Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More Change

It's been a day here, quite a day.

Friends of ours, very good friends of ours, are moving out of the Keys. I could cry, in fact I have cried. I'm not alone in the sad feeling, the lives of pretty much everyone they know are touched with sadness right now. Our friends who have lived in the Keys for decades are downsizing, and moving a little north of here. It's time, this I realize. This doesn't mean I'm happy about it at all. I, along with everyone else that knows and loves them, know they shouldn't have to spend so much time, effort, money and angst caring for a large home.

The home is beautiful, magnificent really. Its very unique in its architecture. Designed and built by our friends, because back in they day if they didn't do it themselves, it wouldn't have gotten done. They had no money, it was I guess what many people would say on a wing & a prayer. Talking with our friends tonight, I heard the story that when they decided this was what they were going to do, others said "you will fail" to which of course they dug their heels in just that much more to insure they would not fail. Instead, they thrived.

The home saw great joy, great sadness, many parties, and many guests. MANY guests. Its bittersweet for them, this leaving of the Keys, leaving of their beloved home. Its a relief in a way, knowing it is going to someone who will care for it the way it deserves to be, who will appreciate it as they have done; someone who knows a good thing when they see it. There's great emotion attached to the home, its comforting in a way knowing its going to someone who will really love it, care for it, and improve it when needed.

What all this leaving of the Keys means is purge, purge, purge. Isn't it amazing what we accumulate. Yes, it is. Tack on living somewhere for a few decades, raising a family, running a business out of the home, and so forth, well stuff REALLY accumulates. We went down to help, they were becoming overwhelmed. Lots of closets, LOTS AND LOTS OF CLOSETS, and storage. Wow, there was stuff. It was good, making piles for different charities and people, who gets what, who can use what, and doing our best to make sure things get used, not discarded. It was quite a job. But, it is under control. They've had family there daily for a while, Mr. Happy Vegan as well, and today I added my two cents into the fray.

After all was said and done, we sat on their patio drinking wine & cocktails out of plastic cups, eating snacks on whatever we could find lying around, and sitting on "chairs" fashioned from giant paint containers and whatnot. We listened to more stories, and with each memory shared my thought of "I wish I lived here sooner, I wished I lived here sooner" became more and more intense. Our friends were true pioneers, real adventurers. I can guarantee that you (nor I) will probably not meet any others like them, their drive & determination, their work ethic, their dedication. If you knew really what they went through in the early days, you'd simply sit and scratch your head as I do. Let's hope she doesn't read this and discover this small story I'm sharing: one of the pictures that fluttered out of a box was of the Mrs. bathing in a wheelbarrow on the beach. Yes, you read that correctly. There was no plumbing back in the day on this rustic street, the house wasn't built. So, when she wanted a bath, the Mr. saw to it she had one. In a big wheelbarrow seated smack dab on the beach. It was hilarious to see, and kind of summed up their philosophy of "whatever it takes." Pioneers.

It is very hard to say goodbye. This is Mr. Happy Vegan's best Keys manfriend, and the Mrs. is a favorite person of mine... I respect her, she's guided me immensely as I transitioned here, and she was one of the angels who appeared here at Deer Run while I was 1800 miles away caring for a dying relative for a few months. These people bring me great comfort just knowing they were there as I drove past their house every time I went out. Comforting in their strength and stability, role models I guess you'd say.

They're leaving. Tonight is their last night in that magnificent home. The home he designed, the home she poured all the concrete for, where she bathed in a wheelbarrow. Sure we'll see them again, its not that. But, its just never going to be the same.

Change can be good, but no one ever said it would be easy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It Never Gets Old

The view down here never gets old. I never tire of it, its never boring. Its constantly changing, something new every day, every moment. Its incredible.

I went to Key West today for errands. The roads were surprisingly clogged on the way down, all it takes is one idiot to really throw a kink in things, and today was a banner day for things like that. Satellite radio was my companion, I never thought I'd want that in my car, but now that its here, I love it. Despite the radio, no amount of "HairNation" could do the trick. I had to consciously have a conversation with myself saying I'll get there eventually, just relax and enjoy the ride. So, I did

I believe the ride from the 7 Mile Bridge to just about Rockland Key is the most scenic, gorgeous, soothing part of any drive down the Keys. I was somewhere on Sugarloaf or thereabouts when I completed the inner conversation telling myself to enjoy the ride. I began to observe... the water, the incredible water. It is alive. When its windy it becomes dark. When it is sunny it becomes full of sparkles. When the moon is out, it shimmers, and when storms come, it becomes violent. Today it was full of sparkles, just the most incredible spectrum of every aquamarine shade you could imagine. Its not green, not quite blue. It is the color of heaven I think. If I could find that perfect ocean shade in any paint, I think I'd simply take a sprayer, fill it to the top, and spray my house and everything in it that color. I have a color I put on some walls this year called "sea glass." So far its the closest I can find to the watery ocean dream that surrounds me down here. Nature has a way, its just perfect, humans cannot replicate not matter how hard we try.

