Monday, August 27, 2018

Scenic drives close to home...


This past weekend, we decided to drive out into the wilds. No more walking outside until September! So, on Saturday, we went to Titusville and drove the road out toward Playalinda Beach. I grew up in Titusville and have fond memories of Playalinda. Of course, back then, it was just a little road out to the coast, then another little road north along the dunes. No restrooms, no lifeguards, no amenities beyond the horizon and the sand. We walked over the dunes on trails that are now boardwalks. And back in the day, rumor was if you went far enough north on that road, you'd come to...the NUDE BEACH! 

I never went to the nude beach. Frankly, I never saw the appeal.

Playalinda means beautiful beach. And it certainly is. Recently, there was a post on a Titusville Facebook page asking us if we called it Playa or Play back in the day. My family called it Play-linda.

Anyway, on the way out toward the beach, there are roads that meander through the scrub. One of them is Black Point Wildlife Drive. It's part of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, which is really sad, because that means that Titusville's beach is really on Merritt Island.

You have to pay ten bucks to drive on it, but we've seen people stop at the payment board, hesitate, and drive on without putting any money in an envelope. We finally went to the Visitor Center and purchased an annual pass. (We're so proud.)

Little Blue Heron

Black Point Wildlife Drive will make you feel like you are in the real Florida. Water that is sometimes black, sometimes brown--with what looks like brown pine forests growing beneath the surface. Scrub and palm.

Huge spiders. Birds, alligators. Bugs will fly into your open windows as you ride along, sometimes they'll smack into your face. Dragonflies buzz along with the car as if they see you as a rhino and they're considering a landing. [Hubs: Those dragonflies have never seen a rhino! They don't even know what that is.] And we often see wild boar!

So completely unfazed by my presence they wouldn't even look up.

There's some really weird stuff growing in Florida.

On Sunday, we drove along the canal in St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. This park is huge and has various entry points. We typically enter the northern section at the southern Brevard County line.

Loggerhead Shrike with a grasshopper

The canal here is hidden by a huge levee until you get to the end of the road where there's a dam, and a really dirty portable toilet. But there's a lot to see on this drive. Lots of birds, even wild turkeys. Raccoons, armadillos, deer. There are trails you can walk, but as I said, it's just too hot right now to get out of the car. (And, yeah, we run the AC even with the windows open!)

There wasn't much to see that day, though. It's just too hot, even for the wildlife. Soon the temperatures will dip just enough for us to regain some sense of sanity and we can, once again, leave the car...

What's that?
Right there...
The weeds?
Is that weeds?
I think it's weeds...
Pretty though.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Florida: why does anyone live here?

I was born in Florida and have lived here forever, unless you count that year we lived in Denver, but I don't count it because if you count that, then you'd count the summer we lived in Baltimore. We still had a house in Florida during those field assignments. Our address was still "Florida."

I'm not bragging here. I'd love to not live in Florida. Have I ever really liked it here? No. No, I haven't.

My childhood memories are all dusted in bright, white light. In pictures I'm squinting against it. As a child, I was forced to go to the beach regularly, where sand got everywhere and the salt water only left me sticky. I didn't tan then, and I don't tan now. I burn. Burn, burn, burn. I'm hitting my mid fifties now, so we'll see what cancers I got from all that Florida sun.

I love sweaters! How can a person who loves sweaters so much tolerate this heat? I remember in the 60s and 70s we had cold snaps and I had the best sweaters then! In high school, the local Catholic church put on a fair every fall and I wore those sweaters! I'd come home from walking around and around and around, take off my sweater and jeans and find my ankles, neck, face, and hands grayed with the dirt from the fairgrounds. Even dirt up my nose. Those were the days.

I crochet. Do you know what I love to crochet? Afghans. I have a rack of them. Beautiful afghans! Can I use afghans in Florida? No. No one needs an afghan in Florida.

I can't step outside my house, into the garage!, in the summer without sweat instantly soaking me, my upper lip beading. Talcum powder is my friend.

I cannot fathom how people lived in this mosquito infested swampland without air conditioning when they colonized this place. Why did they colonize this place?  Why would anyone want to do such a thing?

My northern friends are preparing for fall and Halloween, getting ready to pull out that winter wardrobe, and I'm sitting here in the crotch of the United States like an old fart railing against the unfairness of it all.

