Monday, October 29, 2012

Down the Shore

I'm bleary eyed.  I do not believe the bitch storm Sandy has been over-hyped.  I am super-saturated with information and photos.  I played The Weather Channel all night long.  Through my routine insomnia, I'd catch cat-naps, then wake up, roll over, get a TWC fix, and then back to another cat nap.  So it went all night long.  All day today has been spent pouring through news reports on television, satellite, and social media.  People all up the coast of this country are in peril, including some areas of the mid-Atlantic, many areas in the northeast, and through New England.  And, my beloved Jersey shore is in peril.  It is taking a pounding.

Look at those crazy teeny footprints!
I have taken just about all I can take with photos and reports.  But, I cannot stop looking, I cannot stop watching.  It's awful, just awful.

I have a "thing" about beach fences.  I love them.
They're very beachy.
My grandparents had a tiny summer house in a shore town.  I don't remember much about it, but I remember the kitchen had wallpaper with teakettles all over, I remember going to the Bay, and I remember the boardwalk.  I was very small when I had my first ever lemon ice with my dad, and I was much older when I was with my dad as he had his last lemon ice before he died.  On the same boardwalk.

Not too many years ago, I went on vacation.
I learned that many years ago, Pop had a summer home 2 blocks from where I was going.
We talked a lot about his summer home.
I learned he used to spend time with his beloved wife on a specific oceanfront bench near their house.
This is the bench, the bench Pop sat as a much younger man with his beloved.
I took this photo as a gift for him while I was there.
It's one of my favorite pictures.
I lived at the shore for part of my life, and for part of my life I did not.  But, always my place for anything when times were good, or they were bad was down the shore.

Even the most mundane things become so fascinating down the shore!

I have been to the shore with a screwdriver in my hand chipping away at ice looking for shells.  I have made snow angels on the beach.  I have been to the shore at all times of the year, there is never a time when it's not right to be down the shore.

Hello lover!
The shore is where I would go for celebrations of any type, as well as to grieve.  I went there after losing a brother, after losing my mom, after losing best friends, after losing companion animals, and after losing my dad. Especially important for me were times I spent alone at the shore right after losing my dad.  Everything was black, nothing made sense.  My family and I had been through so much. So, I turned to the sea, and found comfort once again.

There will be another sunrise soon down the shore.
And so, there is always hope.
I cannot reach some people who are very important to me that live down the shore.  I am hoping it is because they have left as ordered to do so, and they do not have cell phone battery backups or whatever.  I know it's a crap shoot and a roll of the dice in any coastal community.  We are all on borrowed time with the sea as our neighbor, no matter where that may be.  But we are also drawn to it for its mystery, its power, it's majesty and so much more.

The sea will take what it wants.  Whatever is left is for whoever is brave enough to reclaim.  If it were me, I would reclaim.  I'm one of the fools that would reclaim.  Once you are seduced and lured to the sea and the sand, there is no turning back.  You just can't really explain it, but you have fallen in love with the sand, the sky, the air, and everything else.

No matter where I am, a piece of my heart is always down the shore.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fingers Crossed

So sorry, my updates have been lagging.  Right now, we're with the rest of the gang who are riveted to any weather updates we can grab, constantly.  The wrath of Sandy has been fierce through the Caribbean. The Florida Keys were once again protected by angels as here there's been nothing to speak of.... a few rain bands over a few days, coupled with about one week's worth of winds.

To everyone in Sandy's path we hope you have prepared for the worst.  We all hope for the best.  Sandy, that bitch.  We're not fans, nope not at all.

Our fingers are crossed.  We're watching and waiting, just like everyone else.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

More Wyland!

What a week, what an incredible week.  Behind the scenes at Deer Run A LOT happened, more on that at another time.  My big thrill this week was, as you know, watching Wyland paint.  I blogged about my visit to the Marathon wall on Tuesday.  If you asked me what happened to Wednesday, at this point I don't think I can answer that. It's a blur of different work and such.  But, Thursday is another story... an entirely different story.