As I got closer to the Navy Base, I saw some jets. I shut off my "HairNation" and listened to their thunder. The sweet sound of freedom. I wonder what it must be like to be one of those pilots doing maneuvers over the Florida Keys. I'm pretty sure its an experience that compares to no other.

I saw some cormorants hanging out on wires, and lots of boats sprinkled around. Who are these people that are boating in the middle of the day on a Monday? How is it they can do that, and I have to drive to Key West for errands? Cannot help but have a little pang of envy on that subject.

Once I got into Key West, I had all the windows down and began casually observing the people. Little worker bees everywhere... buzz buzz buzz. I made my stops as quickly as I could, and headed back up the Keys. Once again following another B-A-D driver, but this time didn't really have to refresh myself on the "enjoy the ride" speech... I had the blue of the water, the swaying of the palms, and lots of VanHalen to keep me in line.

That ocean, there is nothing like it anywhere else. Its surrounding me, its protecting me, its nurturing me, and it holds me in balance. I'm not the only one,; ts what lures so many of us here. Once you're in her grip, you just can never go back. Besides, you'd never want to.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

And the Winner Is......

I lost to a collard chip.

Its true, I placed 2nd in the competition, second to a collard chip. I went to win. I'm competitive about strange things, that I will admit. To be satisfied with second is to accept that the scenery never changes, if you catch my drift. My strawberries stuffed with blackout mousse made with Key West grown organic avocados lost to a collard chip. My raw vegan organic key lime pie mini-tartlets lost to a collard chip. My raw vegan organic death by chocolate brownie truffles lost to a collard chip. I had local ingredients in everything, almost entire organic, and plenty of fair trade ingredients representing. The key lime filling recipe was authored completely by Yours Truly. Do you feel my pain?

Days and nights testing recipes. Practicing. Not to mention almost selling my soul for some local key limes. All to lose to a collard chip. What can I say, kudos to the winner, no sour (organic) grapes here. It was a lot of fun, I had a great time at the actual event. I met some new people, and some of my friends came out to support me. I saw some people that I haven't seen in far too long as well. I ate. I drank too many bubbly cocktails along the way.

During the event, while eating, drinking and laughing with friends, I took a moment to scan the scene. There we were in Key West, outside on a Friday evening. Flip flops were the requisite footwear, anything goes island garb was the dress code. The sky was blue, there was a little breeze to keep things comfortable. The African drummers were outside sitting next to some tropical shrubbery, the food was lined up under tents all along the side of the lounge, and there was an outside bar. Passers-by (locals & visitors alike) had their interest peaked, and many actually stopped to listen to the music, and buy a "tasting plate" so they could judge the food. A few of the Club gals came by (my apologies, were you 801 gals? Aqua-nettes?), decked out gorgeous as always. I'm telling you it was an honest to goodness "only in the Keys" snapshot in time.

Speaking of snapshots, I did not take one single photo. Zip, zilch, zero, nada. I had the camera in the car, and we managed to snag probably the best parking space of the night, yet I just couldn't muster the strength to put down my cocktail & food to pick up the camera. Mistake? Perhaps. Regret? Nope.

After the judging, we headed over to LaTrattoria for another fine meal. Of course, my kitchen still looks like "who did it and ran," but I'm chipping away little by little today on that. Not too much though, I've decided to kick back a bit today. I've already had my first nap, a little lunch and I'm planning my run for the day. Tonight we're going to meet friends at the No Name Pub, where I intend to eat unhealthy (still vegan, of course!) food, and have a couple drinks. I've earned it, I really have.

So, there it is. I didn't come home with a blue ribbon, or any ribbon for that matter. I did get some fantastic prizes (completely, totally unexpected, so even better), and felt quite validated by the comments my food received. But, second place isn't good enough for me, and if there's ever a next time, I'm taking no prisoners, so competitors beware!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beg, Borrow or Steal

Our little food competition is tomorrow. The Florida Keys Green Living & Energy Education group is hosting a healthy "finger food" competition. Its to celebrate Earth Day, and raise funds for Keys GLEE. The event is informal, at a bar & lounge (never forget, this IS the Keys!) Some friends are going too. I have no idea who's competing, or what they're entering. I registered, and for the last week or so I've been testing recipes, and creating my own. I'm going a little early because they're having African drumming at the lounge before the event starts (Food Network has nothing on the Keys when it comes to food challenges. If you think you'll ever see "Challenge" at a bar with African drumming, think again).

