Al Fresco Freezing, FLA-Style

IMG_4771So any vacation’s a gamble, right? There’s the good and then there’s the bad. There’s the mini-bar stocked with every drink/snack you can think of but who can fork over 15 bucks for a fistful of almonds? Who can spend 20 bucks for a mouthwash-sized hit of bourbon? These days as the bellhop advised us, if you but touch, never mind take out, any of these treats, boom, you’re charged for it.

I however am always ready to take the bitter with the sweet. Also, my standards are pretty low. All I had hoped to do on this getaway weekend was bask like a salamander on a small sun-warmed patch of sand.

It didn’t happen that way though, of course it didn’t. When my mate and I arrived at this Florida’s Coast hotel it was downright NIPPY, with 30mph winds gusting to 50, such that when we went on that first afternoon to get some lunch at poolside eatery, two waiters dashed over and wrapped us in towels, heads and all. We looked like the poor souls in the lifeboats in Titanic. I thought David looked especially like this. “Jaaaack! Ja-a-a-a-ack!” I croaked at him in my best impersonation of Kate Winslet calling for her blue-eyed lad shortly before she has to watch him sink down and down into the icy North Sea.

Still, we were happy. From my point of view there could have been insects the size of butter plates bunny-hopping across the floor of our hotel room and I’d have stayed happy. We had fat terry cloth robes and fluffy white slippers and if we couldn’t quite SWIM, or even comfortably SIT in the poolside lounge chairs, we did have in our room both a Romeo-and-Juliet-style balcony as well as a big sliding door.

For intervals while we were down there, we got to visit some dear friends but we spent the rest of the time here in our pretty room, reading our books just inside that wide sliding door and every few minutes glancing up to take in the lapping wind-tossed beauty of that blue, blue Gulf of Mexico. Ah!


The Getaway

cold cold dudeYou know how it is when you try to cheat winter and grab a few days in warmer climes. You stay up late and get up early every day for weeks, to shoehorn in just a few days when your ears won’t feel like a couple of frozen shrimp pinned to the sides of your head.

That’s what I did, fretting ceaselessly over the question of how life would go on without me. ‘Who will do all the driving?’ I obsessed. ‘Who will collect our papers and our mail? Never mind that, who will make sure the moon comes up with me gone?’

David and I were to leave before dawn and a mere five hours before that, as Jimmy Kimmel Live rolled its final credits, I was still throwing things in a suitcase.  Then the big day arrived, and brought with it many vivid hours of the blur-and-turbulence that is winter air travel.

frozen plane

Then – finally  – we were in the Caribbean.


Waiting for the ferry to take us to our hotel across the bay, I watched a promotional video about the place. It was playing in an endless loop on an immense super-hi-def TV.

You know how it is: you can’t look away from these big TV’s, even if you want to.

Ten times I must have seen this video. First, it showed old footage from the 1950s, the people moving jerkily in that old home-movie way, waving sweetly and self-consciously at the camera.  (“Oh the past!” I always think, seeing such footage. “Are my parents there? Where are MY parents?”But then this nostalgia bath gave way to the wordless ‘story’ of a modern couple – two actors really – riding bicycles and smooching and getting up out of the hotel bed that floated not near but actually IN those blue ocean waters. (They can do anything with film editing these days.)

The fourth time it looped, I noted a chickenpox scar on the female actor’s face. The sixth, time I saw three small pimples on her neck. The tenth time, watching the actor boyfriend in his filmy harem-pants tumble from the bed and swim off like the Little Mermaid, I laughed out loud.

That next morning, I saw that I’d forgotten to pack my comb, my sunglasses and my hat, my frantic planning notwithstanding, and sure, you could buy all these things at the gift shop for a small fortune, but I thought ‘Eh’ and just bought the comb, deciding to squint for four days and let the sun have its way with my dye job. 

And that was the start of my letting go. By degrees I went from noticing everything in that sharp 21st century way to noticing very little, except the lapping of the waves.

The ocean was almost body temperature. Sitting at its edge, I watched pelicans swoop down to feed and suddenly I WAS a pelican. I watched a cloud billow across the sky and suddenly I WAS a cloud.  

I looked over at David sleeping in a lounge chair that stood perpendicular to my own chair, so that I looked upon him not from the side, as usual, but as if from above.

I saw his still-muscular arm thrown up over his face. I saw his hair, no longer black as in days of old, but as white now as a seagull’s wing.

And suddenly I too was in a video, along with every living thing on this island, all of us in our own home movie, captured for those few seconds, all moving and breathing and as delightedly alive as the folks in this old reel. 

Afternoon Delight

dragonflies matingI worked at my keyboard for three straight hours each day of this vacation,  but then I did nothing.

By nothing I mean I sat on the deck and read my book called Titan, the new biography of John D. Rockefeller with his long skinny face. (I’m just on page 21 of its 800 pages but it’s a start!)

I read this for an hour sitting up. Then I turned over onto on my stomach and read some more, now on the fully collapsed lawn chair with the book on the floorboards beneath me. 

Then I fell asleep for 90 minutes.

On waking, I made a tuna sandwich without the bread or mayo which is a little like eating salty sawdust but never mind.  

I also made a protein shake using as its base 8 ounces of strong coffee, a cup of ice cubes, a scoop of  chocolate flavored protein and two  and a packets of Truvia, the natural non-caloric non-sugar that would put a smile on the face of dead man.

