Witless at the Sight of the Sky

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6 /20/17 Photo credit Wayne Smith, Jr.

On the morning of June 20th, 2017, Wayne Smith, Junior was on his way to work. He was stopped at the traffic light. Or maybe he pulled over to take this photo.

I had been asleep for about 45 minutes when he took that picture. The first tornado warning came through around around two, maybe three am. I put down some blankets in the tub of the hallway bathroom, our go to shelter during hurricane season.

The rain so heavy on the metal roof that it sounded like a drum circle at the end of the world. A hundred tiny freight trains racing across the sky.

And then it was quiet, and eventually, I fell back to sleep. To be wakened by another warning, this time an Amber alert, hundreds of miles away. When I checked my phone, I saw that we had had another tornado warning, but somehow I slept through that one.

I wish now that I hadn’t fallen back to sleep. That I had gone down the hallway, passing by the blanket-padded bathtub, continuing on to the kitchen, where I would have made that pot of coffee that I wanted, given in to the energy of the wild dark night, stepped outside with my coffee, sat on the front porch and been fully alive to greet the dawn.

Had I done so, in that early light, I would have seen it coming.

At the moment when that photograph was taken, the tornado was approaching Ferry Park. Twisting its way through the trees, breaking everything in its path, including destroying a concrete dugout at the baseball field.

I couldn’t have missed seeing it. Only one street – Hughes –  stood between us.

One street, the elementary school, and the neighbors across the street.  All of us in the path of this thing bearing down on us, roaring and spinning and impossible to escape.

But then it stopped, suddenly, rose and leaped into the sky.  That’s the part I really wish I had seen. Stepped out, looked up, fallen back in shock and awe, and then seen the miracle with my own eyes.

Instead, I slept through it.

It would have been a rush, though.

After the rain stopped, I drove around and took some photos. Fortunately, no one was injured. The park was closed for a few days.

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Ferry Park Closed sign at Hughes Street

The blue building in the next photo is what’s left of the concrete dugout. Would have been a bad place to seek shelter from the tornado, but there is a second dugout nearby that wasn’t touched.


Half a blue dugout
Damaged dugout

I don’t know what to make of any of this. Sometimes I feel as if I was supposed to have been raised by wolves but ended up as a puppy in a traveling van.

My husband – the astrologer – says that Uranus is messing with all of us.

This was, by the way, supposed to be a post about our upcoming Solar Eclipse Road Trip.

Got distracted by the cup of coffee that never was.

The Moon of Planet Earth

My last post, back in November of 20 one six, was a beach scene, photographed late in the afternoon and manipulated via Photoshop to a strangely lit landscape, as if time had quit but light still worked.

That light thing is marvelous, by the way. The way it sets out, collecting moments (probably in waves, but I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know. But I like to think that it involves waves), everything in its path, this universal snapshot that will flicker a billion years from now, and I will still be me, and you will still be you: strange brethren, lit from within, as if we had a living pulse, even in space dark, shining.

Nanowrimo Light: Day 1

I didn’t sign up for Nanowrimo this year, but decided to challenge myself to put up a post every day this month. This will be a short one. A salvo of sorts. Over my own bow.

Here’s one of my weapons… RESEARCH!!!!

Found an old phone book at a local estate sale. May 1956. Apparently, I’ll buy anything.

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Local Yellow Pages May 1956

Actually, not true. This is exactly the sort of thing that gets my heart beating faster:  time capsules with nouns! People and places. Where they lived and shopped. Where they ate and drank. Their banks, barber shops, beauty parlors. Tailors, typewriter repair shops. Flower shops and funeral homes. Every page has a story to tell.

For instance: Tourist Courts!

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Tourist Courts were popular all around the Florida coast back in the 1950s. Most of them are gone now, but I found one …

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Pelican Court Cottages 1956

Pelican Court Cottages, located in the small town of Cinco Bayou, which is surrounded by a large body of water called … Cinco Bayou.

And here it is, sixty years later. Just up the road and cute as a button.

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Has a lovely courtyard. If you look closely at the following image, you can see a deep shade of blue straight back. That’s the bayou.


Since I didn’t want to trespass, I drove around the corner and took a photo of the bayou from the Cinco Bayou City Hall.

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The view from City Hall: Cinco Bayou, November 2016

There you have it. Adventures with time on the beautiful Emerald Coast.

The Lady Flirts

Hermine is now a hurricane, the first to make a Florida landfall in years. She took a little jog to the west yesterday, which put us in her sights, but she turned away again, just a flutter of wind and a few scuttling clouds.

For the past hour, we’ve had buckets of rain, mostly teasers; the first rain lasted maybe 30 seconds. The next, maybe five minutes. The next one, ten. She is playing with us, this one.


Here Comes Hermine …

Okay, it’s official. Just a tropical storm at this point, hence the open center versus Gaston out in the center of the Atlantic Ocean.


I headed out to pick up groceries at the local Publix. By the time I fueled up the car, could feel the gusts ahead of the storm. Going to be an interesting Labor Day Weekend!

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Fast moving clouds over Cinco Bayou, August 31, 2016.

The Nameless Ones

It’s Wednesday and two nameless storms are churning off the coast. Have been, for days.

If you want to be technical about it, these systems have identities: Tropical Depression 8 and Tropical Depression 9.

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I cannot recall the last time that two storms have battled for so long to be named.

The first one to reach sustained winds of 34 knots (39 miles per hour) will be named Hermine.

The one I’m keeping an eye on is Tropical Depression 9, gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico, parked south of my keyboard. Whether she becomes Hermine or he becomes Ian, time (and speed) will tell.


From Layover to Lotus: A Journey


The Layover getting ready to be surveyed

The name on the stern was was Layover. But to Robert, she was always the Lotus.

His path out of the muck and the mire.

She was a 40-foot cutter-rig with a center cockpit, built in 1981 by Endeavour Yachts. And she was a mess. Neglected. Dirty.

The bimini (the canvas cover over the cockpit) hung in rags.The hatches leaked, the heads didn’t flush. The only thing that worked in the galley was the overhead light. There was a leak in the fuel line. And the engine needed work.

But the seller was motivated and the price was right. The boat was inspected in July. On August 2, 2004, Robert took possession of the boat and had her moved to another location where she would undergo extensive repairs.

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Undergoing repairs. Are the neighbors jealous? Probably not.


Over the next several weeks, the Lotus had her engine overhauled, her hatches and heads replaced, and a new stove installed. And new canvas all around: new sheets, main sail, and cover for the cockpit. Robert had stainless-steel davits built over the stern to hold the new dinghy.

And then she is moved to Bahia Mar, to prepare for the journey home.



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