Home Is Where The Thoughts Stay

What I see this morning as I write this.

What I see this morning as I write this.

I love meeting new places, and so I am excited to be heading out for a week of work-related travel; however, there’s a part of me that never wants to leave home, and thus I must always shove myself out the door.

There is nothing special about my house. It’s a tiny, nondescript box. I’m always behind with my housework and yard work and I no longer pretend that I intend to catch up. It would be charitable to call the furniture antiques. At one time I had lots of Nice Stuff but multiple moves, kids, pets, and my waning interest in Stuff have all taken a toll.

But of course, that’s not what matters.

Home is where my kids grew up (when we stopped moving around), and where they stay when they need a place to. Home is where we marked their growth spurts on the wall, and now have a funny paint job as we paint around but never over those growth marks.

Home is where the cats and the dog reside, usually doing something goofy. This morning, two of the cats did some play-fighting in the backyard, on opposite sides of a tree trunk. They rose up like bears and batted at each other left right left right but mostly hit the tree trunk.

Home is where I sit on a patio and write novels, and blog posts, while listening to the morning birds or the evening freeway traffic, which really can sound like the ocean.

Home is where I get to choose my changes, or have that illusion. Home is where I can dress however I please, except maybe when a kid walks in out of the bright afternoon sun with a friend and I’m still in my jammies. Home is where I ignore the phone’s ring if that’s what I feel like doing.

Home is where I recharge, revive, restore, and become ready to go back out in the world.

The curious thing is that home is so portable. I have had many homes – big, small, fancy, plain – and they all have the same effect. A house is a building, a home is the state of mind.

Critters, Co-Existing

I love to discover creatures who are not pets in the spaces that humans pretend to claim – although the experience is always bittersweet, because it reminds me of how invasive my species can be.

Walking Stick on a sidewalk in Pasadena, California.

Walking Stick on a sidewalk in Pasadena, California.

Toad on a walkway, Punta Gorda, Florida.

Toad on a walkway, Punta Gorda, Florida.

Gecko on a restaurant wall at breakfast-time, Punta Gorda, Florida.

Gecko on a restaurant wall at breakfast-time, Punta Gorda, Florida.

Apparently geckos are omni-urnal (?). Here is one on the wall of an outdoor bar, late one evening, also in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Apparently geckos are omni-urnal (?). Here is one on the wall of an outdoor bar, late one evening.

Green Lynx spider on a wall outside my house.

Green Lynx spider on a wall outside my house.

Sidewinder leaving a trail in Griffith Park, CA: hauling ass to escape from all the hikers trying to snap photos and otherwise ogle it.

Rattlesnake fleeing a trail in Griffith Park, California: hauling ass to escape from the numerous hikers and mountain bikers who have stopped to snap photos or otherwise ogle it.

Young alligator fleeing our car in Arcadia, Florida.

Young alligator fleeing our car in Arcadia, Florida.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is to show “one”.

Among Many, A Search for One

The Gulf Coast of Florida (and surely, many other locations) has beaches where fossil shark teeth are abundant. My young nephews collect pails full of them! (That is my idea of a fun vacation: planted at the ocean, sifting shells and sand to hunt treasures.) On a brief recent visit to a beach near Venice, Florida, I spent about an hour on one of those beaches and made some amazing finds!

There, see all those fossil teeth?

There, see all those fossil teeth?

Actually, you need to look more closely. Be prepared to be distracted by all the amazing shell fragments!

Actually, you need to look more closely. Be prepared to be distracted by all the amazing shell fragments!

Sometimes a tooth sits on the surface in an obvious manner but usually you will need to sift the shells, a handful at a time.

Sometimes a tooth sits on the surface in an obvious manner but usually you will need to sift the shells, a handful at a time.

The results of my hour of searching, discovered one tooth at a time.

The results of my hour of searching, discovered one tooth at a time.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is to show “one”.

Sinkhole to the Horizon

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see horizons.)

I’m a disaster junkie. Natural disasters amaze me. I hate it when people get hurt, but the forces of nature that create the disasters leave me awestruck.

A couple years ago, I learned about Lake Okeechobee, a sinkhole that is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. That’s a big sinkhole!!

I also learned that tragically, in the 1920s, hurricane winds blew water over the tops of Okeechobee’s levees, which killed hundreds of people. Since that time, the levee tenders say they’ve rebuilt to withstand anything the Earth can send their way. (Hmm. Where have I heard that before?) There is apparently some controversy about whether this is true.