I've spent a fair amount of time on my recipes. The point is to use local, sustainable & healthy ingredients. I think I've got a lock on this.

One of my three entries is a raw, organic vegan key lime pie mini-tartlet. I used a recipe for the crust out of a raw book, and created my own filling recipe. I tried just about every raw key lime pie filling recipe I could find in my books, on line, on web sites, everywhere. They all sucked, sorry, they just weren't for me. Part of the problem is I am not a "lime" fan. That's a story not to be spoken of though, at least on this blog. Another issue is that never in my entire life have I tasted non-vegan key lime pie. So, I played around with recipes a lot, I mean A LOT. I've got Key West avocados in there, Florida blueberries topping the tartlet with my whole vanilla bean cashew cream, and drum roll please.... organic key limes fresh from Big Pine Key. Yes, my friend B came through, and came through big. For the last week or so, it was like I was searching for illegal substances or something; everywhere I went, everyone I saw, I asked "do you have any key limes growing in your garden? I'll pay anything!" Beg, borrow or steal, I needed key limes, and I needed them bad. Here's the rub; its not key lime season.

One friend told me to beat my key lime tree, I'm serious about that. Apparently when you beat a key lime tree with a 2x4, it goes into shock, will flower quickly, and bear fruit. Well, this Happy Vegan just couldn't bring herself to treat my tree naughty like that, no, I couldn't do it. Instead, I went everywhere I could think of, asked everyone I knew, even strangers for that matter. No one had any. Of course you can go to any supermarket down here and buy a bag of key limes. But, I swear, they're not key limes. They're not yellow, they're not juicy, and more importantly the are NOT local, nor are they EVER even from this country, they all come from Mexico. Oh not, that is not for me. Never, no way.

So, after perfecting my raw organic vegan key lime filling I was just about to give up on the local limes, but today, yup, about 4pm to be exact, my friend B called me up and said she had a bag for me, and was dropping it at Good Food, gratis. I dashed into the store on my way to the gym, yes, there they were in all their glory, Big Pine Key key limes

Out of my 3 options, the begging worked. B is going to get a really nice and big home made (organic! fair trade!) sweets box delivered to her from me this weekend. Keys people look out for each other. B looked out for me. Sweet B, yup, thanks to her, the competition is a lock. Well, maybe not, but still, I've sure got a leg up over anyone else on the key limes. Truth be told, I'm just looking forward to hanging out with a great bunch of people, happy to be out of the kitchen. I sure would like that ribbon though.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Deepwater Horizon. One Year Ago...

I'm writing this post 1 day early. I know tomorrow I will be too busy to post. This is an important topic, I don't want to miss it.

One year ago, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded killing 11 people who worked on that oil rig. At least 1 person committed suicide as a result of the disaster aftermath, who knows how many more may have done the same. Families were destroyed, marriages probably broken. Animals died, the planet suffered. Now, 1 year later, families are still being destroyed, animals are still dying, and the planet still suffers. What have we learned?

I have learned that large corporate behemoths are conspiring to cover up truth. I believe the government is doing the same. I have learned do not trust the media. I have learned not to trust anyone assigned the job of helping business owners who lost business, like for example small eco-friendly vegan lodges in the Florida Keys, who filed claims for lost revenue. This makes me wonder about the people actually living around the Gulf, and working in the immediate area. I suspect they are not being treated better up there than we are right here, maybe its even worse treatment for them.

Sure, I guess I knew all that before, didn't I? Maybe all of it except for the part about not trusting anyone assigned the job of helping small business owners and people recover. That I can directly attribute to this disaster. Thanks BP and thanks Gulf Coast Recovery Fund. Oh, I'm especially enjoying your latest daily full page ads in our newspapers down here about how you're still helping us; what's your cool slogan.... "making things right." Har-de-har-har. Maybe I'll also offer a hellohowyadoin' to Mr. Feinberg himself, yeah, a real tip of the hat. Thanks Ken, you're a real prize. Oh, I wonder, to you Tony Hayward, do you have you life back now? How's that working out for ya?

I've learned that there are forces at work wanting to brush all this off, in fact just this morning I was reading how some scientists are saying how the Gulf has recovered nearly to the exact same health it was before the disaster. Yeah, right. Oh, sure. Want to buy a bridge? Then again, thanks to the oil industry and agri-business the Gulf was being choked to death before April 20, 2010 too.

Oil rolls in on the shores daily still in some areas. There's a spike in dolphin deaths, and a spike in turtle deaths. I'm sad to say I believe this is barely the beginning of the impact on the wildlife and marine animals, the effects will be felt for generations in that world, and will be studied for a very long time by humans.

