A year ago, two of my friends and I went to Sicily together – a perfectly amazing trip where we learned and saw and laughed so much and did so much…making new friends and wonderful memories together. This year we decided to have a small reunion – just the three of us in Anna Maria Island, Florida which is, admittedly much easier to reach by car. Another extended episode of laughing too much…while I was in Florida my friend Sarah posted this photo which captured the feeling, and with permission I use this amazing image which is, I think, how we see ourselves…
But we all had to be together for this to happen…and from Maryland to Florida there is a whole lot to see as long as you don’t have to drive the interstate. Interstates, as we know, are great if you want to get somewhere in a hurry, but how could you really bear to miss this?
I wanted to weld it to the top of my car…I am such a coffee person, after all. Instead of Route 95, we were driving Route 301 – the old main road to Florida. It is clear that fewer and fewer use that road, and it is kind of sad…although I was in no mood to complain as we had vast stretches of the road completely to ourselves. I had plenty of time to stop and take photos, and to just test the increasingly warm and spring air…it seemed that mile by mile there was more in bloom. It also seemed that we very rapidly slipped into the South with a capital S…a lovely and special feeling that only really exists for me once you get to the southern edges of Virginia. Crossing over into North Carolina we started to see both rampant wisteria and Spanish Moss and allays of trees that to my untrained eye look as though they are remnants of homesteads…they may only be remnants of orchards, but draped in moss, the trees look like what I think of as colonial air conditioning – trees planted that might give a house a break from an unrelenting summer sun.
But I find it easy in the South to head directly toward the tragic
and romantic – too much Faulkner running in my head, I guess. And that wild wisteria had
to have come from somewhere…right?
Of course, there are other things that catch my eye on the road. It is probably good that I did not hit that monster lottery yesterday…I would have to head south again and buy this:
All of it. Exactly as is. Then I’d have to figure out how to move it as a piece. I guess that is what a camera is really for…
But the object was Florida. I don’t go to Florida often. For one thing, by and large, I enjoy winter. Maryland can give me plenty of winter in the way I like it best – a deep and lasting snow that can keep me pinned to my house for days on end until the farmer up the road can get over to plow me out – I enjoy that kind of enforced solitude from time to time. Admittedly, I enjoy it more when I still have an internet connection and power, but I have pretty much solved that with the installation of a generator a few years ago. So Florida is not a common destination. Still, for the purpose of the trip, I was looking forward to being there…and this in spite of the fact that we had no winter at all in Maryland – that I’d been carrying flowers from the garden to grace my table since January. But I have to admit, flip flops in March without having to make some kind of statement can be a very nice thing…
And playing on the beach on the Gulf of Mexico is a lovely pass time, to be sure.
The colors of the sky and water, and the frolicking wildlife – dolphins, pelicans, ibis, sandpipers, herons and fish…it is just such a way to go. For the first time I kind of ‘got it’…why people would make a habit of leaving home to do this through the winter. Of course, I think Anna Maria Island is probably kind of special – at least where we stayed, it seemed that way. Florida doubtless has millions of places that seem as relaxed or even more so, but it was a first for me who has always seen a much more frenetic pace.
The sunsets over the Gulf are simply spectacular. Often when I paint I will paint a cadmium orange sky, but it is validating and quite awesome to see the sky that color in person. We made such an event of being on the beach each night for the sunset. A lot of people do, and I can see why. That farewell light show is such a gift.
As much fun as we had in Florida, it was important to head home eventually. Which we did as sort of a procession through the land. Next stop, seeing friends in Brunswick, Georgia, where we were able to enjoy beautiful Jekyll Island. I really need to spend more time in that area because there is just so much there – and I intend to as soon as I can.
One of the things to do on Jekyll Island which is the Sea Turtle Center (www.georgiaseaturtlecenter.org) where they have the fossilized remains of a prehistoric sea turtle suspended from the ceiling. I was at a loss for words (yes, really) to describe the thing, but when a group of third graders came in for a tour of the center, I was handed as a gift the perfect word – this thing is “hu-mun-geous!” in the word of an over awed boy. I know exactly how he felt, and I can’t think of a better description.
Seriously, this thing is BIG…humungeous, in fact…but a lot of things seemed big around Brunswick – the pelican who would not move at St. Simons – I’ve never been that close to an actual pelican, so it seemed both blonder and bigger than I thought…
But not shy at all.
From Georgia, one more stop on the way home to visit friends in Virginia and to skirt around thunderstorms and tornadoes – all of that clever weather dancing just a lucky result of needing to deviate from Route 95 – again. But once the weather cleared some, it was clear to see that spring was creeping north – redbuds were blooming that hadn’t been showing color the week before. It was like following spring home…