I want my nose to freeze when I go outside! I want to wear sweaters and coats! I want green trails in mountains, misty and crisp! I don't ever want to sweat under my boobs again!

Alas. Alack. It feels like 100° at 9:00 a.m. mid-August and all I can think of is hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Woe is me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Lichen, lichen, fungi, squirrel!

There was a time, many years ago, when I wanted to study fungi and lichen. Mostly mushrooms. Mushrooms, if you ask me, are just so cute! But I got sidetracked. Now I'm studying much as taking pictures of them and looking them up in my Sibley Field Guide to Birds is studying them.

Anyway, I was looking through some of my photos today, deleting most and selecting a few to post on my iStockPhoto page, and I came across a shoot from Turkey Creek done in October of 2017. (Oh, last seem so far away now.)

I wanted to share the lichen!

Lichen is defined as "a simple, slow-growing plant that typically forms a low, crust-like, leaf-like or branching growth on rocks walls and trees."

So, this is lichen:

If you want to know all there is to know about lichen, you can read all about it on its Wikipedia page.

Fungi is defined as "any of about 99,000 known species of organisms of the kingdom fungi, which includes the yeasts, rusts, smuts, mildews, molds, and mushrooms." Seriously, rusts and smuts? I really need to consider getting to know fungi better.

And, here is some fungi:

I don't know what kinds of lichen and fungi I'm showing you because I never learned. And there are so many! It will take a while to find their names.

But one thing is for certain, if you learn the difference between lichen and fungi you can really impress your friends when you're out on a nature walk. Unless your friends are smart, in which case you'll just sound like a tool.

More lichen:

Another thing I tell myself I'm going to learn about is flowers, especially the wild variety. I think I've learned that this is a morning glory:

But as I haven't really studied, I could be wrong. You'd let me know, wouldn't you? Here are a few other cool pics I have in that bunch.

I have no clue what these yellow flowers are.

And you never know when you're going to come across some cool trash in a sanctuary.

Here's a bee on another flower whose name I don't know. (Do you say "whose" for plants? If not, what do you say?)

And as promised, a squirrel.

Thanks for spending time looking at my Florida pics.

Monday, August 20, 2018


There it was...on Facebook. The call. Who, it asked, was in charge of planning the Class of '79 forty year reunion?

Strangely enough, my first thought was, "Didn't we already have the 40th reunion?" So, my second thought, "Are we that old?" doesn't really apply. Apparently I thought we were even older than we are.

So there it is. Next year, 2019, it will be forty years after I graduated from Titusville High School. Ah, memories... Hmph.

I do have some memories that are...funny, I suppose. I had the coolest pair of peach-colored bell-bottoms. Huge bells! HUGE! God, I miss those pants. And the tiny little body that fit into them. I got crapped on by a bird flying overhead one time and the dookie ran down the back of my hair. That was nice. I cried during school. A few times. I got yelled at by a teacher for writing "EAT ME" on the blackboard, really, really big. (I didn't understand why it was a bad thing to do. I guess I saw Animal House but just didn't get it.)

Our Spanish teacher ordered a banner with the mascot on it, the THS Terrier--grrrrrr!--and got a Scotty instead.

The Fightin' Scotties!
Paddi, by La Sequencia at Flickr

I didn't see that; she just told us about it. And one time, the club I was in was having a practice for our homecoming skit at Riverview so I went to the school, because the old section was called Riverview--it was originally Riverview Elementary--but they meant [the newer] Riverview Elementary, which I didn't even know existed. So, I didn't make it, obviously.

High School was just plain weird. And the reunions aren't much different. There you are, older, wiser, wondering what the hell that was all about. And there they are, still the same, it seems. Still the cliques of popular girls. The studs who are now fat and bald but think they're still studs. The nerds who are now doctors and the potheads...still chill. But everyone is really nice. And they've probably changed as much as I have and look at me thinking I'm still the same.

And every year the poster with the pictures of dead grads gets more and more populated.

Honestly, I think I go to the reunions just to show people that I survived.

Anyway, 1979 was an okay year. We killed disco that year with My Sharona.

There was a school shooting in San Diego, early in 1979, and I was hoping I could say it was, like, the first one ever in the US. wasn't. Dear lord was it NOT the first. The first school shooting was in the 1700s. Shit you not. Then there's a long list for the 1800s. Then a list for 1900-1930. After that, it goes by decade. When you get to 2000, you can see the historians were exhausted and stopped listing every single one. Now they just list how many people died in school shootings each year. Shit.