We're killing our planet. We're killing ourselves. We're killing the animals, the plants, the water and the air. On this, the 1 year anniversary of the BP disaster, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon which spewed a truly unknown volume of toxins into the Gulf, coupled with the travesty of the chemical dispersants to cover it all up and make it seemingly magically all go away, we cannot ever forget. Do not be fooled by the corporations. Their job is to make money, and make money for their stockholders. Environmental protection is not a priority. They are about free enterprise, no matter the cost. Look to the Gulf and the past year to see confirmation. Do not be fooled by the government. There's much more than meets the eye with the oil industry and our government, we all know this. Its a topic too complex for this Happy Vegan to tap out a few keystrokes on this blog.

Do I sound angry? Maybe I don't sound angry enough. The angst I felt for months as the oil spewed day and night was almost surreal. Running on our street every day in searing heat, trying to cope with a myriad of emotions, but mostly filled with worry about something so far out of my control, something entrusted to people who I had no trust in.... staring at the faces of baby Key deer, birds, raccoons, and all other life around me. The beautiful water. The sky. Oh, yes, I am still very angry.

The BP disaster had a devastating impact on many. Here in the Keys we miraculously escaped the oil, but we did not escape the economic devastation. We are no different at our tiny little green lodge in suffering financially and dealing with the bureaucracy all this time. No, we have not been treated fairly, decently or even courteously by the Fund administrators. It is a battle, it is like we are the enemy, like we caused this problem, like we should be punished or something. Meanwhile, we go out every day, collect trash on the beaches & streets, have hundreds of things in place at our little lodge to reduce our footprint, and we continue to plan for the future hoping there will still be a planet worth tending to by future generations. In my opinion, arguably we at Deer Run have a more environmentally & socially responsible business plan, and business model, than BP and its partners.

I will not forgive those associated with this disaster, for they knew to a certain degree it was going to happen, they denied the data, they denied the signs & symptoms, they denied everything. And, they continue to deny the reality of the scope of the damage, and are working hard with others colluding to cover up the realities.

On this, the 1 year anniversary, just days before another Earth Day, take a moment to reflect on the disaster, and all that it has meant to so many; people, planet & animals. Do something positive today, and then carry that forward every other day from now on doing something positive. For people. For planet. For animals. Let's keep hope alive.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Recap

Not really sure how it happened, but its been six days since I posted here. If you asked me, I just blinked and that's all I did. Yet, 6 days have gone by. So, let's recap. Its been HOT here! Oh, fabulously so. Today we had about 30 minutes or so of rain. Here, we are in a drought. This happens pretty much every year in our region. The rain was brief, but we'll take any we can get. Even better, it was enough to fill all my rain barrels. If I knew it was going to rain, I would've moved my car out from under the trees to get a better wash. Its getting hard to read all my bumper stickers through the dust. We've begun our morning turtle walks already. No signs of nesting yet, but we volunteers of Save-A-Turtle of the Florida Keys are out there every morning looking. We have a great crew of volunteers for our stretch of beach. Mr. Happy Vegan is once again the beach coordinator for our assigned territory. I'm very excited, as I am every year, about turtles. We have some new faces volunteering for the early morning walks, and some familiar faces too. Keep your fingers crossed for a great nesting year. Loggerhead nesting numbers continue their downward spiraling trend. Every hatchling matters. We've had a higher number than usual of extra obligations over the last week. Very good friends are moving, we are going to be so sad to see them go. They have lived in the Keys for decades, and are among the nicest people you'd ever want to know. But, they're downsizing, and moving to a different locale. They will be back for frequent visits as they have family here, and they'll be here for winters, but its not the same. You know what I mean, don't you... when you have a friend you call up to chat for 2 minutes about something only that friend would find silly or whatever.... well this will be especially difficult for Mr. Happy Vegan as this is his best Keys friend. Any time someone close to us moves, its the same old story... we always say "that's it, I'm not making any more friends" because its too hard to say "so long for now." We helped them get ready for a garage sale this weekend, Mr. Happy Vegan especially helped over the week preparing. As items poured out of the garage and house for the sale, so came the stories & memories. Its really hard to see so much of your life displayed for sale. I've gone through the same thing. But, I do find the more I purge, the easier it gets, and the less "stuff" I want to acquire. We've talked about that on this blog before. I've been baking, stirring, boiling & toiling for days on end trying to come up with some contest-worthy recipes for a competition going on to celebrate Earth Day. I'm a little reluctant to say too much, because if I go and all my wonderful vegan food sucks in the eyes of the judges, I will be crushed. I'm sensitive about this kind of stuff, but I am throwing my hat (spatula?) into the ring for a competition, and let the chips fall where they may. Keep your fingers crossed, and wish me luck. I'll let you know after the event what I presented, and how I was judged. I'm still binge baking thanks to a fair amount of orders coming in over the last week, so that takes up time that ordinarily I'd have free for other chores. Today was the perfect example of a day gone flying by. I looked at my clock and it was just after 11am, the next thing I knew, it was after 9pm. How is that possible, I don't know. Tomorrow is another day, and I'm determined to get a run in, and a nap. Please, oh please, keep your fingers crossed for that nap. I'm long overdue.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Good Stuff!