The other happy vegan and I had plans to go to the county college on Thursday evening for a fundraising event where Wyland was the star. Well, thanks to some behind the scenes tom-foolery regarding some tom-fools, my beloved happy vegan had to MISS this big fun, and instead attend a very important business thing.  I was so disappointed for him. He really wanted to go to the Wyland event. He encouraged me to go anyway without him.  I kind of figured I would go anyway, but you know sometimes it's just nice to not be alone.  To that end, my friend "J" said she'd really like to go to the fundraiser with me.  Yippee!!!

After some very brief outfit planning (hey, it's a Keys event at a county college, not time to break out the fairy dust and a tiara, right?) I headed down the Keys and picked up my friend.  We chattered all the way to the college, and found ourselves arriving a bit early.  We wandered around the lobby looking at the raffle items, stopping at the bar and having a refreshment. We looked at the Wyland things for sale which benefit his charity called the Wyland Foundation. Well, I'd like to point out here that Wyland is definitely about his own charity which is dedicated to promoting, protecting & preserving the world's oceans and such, among other things, BUT he's also about charity for many good causes.  The purpose of the Thursday event was to raise funds for the marine biology scholarship program at our own Keys community college.  Wow, think about that.  This man who travels all over the world decided this was important enough to come to the Keys and spend several hours raising funds, 100% of which will stay here, local, in the Keys.  For Keys kids.  I do love this man!

At the event, there were a small handful of Youth Ambassadors for Wyland.  These kids were a force to be reckoned with, and I'm not kidding.  When a tow-headed 10 year old little boy wearing a shirt that has pirates and sharks on it puts out a pitch for raffle tickets, you buy raffle tickets!  And you buy those raffle tickets a bunch at a time, and more than once.  That very young man I believe is named Hunter.  As "J" and I wandered around putting raffle tickets in baskets, we met 2 more Youth Ambassadors, Taylor and Lilly I believe (forgive me ladies if I have your names wrong, I have terrible problems with names!)  These gals, also I'd guess about 10 or 11 years old, were exceptionally well spoken and had a fabulous grasp of environmental issues and the plight of our oceans.  "J" and I really enjoyed chatting with these lovely young ladies, and the time passed very quickly.  The main event was a screening of Wyland's movie titled "Blues Planet."  It is about our oceans, and the problems plaguing them. Pollution.  Oil.  Trash.  Lack of conservation.  The film is narrated by Sylvia Earle, and Wyland wrote all the music.  Blues essentially.  Lot's of time spent on the BP oil spill.  The cast of characters in this documentary was long, and there's some serious street cred offered up.

We enjoyed the movie, although some of it was not easy to watch. Force yourself kiddies.... ignorance is NOT bliss, rather knowledge is power.

After the film, Wyland took the stage and spoke.  He's very soft spoken.  He explained how much he cares about effecting positive change, but how difficult it is for him to ask for money.  He took brush to paper, then began painting.  He painted SIX Sumi-e brush paintings before our very eyes, and sold them.  100% of the profits went, as I said, to our own Florida Keys Community College marine biology scholarship program.

I honestly wish that when I had the benefit of my fresh youth that I had better guidance and mentoring.  I had no idea what to do with my life, no idea what careers existed, and very little knowledge about what was outside my own front door.  If I had half the knowledge that I do now, I never would have ended up spending almost 2 decades in an office.  No way, no how. I shall not cry over spilled soy milk, at least I finally saw the light and do a lot more positive things with my time.  Plus, I look at kids and think there is great urgency to educate about the possibilities... the limitless, endless possibilities. Wyland is doing that, he's there banging that drum to children all over the world.

