Friday, February 29, 2008

Impressions of South Florida

Now that I am freezing my butt off (20 degrees outside) and unpacked, our trip to Florida seems like it was a lot longer ago than last week. In an attempt to share more of our vacation moments with you and warm myself up a bit, I will write more about our trip. My parents live on the Southern tip of Pine Island which is a barrier island near Fort Meyers on the Gulf side of the state. It is nestled in a bay between the mainland and the outer islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Their house is on a canal which allows you to get to open water in a few minutes. They have a swimming pool and the beach they go to is accessible by boat only on an undeveloped island which makes it very secluded. A lot of beautiful shells wash up there and my mom took Jove "shelling" for the first time. Pine Island and the bay around it have a lot of mangroves and shallow water which support a lot of wildlife; we saw dolphins, manatees, pelicans, osprey, cormorants, wading birds and a bald eagle. My dad has a boat and took Jove and Jupiter fishing and all of us for boat rides.

The island in between Pine Island and mainland Florida is Matlacha and it is inhabited by artists, galleries and restaurants. I took my mom out to lunch for her birthday and we did a little gallery hopping with Miranda. My mom is an artist and has been contacted by one of the galleries to put her work up. She also had her artwork on display at the Chamber of Commerce on Pine Island. Is is wonderful to see my mother have time to paint again now that she is retired.

The vibe of the whole area is laid back (kind of like the Florida Keys) and it seems like the perfect place for my mother to do her art and for my father to fish.

We also spent a few days visiting my husband's family on the other side of the state in Miami. His aunts, uncles and cousins staged a mini-reunion the day we arrived so that everyone could see all of us. Jove and Miranda had a blast being with all of their cousins. Jupiter's mom had flown down from New York and was thrilled to show off her grandchildren to the family. We stayed with Jupiter's Aunt Germania who is so sweet and always makes me feel so loved and welcomed in her home. I am lucky to be a part of Jupiter's family.

We went to the Everglades (near Homestead) and saw an incredible amount of gators and birds. There is a drought in South Florida and this is probably why so many animals were hanging out near the artificial canal near the trail. I used to take students to this spot every year when I taught in Miami and I never saw this many animals.

Jupiter and I went dancing, which we had not done in over a year and it was so much fun. We have vowed that we will go out here in New York more. We really needed more time in Miami to spend time with Jupiter's family and see more attractions. Maybe next time...

The best part of the trip was seeing everyone. My brother was also visiting for the last few days of our trip, which was an added bonus. We had sunny and warm weather the whole time and really enjoyed being on and near the water.

As we drove back and forth across the southern tip of state, surrounded by Sawgrass Marsh, Cypress Swamps and Hardwood Hammocks I couldn't help but feel in awe of the natural beauty of the area and how surreal it is that so many people live near such a wild place. I hope it survives and one day my kids can take their kids to see alligators and manatees in South Florida.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Back from Florida

We are all back home after having a lot of fun in sunny Florida and we are all pretty sick, except for Jove. We have some sort of flu that has us knocked out. I will write more later when we are well and all ten loads of laundry are done. Here are some photos of our time with my parents in Pine Island and Jupiter's family in Miami.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

off to Florida

Jove, Miranda and I are leaving rainy New York for South Florida tomorrow morning. We will be gone for about a week and a half and Jupiter is coming for his week off. I am really excited to swim and hang out at the beach. I will be in a computer-less house, So I will update the blog when I get back. Back to packing....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Time Capsule

A couple of weeks ago I was going through boxes of books that we had stored away in the basement to separate some to be donated and move the ones we will keep into the attic. I have always been pretty good about getting rid of things I don't need, like clothes, but I have always hung on to my books, carting them across the country as if they were photos or journals. In a way, they do bring back memories of the different phases of my life: Jim Morrison's Biography from my high school days, Che Guevara books from my revolutionary days, etc. But, I feel like I don't need them anymore and I am certainly not going to read them again; I have moved on and my memories sustain me.

During my book sorting, I found a book that I immediately knew I had never read and I wanted to read, now. The author, Rick Bass, was a guest professor at Beloit College my last semester there, the fall of 1994. I remember hearing him speak and being intrigued. He is a "nature writer" for lack of a better description and he is now a wilderness activist. My ex-boyfriend, who thought himself a writer, was obsessed with him and I remember thinking back then that I should read some of his work.
So, I read the book, finishing it this morning. I enjoyed it tremendously and I could relate to the author's struggle to find himself between the city world and the wilderness world. This is something I have actually been thinking about a lot lately as Jupiter and I try to figure out exactly where we should move to eventually. I feel drawn to having a forest around my house, but I am not completely ready to say goodbye to city life.
As I was reading the book, I found the old sales receipt from 1/31/1994. I bought it at Borders in Ann Arbor while I was staying with my folks before I left for Costa Rica a week later. It seems hard to imagine who I was then, 19 years old, before I could really speak Spanish, before I had lived in a poorer country, before I understood a culture other than my own. I guess I had good taste in books. It hardly seems surprising that I didn't read it then, a book about escaping to the Montana wilderness in wintertime as I was packing to live in tropical Central America.
But, right now, it is the perfect book. If I can't play in any actual snow I can at least read about someone else's snow love. The book ended, predictably, with the arrival of spring and it seems apropos since today it is 60 degrees outside and feels like Spring has sprung.
I think I may buy myself a book for another 14 years from now. What would I want to read when I am 47 years old? Yikes!! I'll probably need reading glasses by then.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Can you believe it?

Its snowing outside right now!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

What is a Groundhog to do

So yesterday was Groundhog's Day and it was sunny in the morning, so, as the story goes, we should have six more weeks of winter. But, here is the kicker, it feels like winter has already ended here. In fact, today it is sunny and 50 degrees outside. Jupiter and Jove went geocaching and I am tending to Miranda's recovery from a little respiratory illness last week.

It did not snow (a measurable amount: more than 1/100 of an inch) in New York City the entire month of January. Jove and I did snow dances, but they did not work. Jove has started telling everyone he sees, "It is winter right now, we just don't have any snow." And, I mean he tells everyone: the cashiers at the supermarket, the homeless man who sits outside our neighborhood library, his friends' mothers, etc. He is the beacon of seasonal discontent.

I read in the New York Times this morning that other cities nearby or near to my heart have had tons of snow so far: Detroit (26.5 inches) and Boston (30 inches). So I am thinking, why isn't it snowing in New York? I read on and the columnist states that "it has been cold enough and wet enough in New York, just not at the same time." This seems like a pretty lame explanation to me; I am left wondering if the columnist has no better scientific understanding or they think their readers couldn't understand a more complex explanation. I think planetary climate change is starting to change what seems normal and my kids memories of playing in the snow will be based on a occasional storm and not a season of the year when snow is on the ground.

I am not a huge fan of winter, in fact, it is my least favorite season. But I can tolerate gray skies, leafless trees and the cold in exchange for the wonder of snow and the appreciation of spring. Winter without snow seems intolerable.

I know winter is not quite over yet and I still have a sliver of hope that we will have at least one snowfall this year worthy of some outdoor romping around. Here are pictures from the last two years, in the top one, two feet of snow fell in twenty fours hours and in the bottom one it was the beginning of march when we finally got enough snow to make a snowman.