Its been a pretty good few days here. Lots of sunshine, high temps, and FREE TIME! It's true, we carved time for fun, we played like Keys visitors; it's been fantastic!

Over the last few days, we had a divine dinner in Key West at LaTrattoria, another of my favorite restaurants. GREAT Italian food. We planned to stop at The Cafe, on Southard, after dinner for vegan desserts, but I was just too full. Pity too, that night they had an orange cake with cinnamon icing I was hoping to try. A useful tip is always plan dessert before dinner.... that's exactly what we did. On our way to LaTrattoria, we stopped at The Cafe to review the desserts. What can I say... next time for sure! Instead, we walked off our food and wine touring the streets of Key West, window shopping, and people watching. I also managed to buy a birthday gift for someone.

We had a great time with friends at No Name Pub, I feasted on veganized pizza. Then there was an evening spent with friends at their home for drinks and appetizers. Talk about a feast! What a spread they did for us! Seriously, we were both blown away. They aren't vegan, but presented such lovely, homemade food, it was divine. They made flatbreads from scratch, hummus, tzazki sauce, falafel, slaw, and boy oh boy I hope I'm not forgetting anything else and it was all VEGAN! I passed on the cocktails since I had an early morning of work planned, but I've still got that that good food on my mind (not to mention the good company).

Another great pick over the last few days was a visit to the Intuitive Arts Fair at the Good Food Conspiracy. It was wonderful. Good Food Conspiracy is now celebrating their 29th year in business. This is almost a miracle here in the Keys where people and businesses can come and go quickly. There were many different types of healers in their garden, vendors with artisan crafted wares, live music, great food, and lots of new faces. I spent about 2 hours at the Fair one day, and probably even more the next day. I even had a sound healing session which if I could have one every day, I would. I made new friends, saw some old friends too. I left each day feeling uplifted and happy. So very good.

I planted myself on the sunny beach for a cocktail and some Vitamin D, then did a little local shopping. I have to say, the time was absolutely well needed and very well invested. I'm feeling pretty perky and have a very optimistic outlook. Although I haven't done any running since Friday, I still feel great. By the way, the overall winner of the 7 Mile Bridge Run turned in a 5:44 mile time. But, want to be REALLY impressed, try this on for size; the female winner in the 80-89 age category turned in an average just over 12 minute mile, and the male winner in the same age category turned in a just over 11 minute average mile. Talk about inspiration!

So, there you go. I'm pouring every spare moment I have into fun, inspiring, refreshing, fun, relaxing, activities. After all, why should only the visitors have all the fun; there's plenty to go around!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

7 Mile Bridge Run

Ah, a new day has dawned here in the Florida Keys. We shut the ac off yesterday, and are letting the breezes flow through once again. As I got out of bed, light was just barely beginning to filter through my windows, and the curtains were rustling softly. As I went to collect my paper at the gate, I saw an osprey sitting on the pole just across the street from me. He looked at me, but wasn't disturbed. It seems to have cooled a bit from the temps of the last couple weeks, and 1500 people are going to be thankful for that today.

This morning is the 30th annual 7 Mile Bridge Run. If you've been to the Keys, mostly likely you've been over that 7 mile bridge. Once every April, the bridge is closed for a few hours early in the morning so 1500 people can run over it. Competing for time. Competing against themselves. Some just for fun, not competing at all, rather looking for what I'll call bragging rights to say "I did it!" This run does benefit multiple charities as well, a list of which is published in the paper. That's a nice "extra."

I don't know any other races that have the runners going over open water for 7 miles. The bridge does have a hill on it, I've been told that's not the worst of it, rather the decline is the worst because you anticipated that hill so much, that's your main focus. I'm not too sure of that analysis, but then again I've never done the race. Nor do I have any plans to. That's not on my personal bucket list.