See for yourself at the History of School Shootings in the US.

Anyway, Voyager photos revealed Jupiter's rings in 1979. We got our first Space Shuttle, Columbia, that year. The Happy Meal was introduced. Of course, we had the Unabomber too. Oh, and the Susan B. Anthony silver dollar! I had one. I probably don't anymore. OMG. Off the Wall came out in 1979. It was excellent! Every song a winner.

Jimmy Carter was president. Man, what a sweet guy he was/is. Such a good, honest man. But we had the Iran Hostage Crisis, too.

Okay, so, just to make myself feel really, really old, get this: Chris Pratt was born in 1979!

In 1979, we had soap operas on tv all afternoon. I miss that. We had Eight is Enough, Laverne & Shirley, [Can you believe Lenny is doing that Food: Fact or Fiction show now?] The Love Boat. [I just saw Doc on The Last Sharknado!] Things were so...simple and stupid back then. Lou Grant. Wonder Woman. M*A*S*H.

And movies! The Amityville Horror. The Jerk. The Muppet Movie. And well, Roller Boogie. Maybe not the best year in film. I still haven't seen the Oscar films: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, and Norma Rae. I don't even know what Breaking Away is. I never saw Kramer vs. Kramer, either.

Speaking of Apocalypse Now, did you read about Trump arguing with representatives of Veterans Affairs over whether the film featured Agent Orange or Napalm. What a tool.

Yeah, so. Meh. I graduated high school in 1979. It was an okay year. My hometown is stagnant, if you ask me. But it was an okay place to grow up, I suppose.

I think the best thing about 1979 is the song, 1979. Seriously, one epic song.

Friday, August 17, 2018

I went outside today so you don't have to...

Snowy egret. Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

This morning, we went out to the Viera Wetlands and, like idiots, tried to walk it. It was so ridiculously hot we practically melted. The only reason I don't have a headache and stomachache right now is Red Robin's bacon cheeseburger and garlic fries. The only thing that cures heat exhaustion (and hangovers) is cheeseburgers and fries. (That's not true, by the way...except for the hangover part. They really do help hangovers.)

Limpkin at Viera Wetlands, Veira FL
August 17, 2018

We cut the walk short. Normally, the walk we make is about two miles, if I recall correctly. Today we might have done a mile. So hot. Back in the car, the temp said something stupid like 81°. No friggin' way. It had to be 101°. Add in your humidity factor heat index exchange or whatever wacky thing it is that weather people do and it felt like 115°!

Alligator at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Anyway, wildlife isn't as stupid as we are so we didn't see much. Alligators. Some really cute little ones, but not the smallest ones we've ever seen. Ibis, white and glossy. Red-winged black bird. Tri-colored heron. Snowy egret. Great egret and great blue heron. The usual anhingas. Gallinules with chicks. The two limpkins we always see. Black vultures. Even a red-shouldered hawk that caught and ate a small snake. I guess that's not bad, now that I've listed it out like that.

Gallinule with chicks at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

So, yeah, after taking a second shower (Florida!) we headed out to Red Robin and saw an Ohio license plate. Why would anyone come to Florida from Ohio in the dead of summer? We figure you northern people think we're joking about the heat and humidity. You say to yourselves, "Bah, heat. We know heat up here in O-Hiya-Oh." Well, we hope that dude learned his lesson.

Great blue heron and anhinga.
Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Only the hardiest of folk leave the air conditioning in August in Florida. You know that thing you northerners have called "spring cleaning?" You do that after you've been cooped up all winter and the house needs airing out. Well, in Florida, the closest we come is falleluliah. That's when the weather starts to feel less hot, sometime after Halloween. We might open up some windows and clean. Or we might just open the windows and forget the cleaning.

White Ibis at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

I really hate that beer commercial where the dude digs into a cooler on the beach, pulls out a can and shouts, "Summer is here!" Please. We don't go outside in the summer in Florida. Summer is painfully hot. There's nothing natural about sweating under your bra, folks. I guess I'll admit that if you go to the beach in a bikini you could enjoy a summer day, but you can't drink beer in the Florida sun. You'd die. Seriously. You. Will. Die.

