Motherus Interruptus

It’s late August and two mothers are messing with my mind. Worse, they are thwarting my plan to blog some sort of “real time” adventure on sailing through the Gulf of Mexico in August of 2004.

The first mother was mine. She never let salt spill in her presence without throwing some over her shoulder. And we had to follow suit, or something terrible would happen. Superstitions were as powerful to her as the Catholic Church. Maybe more so.

Salt Shaker

Scoff if you will, but there is something close to magic in the ritual of superstition. At least there is for me. I no longer feel compelled to throw salt over my shoulder, but I understand the impulse. And I know – without knowing why – that something is out there …


Which brings me to the second mother:  Mother Nature, in the form of Tropical Depression Nine, recently known as Invest 99L, which spent a full  week in the Caribbean before finally ambling into the Gulf of Mexico and taking on enough of a disturbance to earn itself a number. Not yet a name. Or at least not as I type this.

This part of the Gulf – the Emerald Coast – hasn’t had a hurricane since June 10, 2015, when Dennis came ashore. Even if this weather system in the Gulf comes our way, it probably won’t be much more than rain and a few good thunderstorms. Maybe.

But just to be safe, I’ll hold off on the rest of the story for now. Because I detect a hint of salt in the air….



My Image of a Perfect Home

Day One of Developing Your Eye: I was going to go house hunting today. Not to buy, but to capture with my camera my idea of home. Which is, honestly, lacerated, and deserves a post of its own. But first, I wanted to stop by an estate sale. On my way there, I came across this splendid riot of a garden, next door to the estate sale. It was two lots wide and invisibly deep. The house itself must have been small, to judge from the neighborhood, mostly prewar (around here, that means 1940’s). This tiny little ceramic birdhouse is even smaller. Doubtful a single egg has been nested, nor one bird taken shelter here.  But stories are born in these places. If not the dwelling, then the shadows that surround it, the structure that supports it, and the very air of the place, dreaming on a summer afternoon…
The perfect house

Interlude on the Island with Ivan

Found some photos that a friend had taken during Hurricane Ivan, which came through this area, but not a direct hit. And also, I was on Okaloosa Island yesterday, briefly, so actually got out of the car, walked down to the water, stuck my toes in the Gulf, and took a few photos. Mostly of my dashboard, for some reason. (I have a new phone, still working out the kinks). But also the Gulf of Mexico.

But first… Ivan.

sound before
Boats anchored on Santa Rosa Sound prior to Ivan’s arrival
sound after
Same area after Ivan came through. Notice something missing?


back yard
Back yard. There’s a dock out there somewhere…
Concrete patio table
No picnic today …


And now… yesterday at the beach. Sunday afternoon. Crowd control seems to be working!

Sunday on the Gulf of Mexico

I Go Sailing (right out of my mind)

I was searching through some old files on my computer when I came across a journal that I kept during one of my crazier adventures: agreeing to fly from Boston down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to help take a used, 40-foot sailboat on a *shakedown cruise from the Bahia Mar Marina in Lauderdale to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. A journey of 700 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.  With my ex-fiance. During the height of the hurricane season.

What could possibly go wrong?

I should also probably point out that a) I’m not a sailor, and b) I’m not a very good swimmer. In fact, I’m scared of the water, to be honest.

So why, why, why? Three reasons: 1) I had just taken my post-merger severance package from Corporate America, so had some free time; 2) I was thinking about becoming a travel writer (What a great opportunity!);  and, 3) I was a big Travis McGee fan. He kept a houseboat at Bahia Mar. Yes, I know, he wasn’t real. But still….

Between the time that I ordered my tickets and caught my flight, Hurricanes Bonnie and Charley had come and gone. Fortunately, as I flew through the air heading south towards the great unknown, the Atlantic had calmed down.

25 - Bahia Mar Marina.jpg
Berthed at the Bahia Mar

At 11 pm that evening, as I lay sleeping in my gently rocking bunk at Bahia Mar, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued Advisory Number One for Tropical Depression Six, forming in the East Atlantic Ocean, west of the Lesser Antilles.

To Be Continued….

Sunset at Bahia Mar



* Nautical term for a shakedown cruise: A limited sea excursion for the purpose of testing all the working equipment of a ship before putting the vessel in service.


If you Squint you can see Catalina

What seemed like fun in the planning was a bit less so when the alarm went off at 1 in the morning. Plus it was cold: 34 degrees. And there was one more thought that came in the dark: what if someone shoots us? Not an uncommon thought, not any more. Even in our small town, it’s rare that a week goes by without a report of someone being shot or shot at.

Rolling over and going back to sleep seemed the best thing to do. Of course we shouldn’t go outside. But on the other hand ….

Catalina was waiting. Not the Catalina of my childhood, 26 miles off the coast of California, rising like a magical land when the breeze blew a certain way. This was Catalina, the comet, flying by on her way out of our sky.

It wasn’t exactly now or never – she’ll be visible, weather permitting, until January 17th – but with comets, if you mean to see them, you want clear skies. And no moon. The moon would rise at 2:30 in the morning, so we had a brief viewing window.

Thirty minutes later, we crept quietly into the cold dark night, carrying our cell phones and my husband’s 11 x 80 Celestron telescope.

There was more traffic on the road than I expected: three cars! What if they were headed for our designated viewing area? There were only two parking slots available. But when we came to our turn, they kept going, off to who knows where.

We parked and climbed out of the car and into a sharp wind that kicked a few white caps across the dark waters of  Choctawhatchee bay. But Arcturus, the Red Giant, the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, was easy to spot. Find Arcturus, and you have found – if you’re lucky – Catalina.

Like the island off the coast, Catalina the comet was difficult to see, even with the Celestron. But it was clearly her: a smudge, really, but a smudge with a bright green glow about her. We carried her glow all the way home.

The only shot was the one that my husband took with his camera.

Comet Catalina
View of the Comet Catalina on December 17, 2015, from the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Photographer Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

On Monday I discover a New Word

I was going to write something brilliant this morning to go with the bright new first Monday of the year.

Instead, I got distracted by my 1941 edition of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and to Assist in Literary Composition, by Peter Mark Roget.

Which is how I stumbled  – perhaps stumbled is too strong a word, but that’s what it felt like – upon the word: contango.

One glance and I was in love. How exotic! Surely a dance of some kind, but a specific dance in a spectacular place, perhaps the moonlit  dance floor of a small nightclub nestled beneath the hulking shadow of the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) mountains of Rio De Janeiro? Someone in the corner strumming the strings of a 12-string guitar, capturing perfectly the mood of the night …

But alas, according to Investopedia, the definition of contango is: A situation where the futures price of a commodity is above the expected future spot price.

Oh well. Still, I’m keeping an eye on contango. I suspect that it’s a word with a troubled past and a suspect future.