To be in the race, you have to submit an application via snail mail. Apps were available for download on a Tuesday, by that same Thursday, the race was full. That many people wanted to be in the race that badly that they sent the stuff in overnight mail. And, there were hundreds more applications received that were not considered because the race filled up that fast. Good for them say I, but not for me. Bridges and water? No... I don't really need to add that to my "to do" list, you know I'm just not a fan of bridges. Besides this is the same bridge I rescued that royal tern on a few months ago. I am all too aware of the movement of the bridge, and the view for that matter. I don't need to run over it.

The bridge closes in both directions 6:45 in the morning. The race starts at 7:30. The bridge re-opens at 9am to traffic. If you're a runner and haven't finished the course, too bad, so sad, you get picked up by "the bus." That's the talk down here, "beating the bus." I say there's no shame in getting picked up by the bus, but not everyone feels that way. " Well, if I was in the race, I'd say don't run with me because I'd be counting on that bus ride back to the other side.

As I write this, the run is in full swing. I know 2 people in the race this year, maybe more are running that I just didn't get a chance to talk to. I like to see the photos in the paper the next day, a sea of humanity crossing the bridge, the aerial shots are especially striking and colorful. Its just another one of those quirky and unique things here in the Keys that makes it so special. I'm glad we have a 7 mile bridge run, people from around the country, and a few other countries too, are in it. For me, I just sit back and enjoy the fact that for those few hours I'm even more cut off from the rest of the world. Works for me.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Its the Guests. Thank you!

Its the guests that keep me going. By that I mean, its you; you who choose to stay here with us. You keep me focused and driven on why our mission here at Deer Run is important. You, who are filled with contentment, gratitude, adventure, wonder and hope.

Its true, some days are not as easy as others. I'm like you, I get tired, I get frustrated, plus I have other things going on in my life besides work which take my attention. And, not always good things, although I don't like to dwell on negative. So, through any challenges or difficulties I experience, I do find that I am often renewed by our guests. Good guests. Deer Run gets good guests. Really great people.

As I reflect back on the last few months, I can honestly say I'm overwhelmed with the kindness, caring, compassion, awareness and overall caliber of our guests. I suppose if you're in this business, at least a part of you should be a "people person." In work I've done in the past, I would not consider myself a "people person." My work didn't lend itself to those type of relationships most of the time, in fact it was often adversarial and confrontational. Not the case here.

I had some concerns about how would I be at this work, and I wasn't the only one. Anyone who knows me has either laughed or wondered at how do I cope, as they mostly know me from before, not "people person" work. I still struggle sometimes with it, Mr. Happy Vegan is much more outgoing than I am. I guess its human nature, we all have our flaws and fears, we just hope no one really discovers them. We work hard for everyone to feel nurtured while here. Often the feedback we receive from our guests makes me so happy I could cry. I didn't often have experiences like that in prior work experiences.

I guess I'm feeling extra grateful today about guests because I was lifted me up with very kind words, totally unsolicited, and I needed it badly. There's some pressing matters going on behind the scenes which are draining me emotionally. Not everyone is kind in this world, not everyone has good intentions either. Spending the majority of my time in the oasis at Deer Run, I don't meet evil here. I forget that it exists. But, there's very bad people out there, a fair amount of evil and injustice. Its a lot to handle when it happens to you, or shall I say when it happens to me.

Striking that balance between what is fair on me and my time when its bad stuff isn't easy. How far do I allow evil to push before I push back? I don't want this type of adversity, it is not welcome, I am not inviting it. I don't want to devote my days to it, my life is valuable, my time is short. Its so hard. I don't want one more second of my life robbed by anyone who is evil. Anyone who has bad intentions. A thief, a conniver, someone who cares nothing for anyone but themselves, and hides behind a facade so perfectly normal, blending into society, that its chilling. I also wonder about writing about things like this here. Is it "proper?" I'm not sure. Maybe I'm in a weak moment right now, or maybe its the opposite, and I'm feeling empowered? Again, I'm not sure.

Sometimes I want to run away. Not from all I love and care about, but rather the toxic stuff that tries to invade my life. Where would I run to? Why, my back yard of course. Isn't that funny. When I want to run away, I just want to run steps to my beach. Once I banish thoughts of carving an evil doer out of soap, I'll just want to stare at the ocean and all that is here, allowing myself to be grounded once again. Sometimes I don't get that opportunity, including today. However, I was saved anyway, thanks to the guests. Its always the guests. Its always you. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tax Day = Turtle Day!

Unbelievably, we are less than 10 days away from beginning our daily early morning beach walks to patrol for turtle nests. Don't ask me how it came to be April already, I'm still stuck in January. Maybe you're new to the blog, so I'll briefly recap what this turtle walk business is about.