Here, Wyland finishes the turtle (!!) he painted.
To the right, you can see the seal which he painted.
The turtle was my favorite, but honestly the seal was so
precious, my heart melted.
All the paintings were sold, scooped up by locals who know
what he did for Keys kids that night was very, very special.
That was Thursday.  Friday, a blur.  Work I suppose, I don't really remember.  Days are like that here.  Groundhog Day, the movie.

Then Saturday broke.  We knew he'd be in Key West repairing the old Waterfront Market wall.  We were on a mission.  Although we had plans to watch a 2pm turtle release (Fiesta has gone back to her ocean home, yay!!!) and hit Goombay (OMG, Fantasy Fest already?) we spent almost the entire day watching Wyland paint.  We blew off Goombay, and missed the turtle release by 15 minutes (insert sad face here).  We stayed at the wall, and listened to some live music. Joined Wyland's charity. Watched him paint. Made new friends. AND..... brought him a sandwich from the Sugar Apple and some of my very own Vegan Dreams.  You know, I sadly watched him eat a corn dog at his fundraiser on Thursday.  Vegan options were not there.  This great man deserves something more than a stinky planet-killing, animal cruelty corn dog.... so we stuck to our plan to go to Sugar Apple the minute we got into Key West, have lunch (of course!) and got a Tempeh Reuben "to go" made by the beautiful gals in the Sugar Apple kitchen.  Best sandwich in the Universe. We hope Wyland enjoyed the best sandwich in the Universe, and we also hope he's going to seek more tempeh reubens out when he travels. This caring, soulful man needs to transition to a more plant based diet, at least that is my opinion, and it applies to everyone in the Universe by the way.

There's a reason I love this photo.  It shows all the artists working.
The top scaffold is Wyland's, although that's him in the black shirt on the ramp.
To the scaffold on the far left is Wyland's protege, 17 (16?) year old
Guy Snell.
By the way, does anyone else notice how the blue on the wall
practically mirrors the sky at that same moment?
We met lots of dogs at the wall (Autumn, Yin, Walt, just to name 3), and chatted up with people from around the world.  It was a day full of tropical heat, yet he was up on the scaffolding, along with several other artists for 3 days straight working on the wall.  The wall was a complete re-do.  Turns out he realized the wall was in too much disrepair to fix, and the ENTIRE BUILDING was whitewashed, and then re-done.  Essentially in 3 days.  This man is a machine.

In full stalker mode, we did go to Boondocks last night for another PR event.  I bought one of Wyland's books for my nephew, and I wanted to ask him to sign it, which he did. When I looked into his beautiful eyes, I saw exhaustion.  He has been working all week in this relentless tropical heat, wearing long pants and dark clothing. Covered in paint.  Long, long days.  Then pressing the flesh to raise money. It's not easy.  My heart sank for him last night, he is tired tired tired.  I didn't even have the heart to ask him for a photograph. It's too much.  He gives and gives and gives.  And, he is not taking care of himself.  I know how it is out on the road.  You eat poorly. You sleep poorly.  And, when you're a person of his status and profile, everyone wants a piece of you for something all too often. It's work, it is not all fun and games.

He finished his walls this week, the last strokes went on the wall in Key West this morning.  Although we couldn't go back down to Key West for the dedication, we will be there sometime this week.  We will look at the wall, and remember many things.  Mostly, we will remember that we're not alone in our mission to make this planet better for those dwelling upon it now, for those who will be here after we are gone.  Including, of course all animal life.

Thank you Wyland.  It's been a privilege to meet you, to watch you work.  We promise you we'll be here enjoying your hard work for a long time to come, and we also promise to keep our collective mission alive with everyone that passes through. Any time you're in the mood for some (organic! vegan!) cookies, cupcakes or even a tempeh reuben, stop in.  We'll totally hook you up, it's the least we can do.  Until next time we ever may meet, may your own life be enriched beyond your wildest dolphin filled dreams.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The great and legendary marine life artist known as Wyland is in the Keys working on restoring 3 of his famous whaling walls. Ka-pow!

