting.

As we stood there waiting our turn at the telescope a beautiful bluish bird appeared and began to interact with the crowd.  It was flying near everyone and even landed on one man’s back.  It turns out that this crowd pleaser was a Florida Scrub Jay.

They are endangered and there are only 22 nesting pairs on the west coast of Florida.  Their sociable nature has put them at risk as well as the loss of habitat.

The Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) is the only species of bird native to the state of Florida and one of only 15 species endemic to the United States.  scrub jay 2-1

We had come to see the eagles but had in fact found the much more rare and beautiful Florida Scrub Jay that delighted and amused us.  I spent the evening in a trailer far from home listening to Nashville Skyline.  Serendipity happens, just not always on our terms. 

Tea Leaf Sayings

hidden-1Today my tea leaves read:

Life is a chance

Love is infinity

Grace is reality.

What treasure lies in pondering these words? At our campsite in Cedar Key outside in the sun, surrounded by the scent of salt water and marsh, I can luxuriate and indulge myself doing just that.

I know I wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t believe that life is a chance. Proof of this is found from our fragile beginnings to where we find ourselves each day. Without taking a risk I would be still be in my home in Michigan and very cold!

At lunch I watched an osprey fly from it’s piling when disturbed by my husband walking down the nearby dock. It rose with power and grace, soaring high over the treetops to find a friendlier fishing spot. For me this was a moment of grace, for the osprey another lesson that life is a chance.

I will think more on Love is infinity after I get more tea.

Spike Nicer’s Hands

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Since we are spending the Christmas holidays camped in Ami and Josh’s back yard and Sue has been wanting our multi-talented son-in-law to contribute some of his metal artistry to the Snoozy she thought this would be a good time to put in a special request. We needed a towel rack next to the sink and Josh came up with this whimsical creation:

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When Josh was in Afghanistan he made soap (did I mention he was multi-talented?) with a fragrance the female soldiers would like and named it “Spike Nicer’s Hands”. Think about it.

Josh is also an accomplished singer and song writer. Spike Nicer is his stage name (did I mention…). If you have a few minutes, click here to hear a sample of his music.

He’s a pretty good Blackhawk pilot too.