Mr. Happy Vegan is a volunteer for Save a Turtle of the Florida Keys ( and also sits on the Board. I am a volunteer for the organization. Sea turtles nest around the world, including beaches in the Florida Keys. All sea turtles in the world are either endangered or threatened species. There is a massive conservation effort going on, including efforts by Save a Turtle. Volunteers take special training, and commit to a schedule to walk an assigned section of beach every morning looking for turtle nests. The nests are documented and monitored. All the data goes to the Fish & Wildlife agency, where its analyzed, studied, and so forth. This is important for so many reasons. Its important because it documents trends in the species (for example, higher numbers, or lower numbers), and the data is crucial because of legal challenges. As we know, we live in a litigious society. I don't like it, don't like it one bit. But, there it is anyway. So, if there's a permit being asked for (and denied), or perhaps an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with dead turtles, official data is needed to prove things in court. Mr. Happy Vegan and I are part of a vast network throughout the State of Florida that does these turtle walks.

Last night was our training. This so-not-a-morning-person-but-so-forced-to-be-a-morning-person didn't get home until a little after 10pm. That's pretty late in my world, but it was important to go to the training. As sea turtles are all protected species, you must have a permit to interact with them. The trainings we take every year gets us qualified for those permits, and this wildlife para-professional work. Among the many things I learned last night is that 2 of the main species that do nest in Florida (greens and leatherbacks) are showing an upward trend in hatchlings & nests. This is good news. I also learned that the main species that nest here in the Florida Keys (loggerheads, which are the ones we see predominately on our own Long Beach) remain on a pretty steep downward trend for nests & hatchlings. "They" don't know why. Any fool (myself included) can say that the health (or lack thereof) of our oceans are impacting the turtles. That, and longlining. Oh, by the way, if you're not yet a member of Sea Shepherd, what are you waiting for? The biologists, scientists, researchers and tons of other "official" people cannot say for sure. Really no one can, its true. But, its not rocket science to look in our own backyard where ever we live and say, we're trashing the planet, and all that is on it is suffering. Including turtles.

I'm not sure what it is about turtles that moves me so much, but I am not alone. My life forever changed when I went to the Turtle Hospital so many years ago as a tourist, just on a whim. What I learned was astounding, and once we moved here, well, its a waste of time to not get involved to make a situation better on any level. Turtles included. Plus, anyone cannot help be moved to tears when you see either an adult female haul out and nest, or watch baby hatchlings spring forth under the moonlight. I've assisted stranded baby hatchlings, and actually held some in my hands. They're so small, so very small.

Imagine, you spring out of an egg the exact size of a ping pong ball, and somehow know which direction to go to get to sea. Hatchlings do this on their own, they're programmed. There's no adult to teach them how to get out of the egg, how to wait for most of them to hatch in the nest so they spring out together, how to walk, how to climb to the sea, how to swim, how to eat, how to live. No one is their mentor. They face incredible obstacles, some before they even emerge. Predators can take them (here its not people, that is illegal in this country, instead its animals like birds, raccoons, even fire ants can destroy a nest, seen it happen; its bad). Then, as they scramble to see, ghost crabs can pick them off, raccoons can still get them, birds, or whatever else is hungry. Then, once they get to the ocean, the food chain begins and they are eaten by fish or anything else that's bigger than a teeny tiny baby turtle.

One in 100 is the estimated number of how many reach adulthood. Yikes. But, imagine for that one, the life they can have, the life they should have. Swimming free in the ocean, eating their food, no boundaries anywhere, not polluting the world, not taking more than they need. Enjoying the warm sunshine as they come up to breathe, dozing gently in the ocean's hidden crevices. Prehistoric creatures. I like to imagine this, instead of the realities they face, long line fishing killing them, illegal poaching, boat strikes, boat collisions, and so forth. No, instead, for that moment when I hold that teeny hatchling in my hand, I say a silent wish for protection and courage, for the Universe to love, protect and nurture them, and then off to sea they go. I watch until I can no longer see them. I imagine them 3 days later hiding out in the saragassum weed line, getting their nutrition, growing up, and then becoming adults. If they're female, they'll come back to the beach where they were born. Its all too incredible, but its true.

Humankind hasn't a clue about anything that really matters on this planet. Nothing. We know less about our oceans than we do about our moon. We know very little about the other life forms on this planet, and we're bringing species we haven't even discovered to extinction every day, all in the name of "progress." Maybe progress is just another word for arrogance or ignorance. Either way, we're coming up to turtle time, and its reason to celebrate. Fasten your seat belts, we hope its going to be a good ride.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

They Shoot Innkeepers, Don't They? Part 2

So, when last we left, I was regaling you with my "to do, un do, re do" as far as baking bread that ended up in my cleaning bucket. I mentioned that Mr. Happy Vegan apparently was having his own "to do, un do, re do" day, but I was completely unaware of this, until he couldn't stop laughing over my pepperminty, soapy bread sponge. It was at this time that he broke down and shared this story.