Wyland's schedule of work and surrounding events have been well publicized in the Keys.  He was in Key Largo for 2 days restoring the wall up there (we actually went up to watch him paint that wall a few years ago when he created it); he's in Marathon today and tomorrow, and then he's off to Key West to restore the wall on the old Waterfront Market.  Being that today was Tuesday, it's a "Pop Day." As soon as I dropped off Pop, I headed straight to the whaling wall in Marathon. There was Wyland, up on a ladder, brush in hand, bucket of paint propped up.  He was working. Painting. A crowd was around watching, taking photos, speaking with him.  And, there was his entourage as well.... he has a large motor home that is a mobile educational facility.  There were booths set up with some of his art (some originals!), a very large mural canvas set up as the Children's Wall, and of course The Turtle Hospital was on the scene with an educational booth AND sea turtle ambassador named Fisher.  I parked the car, grabbed my camera, and joined the crowd.  I listened.  Wyland especially targets children for education when he travels.  This is crucial in order for the future to be better than the past, or so is my own opinion.  There was a group of children watching him as he worked.  He never let much time lag on the conversation.  Light banter.  Laughter.  Little "tests" for the kids (i.e.: what kind of turtle is this I'm painting? How do you know it's a loggerhead?") Those types of things.  More laughter.

Wyland, taking a little break to talk to the crowd.
He makes it look so easy.  He's a gifted man to say the least.  He's painting with a very large brush on a very large brick wall. This is not painting on canvas or anything, and it's not using small artist brushes. Nope. There he is with basically what I'd use to paint my living room walls, and he's painting a loggerhead turtle like no one else.  Bliss.

After a while, he posed for photos with the children, and escorted them over to the Children's Wall where they would create a mural. After, he returned to the Whaling Wall.  As I was watching the action, I saw that Richie Moretti (Founder of The Turtle Hospital) was on site, so I went up to him to offer my condolences on the loss of Good Hope.  Richie is a good man, a man who cares about "his" turtles seemingly as if they were children.  I know he is feeling the loss of Good Hope deeply, as he feels any loss deeply.  We spoke for a few minutes and then parted ways.  I was going to leave, but then I noticed that Wyland was back at his wall getting ready to paint again. Almost no one was around him.  I decided to take that moment to thank him for sharing his gifts with the world, and for using his time and energy to educate and be an activist.  Well, wouldn't you know, he is a very modest man.  He downplayed what he does---what he is doing--- as no big deal.  Well, let me tell you it IS a big deal.  It's a HUGE deal. We shook hands.  It was a good moment.  A VERY good moment.

Here, Wyland encourages the children to give a thumb's up for oceans. Woo-Hoo!
Being there watching Wyland work brought out many different feelings in me, actually it was very emotional.  I looked at his art (so magnificent), I watched him interact with the crowd and the children. I studied his wall for quite a while (yes, I've studied it before too, and every time I go and really look at that wall, I never see the same thing twice).  I almost wanted to cry, not because I was sad, but rather because I was happy.  His work shines with absolute joy, optimism and beauty. He sees the ocean with infinite wonder, and his pieces seem to shimmer.  How is that possible, shimmering.  Shining. Simply with paint.  I don't know, but he does it, and the work does. His joy reminds me to embrace the beauty we do have, and not allow myself to get mired down by the constant drain of our planet's environmental plight.  Yes, that's important... that enjoyment, the spark that fuels the passion of environmental work!  Wyland captures it.  He captures it with a paintbrush and with the deep caring I saw in his beautiful eyes.

The Children's Wall.
Plans are to head down to Key West to watch him work on the Waterfront Market wall, and also go to the college on Thursday where he will be for an event.  Tossed into this whole thing like a little (non-dairy) whipped cream will be a sea turtle release at Higgs Beach on Saturday at 2pm.

