Morning Porch Sittin’

Our rustic home for 3 days in Happy Valley, Tennessee

I turned over in bed and noticed the faint light penetrating the thin muslin curtains. Ah, morning time. I love the first streams of light and the soft nudge they give me to wake up and start my day in the stillness.

Brewed coffee in hand, I step out of the 100 year old cabin onto the front porch. The wooden screen door creaks on its hinges. I catch it carefully so it doesn’t slam. I breathe in the damp mountain air; feel the moisture on my skin of the fog rising off of the Smokies. I settle into the rocking chair with my books and notebook. THIS is what I came for. These next 120 minutes of time to think, reflect, observe, and be at peace in my mind.

I notice the chorus of little birds on the hillside across the quiet street. Swooping and calling in playful movements. So many varieties playing chase in the meadow.

My devotion and prayer time come first. I picked up a bible from the end table inside, inscribed with “Bobby Christian.” It molded to my hand, soft and malleable from years of use. I wonder what life was like for Bobby? Did he and his family attend the church two lots down?

A deer appears near the top of the hillside. His head on a swivel; frozen in place and looking for enemies. I beg him to relax and feel the safety of this place. He knows the area much better than I and the risk of being out in the open. Finally, he settles and feeds on the dewy grass.

Next up, notebook time. I let my mind process some of what the last month, last year has held. My role as instructional coach was put on hold to address many different needs in our building…tech support for teachers and families, teaching 6th grade math online, teaching 3rd-5th grade writing online, teaching in a very challenging 5th grade classroom in person for the last nine weeks, preparing for my son’s high school graduation and the open house that followed. Putting these thoughts on the page allows them to leave my mind; breaking the cyclical thinking attached to them.

My eyes search the unruly overgrown wire fence separating the road from the hillside. The green of the trees brings peace and calm to my being. I’m not sure what it is, but trees have this immediate effect on me.

I open Mary Oliver’s collection called Devotions. “I Worried” spoke to me. I love the last stanza: Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang. Then I read “Passing the Unworked Field” about Queen Anne’s lace, how it stands straight on its thin stems how it scrubs its white faces with the rag of the sun how it makes all the loveliness it can. Sitting in a rocker on the porch of a 100 year old cabin reading Mary Oliver. The perfect setting to feel the essence of her poetry.

I hear a rustle in the cabin. The others wake to the start of the day. My solitude time is over, but I am filled up and ready for the family time ahead.

The view from the front porch

Home SOL#21

We returned home today after an 11 day trip to the Florida Keys. Our car racked up over 2,500 miles. Lots of sitting and driving in hopes of the perfect senior spring break for our son. The trip was a memorable adventure that will forever hold a special place in my heart.

But, now we are home. Home. That word makes my heart slow down. Invokes a picture of warmth and comfort. As much as I loved our trip and our time together, I am thrilled to be home.

Here are a few of the things I happy to return to:

  • my well worn spot on the couch with my end table at the exact height for me
  • afternoon coffee in the front room with the sunlight warming the air
  • Josie (my dog) lying next to me, snuggled up to my leg
  • my comfy blanket to cover my legs
  • the knowledge of where everything is in my kitchen
  • the ease of cooking with a gas vs electric stove
  • the familiar feel of my shower, water pressure, towels
  • my seat at the bar for dinner
  • the just right lighting in my backroom
  • our after dinner walk around the block with Josie
  • and soon, the just right firmness of my bed

Good night!

Snorkeling Haikus #SOL21

stoplight parrotfish

brownish camoflauge

surrounded by brilliant orange

fluttering by me

rainbow parrotfish

cartoonish blue mouth

marmalade head fading to

iridescent green

reef shark

majestic grey fish

your body moves side to side

propelled by your tail

blue parrotfish

feeding off algae

chisel teeth nibble coral

creates crackle sound

yellow tail snapper

beady little eyes

scanning surrounding water

nervously darting

queen angelfish

colors so brilliant

attracting tourists’ delight

beauty of the sea

Frank #SOL21

Frank is the resident egret. He hangs around everyday. He didn’t come around yesterday, so they started to worry. As the sun began to set on the dock overlooking the vast Gulf of Mexico, he tip toed up behind us.

Hey guys! There he is.

Frank’s back!

Out came the fishing poles.

Hang on buddy; we’ll get something for you.

Cutting shrimp. Casting the lines in the serene blue water.

I’ve got one!

Reeling in the catch.

Frank moves toward them with anticipation.

A toss of the fish. It flops and Frank grabs it. He drops it, and it flops more. It’s like a game of pick up sticks. Each time he drops and catches it, he rearranges it in his beak and takes a few steps to the end of the dock. Finally far enough away to feel safe, he catches it, tosses his beak in the air, and releases the fish down his throat.

Satisfied for the moment, Frank heads out for the evening.