Little gator at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Anyway, we heckled the people sitting outside at Starbucks and Chipotle--Idiots. Isn't bad enough they're drinking coffee or risking getting violently ill? They've got to sit outside in the Florida heat to do it?--and made it safely back home from our safari none the worse for wear. Whatever that means.*

Great egret at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Stay chill, people. Stay indoors.

*None the worse for wear means "not damaged, harmed, or made worse by something. Sometimes used ironically to indicate that someone or something would be improved by doing something." Hmph.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Out and about and the meaning of life...

Happy, relaxed squirrel.
Erna Nixon Park
August 8, 2018

We visited Erna Nixon Park last weekend. We haven't been there in quite a while. It's a boardwalk path through some natural Florida landscape. That means scrub, marsh, pines, oaks, vines, and maybe a squirrel.

Blue-gray gnatcatcher.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

Typically, parks like this are well peopled and that equals very little wildlife to be seen. People talk. Loud. Why do they talk on a nature walk? I have no idea. Sometimes people yell. Children yell a lot. And people also like to clomp clomp clomp. Maybe they think there are bears and they're trying to scare them away.

Leaf fallen onto the boardwalk railing.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 12, 2018

But, despite there being people there when we visited, and they were talking and clomping, we saw quite a few woodpeckers, even a pair of downy, and a blue-gray gnatcatcher chittering away to himself as he went about his business of, apparently, catching gnats.

Pileated Woodpecker
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

I think I'm coming back to something like normal. For so long I've struggled. I continued getting out into nature, but only because we were birding (quite amateur-ly). I could be in a very dark place, sobs just below the surface, but once outside, in the park, surrounded by trees, butterflies, dragonflies, water, and animals, hints of smiles filled my head and very often made it all the way to my lips.

Leaves suspended in spider web in corner of boardwalk railing.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

I'm grateful for that. Glad that I was able to get out of myself even for a while.

Upside down woodpecker, probably red-bellied.
Erna Nixon Park, FL
August 8, 2018

But these last few weeks, everything has become brighter. I think I'm actually normal now. Not that there is a normal...not exactly. But I feel what I think should be normal. I don't wake up sad; I don't fight off tears all day waiting until nighttime when I can drug myself back to sleep. Nope. I wake up normal. I remember more dreams. I'm somewhat happy most of the time. Sad occasionally. And spend the day doing something. Several somethings. As opposed to sitting around trying to figure out why this world is such a mess. Sure, it's a mess. But there is good here. And I intend to root it out everywhere I can.

Fallen leaf.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

That's normal.

Munched on leaf.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

So, let's try to keep the raging against the dying of the light (democracy, not my life) to a minimum, kept to its place in the grandiose scheme of things.

Bolt sunk into boardwalk railing.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

So, here's the plan: more blogging. And I have a big schedule for the fall book festival season coming up. I'm getting excited, even though events like these are stressful for introverts like me. But I expect to have a lot of fun. Here's the line up:

Decatur Book Festival. September 1-2, in Decatur, Georgia, of course.
Space Coast Comic Con, in Cocoa, Florida. September 7-9.
Sirens & Scrolls panel kicking of Brevard County Library Con. September 29.
Florida Writers Conference. October 19-21 in Altamonte Springs, FL. Always a great time.
Epcot's Food & Wine Festival. October 25. Not about books, but I'll be blogging!
Cocoa Village Book Fest. November 3, in Cocoa, Florida.
Miami Book Fair, pending, November 16-18 in downtown Miami, Florida.
Amelia Island Book Festival, pending, February 16, 2019, Fernandina Beach, Florida.

That's quite a lot of events!

Green leaves in the sunlight.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

Come visit me if you're in those areas at those times! Not only do I have books to sell, but I will have free candy and stickers with bling. BLING!

Shelf fungi. Erna Nixon Park. August 8, 2018

Did I tell you that I've got an account at iStock Photo? I'm looking for some other outlet for photography, but it'll do for now. I mean...other than the stuff I post on social media. The better stuff can be found at my iStock Photo page, though. That's right, sorry folks, you're getting the castoffs.

Downy Woodpecker.
Erna Nixon Park, August 8, 2018

But you're not interested in artsy fartsy anyway, right? Pictures can't all be "compelling" and "imbued with meaning." Sometimes it's just a bird. Nothing wrong with that. Amiright? Of course I am.