Loggerhead in progress.
This afternoon I came back here and sat on the beach staring at the ocean.  I thought about a lot of things, and then nothing at all. Before I left my thinking spot, I gave silent thanks to Wyland for showing me through his eyes the beauty and wonder that is everywhere.  Seems to me Wyland is restoring a lot more than a few whaling walls.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Barely Treading Water

So, you know I got "off the rock" (out of town to those of you who don't know Key's lingo) for a while.  It was not for vacation though.  I had something I needed to accomplish, and so I did.  My travels took me away from here, off my tiny island, and off to an area where there's copious amounts of people, construction, hustle, bustle and cooler weather.

I was transported to another world, one I used to be immersed in, but left behind long ago.

Out of my comfort zone.  Out of my weather zone.  Out of my friend zone.  Out of my element to say the least.

In my goal setting, I make it a point to place myself squarely out of my comfort zone at least once a year.  That might not sound like much, but to me it's a lot.  And, its a LEAST once a year.  Going to a city, alone, fits the "out of my comfort zone" bill.

I never really adjusted to being away from home.  I couldn't sleep (already an issue for me, but throw even a small time change in, and chaos reigns supreme), didn't have good dining options close enough (although Whole Foods saved me once discovered!), and the driving into and out of the city left much to be desired.  On one trip downtown as I was musing how perhaps it wasn't such a bad place to drive after all, I found myself stopped at a 5 point red-light intersection in the middle of the intersection.  The red light for my lane should have been disabled due to construction, but it was not.  I did not see that there was another red light BEFORE that 2nd light... where I should have stopped.  So, island girl stopped in the middle of the intersection oblivious at first to the fact that I was stopped in the middle of an intersection.  Construction was everywhere. Cars were everywhere. There was no where for me to go, besides no one would let me go. I realized the error of my ways when I heard nothing but horn, looked in my rear view mirror and saw the largest law enforcement SUV ever to hit the streets.  No offense to that particular officer, but instead of perhaps helping the situation by guiding me out of rush hour red-light chaos, he chose to lean on his horn non-stop waiting for me to move (to where, I have no idea) and then rev his engine and peel tires careening around me as he sped off.  No lights, no siren, no emergency.  Just he was pissed off at me for being a damn fool.  I was pissed off at me too, but didn't really expect to see what I did from law enforcement.  Thankfully I do feel that person was the minority in a sea of good in that profession.

It crystallized in that moment of fear sitting in the middle of a 5 point red-light intersection that I am an island girl now.  These thoughts usually come only at the holiday season when we visit our family in the cold zone.  It was 38 degrees one morning where I was, home it was 88 for that day's high. 

I tried to be friendly, I said hello to people, held open doors for whoever I saw.  No one said thank you.  No one said hello back.  I went out to eat alone and not once did any wait staff attempt to engage me in any extra curricular dialogue. None.  Perfunctory service is what I would say I experienced on all my solo dining experiences on this trip.  Not friendly.  The places could have done better on that end of things.

I treaded water for almost every second I was away.  I had one day of fun, attending a vegan festival.  A friend of ours arranged for a car service to take me downtown, and I decided to splurge and take the car service back at the end of the event.  No driving.  No trains.  No buses.  That day was pretty darn nice. The drivers were kind, and offered pretty lively conversation on everything from baseball, to food, to boating and more. That car service was worth every penny spent.

I was exposed to more construction that I ever remember any place I've ever lived or visited, more stores than I wish I knew existed, more traffic than I've seen since driving in New York, and more stress than I've known in years.  I didn't like it.

I'm home.  I've accomplished what I went away to do and for that I'm happy.  Beyond happy, actually I'm ecstatic.  But, when I pulled into my own driveway, saw my animals, the deer, the sand and the sea I could finally breathe again.

And, with that moment there was another revelation.... the reason the people are so unhappy is because there is no salt air, no palm trees and no ocean.  And, with that realization, I forgave them all. They just can't help themselves, and I can't blame them.