A Day in Key West #SOL21

bikes strapped on the back
cooler in tow
54 miles on maps
Key West here we come

a scenic drive
island hopping
7 mile bridge

searching for parking
found a spot
ready to set out for a day of fun

weaving around on the streets
southernmost point in the US
mile 0 but a long line of tourist
not worth the wait

bikes parked
hitting the pavement with our feet
Duval Street
shops, music, restaurants, people watching

Capt. Tony's Saloon
beer at the bar
guitar strumming 
googling history
Hemingway's watering hole
Jimmy Buffett's stage
indoor tree full of stories

Amigos Tortilla Bar
"Once you've ruined your reputation, 
you can live quite freely"
across the street
bartender's recommendation of the best in town
shrimp taco
roasted corn on the cob
seriously best corn EVER

John James Audubon house
18 new birds for "Birds of America" folio
white crowned pigeons with Geiger tree
28 first edition works
tropical gardens 

Cuban Queen Coffee
a much needed pick me up
cafe con leche
key lime pie
complete with roosters
did not disappoint
ready for some more sights

Ernest Hemingway House
lots of wives
crazy six toed cats
60 to be exact
luxurious pool
geeking out over typewriters
his writing loft
tragic demise

typical tourists
pint glasses

back to bikes
only two left on the rack
final farewell to Duval Street
packed back up
a day trip to remember

Waking Up with a Laugh #SOL21

Cheerful, tonal music began playing. Ugh, our first morning in the rental. What time is it? That dang Google Home system must have an alarm set on it. Not how I wanted to wake up on Spring Break, especially after the time change.

The evening before, after reading the “Welcome Book” we tried out the Google Home commands. “Hey Google, turn on the kitchen lights.” What expelled from her black mesh mouth was something in another language…Japanese maybe. We played around and tried different commands. All with the same reply, something in another language.

Laying in bed, the music continued to play. We commanded Google, “Hey Google, cancel.” “Hey Google, snooze.” Only replies in a foreign language. I got out of bed. Went over to the speaker. Of course, no on/off button. I needed to unplug it. That required me pulling the bed out from the wall and contorting my body into an awkward shape to reach behind the bed. There, I finally got it. I walked and placed Google in the other room.

When I returned to the bedroom, the music was still playing. What was going on?!? Then my husband realized it was his phone. He set up the sleep tracker on his Apple watch the day before and didn’t know he was setting the alarm. We both had a good laugh. I, up for the day at 6:30, while he was able to roll over and go back to sleep.

The Everglades: A Photo Essay

A Piece of Living History

I turned on the old player and inserted the CD. It was New Year’s Eve, we were staying in, and I needed some good cooking music. I pushed play. The sound took me back. 1980s. Summer vacations at my grandparents…

After a long day at the beach, everyone was taking their turn to shower and get ready for an evening out to dinner. My granddad and grandmom would visit the beach for lunch, but would head back to their condo for naps, so they were already ready for the evening.

Grandad sat at the black electric organ in his dark dress pants and light collared shirt. He chose a beat to start the music from the many buttons and lights on the his beloved machine. Then his fingers danced up and down the keyboard. His feet jumped in rhythm on the petals below. His body swayed to the tempo. The music filling every space of the modest condo.

We filtered in one by one to find a seat in the living room for our private concert. Grandmom bopped around doing odd chores, wine cooler in hand, whistling along with the music. She eventually sat in her swivel chair to enjoy the sound to its fullest. Grandad would take requests of old familiar tunes. Girl From Ipanema was my dad’s go to, while I held out for I Just Can’t Smile Without You. After several songs, Grandad would turn the power off, and we would head out to a local restaurant for our seafood dinner.

…As the CD continued to play, I found myself so grateful that my grandparents took the time to record my Grandad’s organ playing. It is a living piece of our family history. Since December 31st is my Grandad’s birthday, it is only fitting that I make this my annual New Year’s Eve playlist. Happy Birthday Grandad!

My Grandad played at many parties and events in his retirement. He loved organ playing!

And vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico

The time is drawing near for our annual week long migration to the white sands of Florida. The beach calls to me in the short dreary days of winter, begging me to race there at my first available moment. There is something in that ocean air that relaxes me, refreshes me, and renews me as I prepare myself for the final push of the school year.

We are creatures of habit, so every year we do many of the same things. I love the structure of a beach vacation. The mix of resting and activity, the comfort of routine and with a little novelty thrown in. Here are a few of the things my mind keeps thinking about in anticipation of our trip:

  • unhurried morning coffee listening to the waves come in
  • reading and writing on the balcony overlooking the ocean
  • morning exercise of walking/running on the sidewalks lining the beach
  • unwinding in the hot tub
  • reading by the pool
  • lunch on the balcony
  • loading up for an afternoon at the beach
  • more reading, this time with my toes in the sand
  • happy hour in my beach chair
  • long walks along the edge of the rolling waves
  • little cooking and lots of eating out
  • yoga on the beach
  • bike ride to a quaint seaside town
  • maybe a hike, movie or shopping

Our family beach trips are a highlight of my year. It’s part of who we are and how we spend time together. The years we have stayed home or tried a different kind of trip just don’t seem right. This is a family tradition that has been a part of my life since I was a teenager, and I imagine it will continue until I retire and can spend more time by the sea.

Oh but ain’t that America, for you and me