Knowing all this, I had to see Okeechobee for myself. A family reunion staged on both coasts of Florida gave me the opportunity I needed. As my son and I drove from the Atlantic to the Gulf, he agreed to a detour so that I could see my sinkhole.

I only got to make one stop at Okeechobee, and that briefly. (I hope to go back for a longer visit someday — probably alone.) Still, it did not disappoint.

Here is what I saw.

Okeechobee is surrounded by a waterway lined with houses and boat docks:

The "moat" around Lake Okeechobee.

The “moat” around Lake Okeechobee.

The levees are maybe 30 feet high:

That human speck at the top of the levee is my son.

That human speck at the top of the levee is my son.

Boats go through locks to get from the moat to the lake:

Fishing boat heading for the lake.

Fishing boat heading for the lake.

A person works in a bunker, opening the locks for boats:

In the background, the bunker. In the foreground, my son jumping from post to post.

In the background, the bunker. In the foreground, my son jumping from post to post.

The lake is low on water, from drought and flood control, leaving a marshy area just below the levee:

okeewgrass

That glint on the horizon is the water of Lake Okeechobee, which is 20 miles across:

Florida has a lot of sky.

Florida has a lot of sky.

Many of the levees are topped with biking and walking trails. It could be fun to circle the lake!… Maybe… The circuit would take more than one day….

That is indeed a large sinkhole.

Unexpected Benefit of a Gator Quest

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge asked to see a horizon.)

On my occasional trips to Florida to see family, I have been repeatedly disappointed in efforts to spot alligators out in the open (not planted at a zoo or theme park).

Please understand, I don’t have a death wish. It’s not like I traipse through the Everglades calling here gator gator. I simply search for remnants of gator culture in Florida suburbs, under the assumption that surviving gators will shun humans rather than eat them.

They certainly shun this human!

At the golf course where some of my family lives, signs like this one promise gator action near the pond:

An unfounded claim.

An unfounded claim.

I’ve never seen any gators at the pond, but one late afternoon, looking for gators did bring me to this wonderful reflection of the horizon:

Horizon-tal symmetry.

Horizon-tal symmetry.

Finally and at last, as we left for the airport to come home, I saw one! A little guy running away from us, toward the horizon:

littlegatorIMG_7016

We almost didn’t get the picture – took us many precious seconds to figure out that speeding up to see him before he got away made him run faster to get away.

Can You Guess Where I Am?

I’ve left my home in California to attend a family reunion in one of the other States of the U.S. Another State and another state! I’m definitely not in California anymore. Now I’m wondering whether the curiosities of this visit are unique, or can be found many places that are not-California. So – does this sound like lots of places you’ve been? Or can you easily identify this new State by the descriptions below? (If so, its features may be unique.)

Here are some local sights that you won’t see in California:

  • The nature preserve has a special section for hunters.
  • A popular Elvis CD is a collection of Gospel songs.
  • There are many lakes and most of them started as sinkholes.
  • The terrain varies from totally flat to really flat.
  • Outside it is wall-to-wall sky.
  • There are amazing thunderclouds more often than not.
  • The sign “Condominium Complex” points to a mobile home park.
  • None of the public bathrooms provide paper toilet seat covers.

Based on these features, what’s your guess? Where am I?

Sorry: family members are not eligible to participate.

I Had Better Get Busy

My “desert island” food is the blueberry. My “desert island” place is the ocean. Which proves convenient: I don’t have to bring my favorite place with me to the desert island, it will already surround me.

Desert island. Typing that phrase, I realize how comfortable I am using language when I don’t entirely know what it means. That must get me into trouble sometimes but apparently I don’t know when that happens.

Desert island. Somewhere remote and cut-off, I figure. Checking that infallible source of information, the internet, I learn that a desert island is an island that is not inhabited by humans.

(Sue’s first rule of blogging: start with a digression. Or four.)

Here’s the point: I love the ocean but I have only been to two of them.  Mostly the Pacific. Occasionally the Atlantic. Surely I need to see the others, and visit them from more than one location. Which means I had better get busy and travel faster.

Here is what the Atlantic Ocean looked like during my visit to a Florida beach:

The Atlantic Ocean from a beach in central Florida.

The Atlantic Ocean at sunset from a beach in central Florida.

At this beach it was not a good idea to walk while enjoying the view. There were dead jellyfish everywhere! I don’t know whether this was typical for this area. Perhaps I visited during a time of jellyfish affliction.

Dead jellyfish covered the beach like land mines.

It was a beach of dead jellyfish land mines.

(In response to this Weekly Photo Challenge.)