THEN I went back out to my lawn chair on the deck and read  some more  on my Kindle this time, that old sob story of a novel The Prince of Tides by by Pat at Conroy, made into a movie starring Blythe Danner, Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand. I have read both this book before, which vacation is for. 🙂

It’s true that since last Sunday I have I logged in about 25 hours of work for the organization that lately claims all my heart and many of my waking hours, but really I mostly just walked a little and looked out at the water.

Around noon yesterday, a ruckus broke out on the deck next, like the sound of  a tiny helicopter crashing. I looked down and behold: it was two tiny helicopters crashing:  Two dragonflies, mating.

The sight of them brought to mind the e.e. cummings poem I so I loved in high school about what a fine thing it is  when two creatures mate on your premises. These dragonflies whirred and fluttered and remained locked together for four or five minutes before the male flew off, leaving the female still and dazed.

I have felt that way too this week: Still and dazed. It’s my one week off in the summer and I’m making the most of it. My man is outside for five of our 16 waking hours every day working,working, working on his ministry of weeding and when he comes inside in the world’s filthiest T-shirts and dirt in his teeth I can see he is one happy man. I’m happy too.  Once in a while I guess we all just need change of pace.

And here’s e.e. cummings from a different poem, speaking for me again:

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

sweatshirt, railing and wee  weeding man
a sweatshirt, a railing and a wee weeding man bending over his trash can. (I’ll take the 800 page book ;-))

Notes from the Vacation Front

Maybe IMG_1971it wouldn’t really BE a holiday weekend without a trip to the ER. Not one but two splinters worked their way into one little foot yesterday. They were from a dock that more or less lies in wait for people, its splinter-giving intent lurking darkly under all that summer sunshine, like a troll under a bridge.

We tried getting the thing out ourselves but it hurt the child too much so the long wait at the ER it was.

I didn’t get to go on this trip but I heard about it: the guy who dropped a very heavy weight on his foot. The one who came in because his eyes were bothering him. The third one who arrived
with such a bloody hand he was sure to need stitches.

Our little victim did not need stitches and that seems a miracle to me, since it turned out he didn’t have one splinter but two, one under the other, even deeper in the flesh. The ER doc had to dig a trench, use a retractor, the whole bit. Luckily though, his scalpel was sharp enough and the slice he made fine enough that the surgical site will knit up fine all on its own

The child just can’t swim for two days or get the foot wet at all which will be hard with all this water all around and the heat wave still churning away…Maybe I can get him to sing “Frère Jacques” for me again like he did that other time – until his baby sister staggered by and brought down the camera. Never a dull moment on vacation with the kiddies!

Life Is Life – Even on Vacation




Life is life, even on vacation.

Three of us got splinters from the deck here on Kiawah Island.

One of us refused to let anyone take it out and ran screaming from the room at the mere sight of  the super-pointy surgical another one of us carries. The child hid for hours.

One  submitted to the surgery which you see going forward on the left here.

And one of us hoped her splinter would just plain go away, along with her computer problems, or, she hoped, maybe she could just arrange to die before she had to have hers dug out.

Anyhow it was vacation still, so we admired the sights…

Like the Kiawah River here in the Low Country …

We also went for a boat ride, sometimes going really F-A-S-T!

During that voyage, the baby dropped my water bottle into the drink though the boat’s captain did circle around and retrieve it, so as to keep things nice for all the creatures living in it.


It was heaven.

It’s been heaven, though one of us got bitten by a crab.

Five of us went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant last night….

And four of us stayed home, three of us reading Curious Garage and the Hardy Boys and one dreaming her baby dreams.

I was the stay-at-home girl that time.

The tide got high.

The tide got low.

And finally finally finally I heeded all the advice I have had here,

counted what’s left of our money,

changed out of my bathing suit,

was gone for three-and-a-half hours on a pilgrimage to Charleston,

and came back at last from the closest Apple store,

with a sleek new MacBook Pro, which allows me to tell all this here. Yay!

Radio Silence

It’s our family vacation but there was a slight pause in the fun for me with this busted laptop.

I’m together with everyone for the week so my kids are around. When I came down from our bedroom in this rental house and said I had this weird message every time the laptop crashed, they asked what the message was.

“Well it seems to say, ‘That’s all she wrote Jim!’ and then everything goes away.”

“Mum! That’s not a message Microsoft would send you! You have a virus!”

Now when I personally have a virus I know it because I usually have a temperature.

Not so with my laptop. And a person born like me from the Eisenhower years can go on for a quite a long time without realizing that something is very much amiss.

People like me are old and when you are old you get used to certain facts: Things break, wear out, go rusty.

The shower faucet in our bathroom in this vacation-house went awry sometime yesterday morning and poured only super-scalding water, with the result that I had to go to the food store with salt and probably clam bodies still nesting in my hair.

My hair feels like straw and tastes like pretzels even now, with the thing still busted.

It makes me jealous of certain other members of my family on this vacation, with their bald or near-bald heads….

More soon I hope. Writing this much on my smartphone.

You Need It

What you need when you’re off on vacation is what you need when you come home – what you need every day of your life in fact: Good company and the chance to think your own thoughts. The people of course are very key (and the more innovative their exercise styles the better)

And so is the peace.