Back from Florida!

March 30, 2010

Yes, I know… you weren’t aware we’d gone to Florida!

I’m sorry I dropped out of blogging. This was a strange winter. For some reason I felt discouraged. Writing without whining was practically impossible. So I didn’t write. The odd thing is, there was nothing really wrong. I just felt melancholic.  Or, alternatively, cross.  (I love the word cross. Doesn’t it make you think of a toddler, hugely scowling? That was me, at least inwardly, too often this winter.)

But in mid-March, my friend Joanne and I loaded up the car, the bikes, and the kids, and drove the twenty-three hours to Florida as usual.  It ended up being just the change of pace I needed.

Every year we go to a little town halfway between Orlando and Tampa. Large swaths of Polk County are still rural, with lots of cattle and orange groves. In our area townhouses and strip malls are just beginning to intrude. Every year we stay in the same timeshare condo in a sleepy development populated mostly by retirees and visiting grandchildren.  It is quiet, safe, and, as vacations go, inexpensive. We love it.  My kids and I have gone since 2003. Alex and Joanne first joined us in 2004.

Though some things have changed as the children have grown older (drawing with sidewalk chalk on the patio flags has given way to cutthroat games of Risk on the living room floor), we have developed our traditions. We always shop at Goodwill for used books and miscellany. (This year I found three Talbots dresses for church for $5 each!) The kids always play in the pool. We always go biking. (Lucy learned to ride a two-wheeler at the condo.) And we always do one day-trip that’s educational.  In 2004 we visited the Tampa Aquarium.  At left are Jon, age 16, Lucy, 6, and Alex, 8, over Jon’s shoulder (click to enlarge).

This year we went to Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Here they are: Lucy, 12, Jon, 22, Alex 14.  I am enjoying imagining the reenactment at 30, 40, and 32!

Joanne and I are a great team. It’s easy to split the few chores. We alternate cooking simple suppers. She never minds driving to pick up something at the grocery store, and I am always good to grill at the pool or take the kids for a bike ride. Of course the main Florida activities are

1) reading

and 2) soaking up sun in and around the pool.  Preferably both at the same time.

This year was far cooler than usual, often in the 60s. Everyone told us what a hellish winter it had been for Florida. The maintenance man at the development — I always talk with maintenance men — told me excitedly about having seen sleet for the first time. “There was these little bits of ICE on my jacket!” he said in wonder.

When it felt chilly around the pool, Lucy and I would go for a bird walk. Joanne observed that while she has an internal tractor-beam pulling her to Walmart, I have one ear and eye always cocked for birds. Florida is a birder’s heaven. “Listen to that osprey. What do you suppose he’s screaming about?” I’d say. Or I’d jump up from my deck chair to peer over the pool fence, exclaiming, “Who is that talking?”

Around the development we saw plenty of ospreys, red-shouldered hawks, turkey vultures, catbirds, mockingbirds, and white ibises. We think we saw a red-cockaded woodpecker, which is rare, but when Lucy downloaded her photos she found she’d only captured the tree.

Our biggest score (literally) was a Florida sandhill crane. They are almost four feet tall, and on the Endangered Species List. Lucy was very careful as she snuck up on him to take his picture.  To her great disgust, moments later a big sunburned man lumbered up to the crane, brandished a camera in its face, and the bird spooked and flew away.

You know you’re relaxing when the knotty problem of the day is that someone scared the bird.

Our Indefatigable Government Workers!

March 7, 2010

Since our blizzard ten days ago I’ve been using snowshoes down at the farm if I ever have to venture off the plowed driveway. Imagine my surprise when I snowshoed out to DH’s cabin yesterday and found someone had been there!

Yes, the census takers had toiled out through the thigh-deep drifts to make sure all residents were counted. I looked at the sign over the door that Lucy painted when she was ten — “The Fossils,” which is the nickname the gang of old climbers go by — and started to laugh. I could just picture the census notes on Mr. and Mrs. Fossil and all their little Fossil children.

However I’ve often thought to myself that the small 12×20 cabin is nicer than anything Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in until she was twelve and her family moved into the surveyor’s house in By the Shores of Silver Lake.

More recently, my friend Allen, whose father was a restless logger, grew up in the 1940s with his six brothers and sisters in a series of tiny houses (as always, click on photo to enlarge) all over the North Country. One time “Daddy” just had the house picked up and moved it with them.

Until I get our house built I’ve been comforted by the idea that if anything happened, we could all certainly squeeze into the cabin. The Fossil Family.