The Earth rotates, so we lost our sunrises on the cam (but not in real life on the beach, yay!) Mr. Happy Vegan had a brilliant idea to pivot the cam towards sunset. Since we still don't have our pan/zoom with remote installed yet, this meant he had to climb up to the (slippery), very slanted, (hot) metal roof. Up he goes, 3 stories skyward, with tools in both hands. Funny thing, that day he was wearing a pair of crappy shorts that had pockets only about 2 inches deep (this is important), and an even crappier pair of flip flops. He's up on the roof, just about high noon (very hot).

If you haven't seen our roof, in addition to my description, this metal roof is a "hurricane" roof. Each segment is about 12 inches wide, then there's a ridge, and the segments are bolted down. The bolts protrude over the entire roof every 8 inches (take note, another important factoid. Are you beginning to see where I'm going with this yet?)

As Mr. Happy Vegan began walking sideways, in his crappy flip flops, with his tools in his 2 inch deep pockets and in his hands, his feet began to slip out of said flip flops thanks to the sideways factor. So.... he begins his "happy dance" which basically means "flesh on hot roof = not really happy, but I'm calling it happy" dance. There he is, up on the roof, sideways happy dancing, when he finally reaches the cam. As he began to unscrew the cam so he could move it, he shoved the bolts in his 2 inch deep pockets. He continued his sideways happy dance, now with tools & bolts in crappy pockets, tools in hand, and the lovely addition of the very expensive cam in hand, heading for the new location. He did not make it unscathed.

The bolts began to vibrate out of his crappy 2 inch pockets, and then "tink tink tink." They clattered down the top roof, rolled off, down 2 stories, bounced off the porch roof on story #1, and were gone... beach bound. Mr. Happy Vegan stood and watched. He won't say it, but I'm sure there was some audible cursing, or at the very least a gasp of despair mixed in with a giant open jaw. Mr. Happy Vegan placed the cam, tools, and what bolts remained carefully on the roof. Sideways walking to the edge, then climbing down 3 stories. He began his beach search for the rest of the 2 inch bolts that matched the color of the beach rock. His search lasted about 45 minutes. Back he went to the roof.

The sideways happy dance part 2 began. Upon finally making it back to the location he left the cam, tools & rest of the bolts, he retrieved everything and jammed the tools and bolts back into his 2" pockets. He continued to the new cam destination. Wasn't it Einstein that said something along the lines of "insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over, then expecting different results."

There's a special screwdriver that adjusts the declination of the cam (oooo, fancy word). The minute he stopped at the new destination, you got it, that special screwdriver flew out his crappy 2 inch pocket and then "tink tink tink." Down the roof it went, to the street side of the house. "Whew" that's a relief" he thought, since it went street side, not beach side. Then, he realized it landed in the gutter... "even better," he thought. All he had to do was retrieve it from the gutter, at least not having to go all 3 flights. So, he placed the cam, tools & bolts back on the roof, and slid down the (hot, slanted) roof doing a backwards crabby crawl over those lovely bolts every 8 inches, and those remarkable ridges every 12 inches. He made it to the gutter. He looked inside, and to his amazement right where the special screwdriver fell in, was the downspout. No screwdriver. Insert more jaw dropping and likely audible cursing here.

He climbed down the 3 flights, over to the rain barrel under the offending downspout. "At least the rain barrel has a screen over it", he thought, "close call it didn't land in the bottom of the rain barrel." But, somehow, there was still no screwdriver in the downspout. As he banged on the downspout, her heard it begin to move down a little more. But, not enough. He had to remove the entire downspout because the special screwdriver was jammed in the curve.

With the downspout removed, screwdriver retrieved, and downspout restored, Mr. Happy Vegan began climbing back up on the roof. Total time invested in a "20 minute job" to this point is close to 4 hours. He's back on the roof, sideways walking, special screwdriver in hand, and retrieving the stuff. He installs the cam. Finally. On the sideways happy dance to exit the roof, that crappy flip flop which was useless (so he thought), flew completely off his foot, and slid down the roof, rolling onto the porch roof. The sideways happy dance turned a little more animated. The flip flop got stuck on the porch roof. It didn't even have the good manners to fly beach side OR street side. It just sat there on said porch roof. Meaning once he finally got off the (hot, slanted) roof (now with only 1 shoe), and retrieved another pair of (crappy) flop flops PLUS a ladder, he still had to climb and get the offending flip flop.

I guess pepperminty soapy bread sponges looked kind of mild compared to his day.