Monday, February 15, 2010

Time Zones

As the long mild days of fall gave way to the dark and rainy November in Bellingham, I met a woman who gave me some good advice:  schedule yourself a vacation to a sunny place in January or February.  I didn't need to hear those words of wisdom twice, as apprehensive as I was about winter in the northwest. My mother lives in Florida, so I promptly spent some frequent flyer miles to make a reservation to fly diagonally across the country, connecting two dots that are as far away as possible and still be in the US.  We went from Seattle to Melbourne (east coast of Florida, south of Orlando) for the first week of February.  Many of our fellow Bellingham-sters have gone on similar journeys to the sun in recent months, taking trips to Hawaii or Mexico, returning with a healthy tan and exhibiting the level of relaxation that comes from days on the beach . I anticipated that we would be leaving behind rain, darkness and cold to fly into clear skies, sunny days and warmth.

El Nino has made a mockery of that plan.  While we have enjoyed a balmy, dry winter in Bellingham (as in, the snow machines are working around the clock for the winter Olympics, just an hour north of here), the east of the US, including Kentucky, has had the dramatic storms that make for great winter beauty and/or survival stories (depending on your perspective).  So when we flew to Melbourne last week, we de-planed to cooler temperatures there as here in Bellingham, and to top it off, rain that turned off and on all week.  Nature still had a show for us to enjoy, and to remind me of the epic diversity found within the US.

Lynne and I did get to saunter on the boardwalk through a Florida forest at Erna Nixon Nature Preserve, where we were greeted by the sight of about 30 volunteers making artificial oyster beds by cable tying oyster shells to plastic mats which will then be dropped in a bay to encourage the return of oysters to the ecosystem.  Past the tables where they were working was a boardwalk that led us through a grove of live oak trees covered with Spanish moss (above), and by the colorful and muscular bark of Simpson's Stopper (right), a native tree that I was pleased to meet.  Lynne paid the price for the plane ride by coming down with a nasty rendition of a cold that kept her in bed for the rest of the week.

The foamy ocean waves rolling in, with wind too strong to enjoy being exposed to, led my mother and me to settle down at a cozy table in the Crown Plaza restaurant one day, where we had a lesisurely feast on crab cakes, cheesecake and apple pie a la mode while vicariously enjoying the ocean through the salt etched window.  The waitress was particularly friendly, as in, she didn't have many customers, so we chatted with her about the surf and the wind, and enjoyed speculating about the few other customers who showed up while we were there.  A few days later, I enjoyed a windy walk on the beach under cloudy skies with two of my brothers and my sister-in-law from Denver. It was the type of day where the beach patrol is bundled up in winter clothes and the attendant is vainly trying to stay warm, waiting for somebody to rent an umbrella or lounge chair outside the high rise hotel.  The weather cleared the beach of the usual crowds, which made for a good time watching the busy sanderlings whose little legs worked overtime running up as the water came in and then down again to graze in the wet sand just above the waterline.  Acutally, I had to look them up in our bird books to learn their proper names, where I also was introduced to the correct name for the willetts.

The warmth we missed in terms of temperature we got instead from visiting with my two oldest brothers and their wives. We cooked up some epic meals, including pompano (a fish native to Florida), bananas foster and paella with tons of fresh seafood.  Weather doesn't really interfere with time spent with my mother.  The formula for fun includes time together, going to church, and a visit to her favorite restaurant: Friendly's.  My mother is 93 and has found a good home for herself in an independent living facility where she can walk down the hall to physical therapy, or to play Bingo, or to eat dinner. Now that she is in her second year there, she has friends to chat with too.  Her best friend, Connie, is from her church.  Connie is the angel who drives my mother to many church activities and to the grocery store, so the good news is that my mother is doing well for herself in Florida.

At the end of the week, we slingshotted back to Seattle,  intentionally sitting on the left side of the plane, poised for good views of the Cascades and possibly Mt. Rainier to the south.  We were rewarded for our efforts (see left view of the Cascades). Once on the ground, the sky was clear and blue, so as we drove north from Seattle to Bellingham, driving through the expanses of rural Skagit Valley, the vista was framed with good views of the Olympic Mountains to the west, the Cascades to the right and the Canadian mountains to the north.  I felt a fresh appreciation of the beauty of northwest Washington. As I said to Lynne, "I can't believe that we live here now."

We miss our Kentucky friends and hope that you will enjoy some time with us in this beautiful corner of the world.


1 comment:

  1. I always enjoy your posts! Thank you for sharing. We miss you mightily.