To the city folks out there, I promise not to invade your territory again for a LONG time. But, island girl hopes that maybe you'll leave the asphalt jungle for a few days, find an island to visit (Big Pine perhaps?!) and remember that life is indeed short, too short not to be kind along the way. You just never know when you're crossing paths with a neurotic, anxiety filled, transplanted island girl who's having a particularly difficult go of it in your beloved city. And, you also never know when that island girl might be inclined to slide a (vegan! organic!) cupcake or two your way as gratitude for your kindness.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gone and Back

I've returned from my travels.  It is so good to be home.  So much has happened in the time that I've been gone.

What I do want to share now is that Good Hope is gone.  I'm so sorry to tell you this. She was never out of the woods, we all knew that.  But, on her own turtle schedule she held on and seemed to make progress simply by stabilizing; or so it seemed.  But then one morning just this week past, she was gone.  As quickly as she came into the lives of her caregivers, she was just as quickly gone.

I cannot probably express the sadness and frustration that all who were involved in her caregiving felt upon her loss.  This was a turtle who will not be forgotten.... although doubtful any of them are ever forgotten.  She touched lives with her seemingly strong will to survive, despite incredibly long odds.

When I first heard about Good Hope and her story, I thought about the children's story Charlotte's Web.   To this day it's still one of my favorite stories. It was also the first movie I ever saw at a drive-in (for you young-uns, you can "google" that...), actually it was a double feature: Charlotte's Web and Snoopy Come Home.  Anyway, I thought about that story because of the heroine in the story, Charlotte.  Towards the end of the story, she is tired, very tired.  She has worked all night laying her eggs, spinning her special web, and she's just tired, too tired to do much anymore.  And, Wilbur, her best friend for whom she has been spinning special webs to help save his life ("some pig" "excellent") is distraught that she is done and ready to die. Wilbur is crushed, begging her not to go.  He's crying and crying.  Charlotte however is completely at peace. She explains she has done her work, and her time has come.  She explains to Wilbur that she is fulfilled in her purpose, and she has a special surprise that he will find out about, but that she must go.... that she cannot stay.  She dies, and yes Wilbur is crushed.  He takes her little egg sac off the wall at the country fair where they were, (her special webs did indeed save Wilbur from slaughter) and carries it back home with him to the barn as he is transported in the truck.  Eventually the eggs do hatch.  Wilbur is elated! They're all over the place.... little Charlottes! As fast as he becomes elated, he is crushed yet again as they all begin to float away on their tiny little webs.  He's crying again, wondering why why why. After all the little Charlottes are gone he hears a tiny voice, then another, then another.  He looks and sees that 3 tiny Charlottes have remained.  They do not want to leave, they want to stay with him.  He gives them names, and they become friends.  He is happy again.

I thought of that story because I didn't know Good Hope's name yet, and I knew so many people were trying very hard to save her and her eggs.  And, I thought that I would call her Charlotte because she had these eggs which everyone wanted to save, and she was trying to lay. But she was so tired too.  She tried to lay her eggs, and she did lay some.  I learned her name was Good Hope, but inside I kept calling her Charlotte.  Then, as she began to improve, I believed more and more in her Good Hope name (Good Hope was the name of the beach where she was found).  I stopped thinking about her as Charlotte, at least for a while.  Then she died.

Good Hope's eggs have been harvested and are being incubated.  No one knows for sure if the rest of her eggs are fertilized or not, but they are being treated as if they are.  For now, it's just a matter of mourning her loss, and hoping for the future through her eggs.

I am not the only one who attached a lot of hope and energy to this turtle.  So many people cared and for that I'm personally grateful. But, I'm so sad because I understand what it means to lose even one of an endangered species such as an egg laying female green turtle like Good Hope.

Rest in peace Charlotte.  You were tired and it was time to go.  You shall not be forgotten, and I will be watching and waiting for your own little Charlottes in due time.