Wednesday, January 22, 2014

27 hours and counting

I spent most of today in a foul mood, so bad I even passed up a chance to stop at the Houston Art Museum (where there's a Bougeureau! and a Botticelli!) and until just a little while ago couldn't understand where it came from. I've been brooding all day about tomorrow being another of those anniversaries I wish I could ignore/sleep through/drink through, and just couldn't make the connection between it and my mood. I'm self-aware, no doubt about it. But we all know that none of that stuff works because sooner or later something would remind me of it or I'd wake up or sober up, so it's another day I have to tough out and just get through.

So what is tomorrow? One year ago the ex-husband filed for divorce and I was idiot enough to actually drive with him to the courthouse so he could file the papers. Of course, at that time I was still also idiot enough to not read the signs that he had another woman in the wings (Ha ha, good one because she's a flight attendant. Get it?), that I believed the thick smear of BS he was spreading over my every waking moment, and that he was a poor wounded soul who was in so very much psychic pain.

It's been two steps forward and a huge slide back for me some days and I really, really hate the sliding ones. They bleed me dry and leave me exhausted. Only 27 hours to go until I have just one more anniversary to get through, the big one on April 23rd. Do you think he thinks of these days too? Right. Another good one.

Thought of the day:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. (Maya Angelou)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Eat dessert first or even instead of

I am stopped for the night in Lafayette, Louisiana at a Walmart that allows me to stay for free. Not all Walmarts allow parking so I always make a point of going in and buying something when they do. Tonight I need white chocolate. More on that in a bit.

As the saying goes, though, there's no such thing as a free lunch so I'll be without electricity tonight. Last night I visited friends in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, parked in their church parking lot and was able to plug in, but visited with them so late that I didn't work on any of the approximately 527 photos I've taken and done nothing with yet. With no power tonight they're still not getting processed but I think there are some good ones there. On my way into Hattiesburg I stopped in Mobile and photographed the cathedral there, took some photos at my friends' church (he's the pastor), then found the cathedral here on Trip Advisor and had to stop. It turns out that I hit the trifecta in one Lafayette city block - a magnificent piece of architecture with dazzling stained glass windows, its own cemetery out back (with Louisiana's distinctive above-ground burial vaults), and a museum. What an enjoyable couple of hours.

Tomorrow I head into Texas and will make a dip down to Big Bend National Park for a look-see before heading north to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and back to Petrified Forest. The ranger I worked for at Andersonville was previously at Big Bend and if it looks as good as the website shows I may ask for help to work there next winter.

Finally, here's the story about the white chocolate. At dinner last night one of my friends ordered white chocolate bread pudding for dessert and shared it around. Had I known how sublime it would be I would have told the waiter to skip the starter and the entree and just bring me three of those. Back when we still operated our magnificent failure of a bakery in Washington we made bread pudding from chopped-up, several-day-old donuts. We let them get good and dry then rehydrated them with a slurry of milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, and I don't remember what else, piled the mess into a pie plate and baked it until set. It had a chunky texture held together with a custard "glue." It was really good. The dessert last night was not just really good, it was elegant and its look, flavor, and feel wholly unexpected. Instead of being held together with custard "glue" the pudding had the smooth, almost gel-like consistency and color of traditional egg-based custard. My goodness. It sat in a pool of white chocolate sauce, a creamy mix of melted white chocolate and whipping cream. It was all we could do not to lap at the plate like cats. I hardly looked at my triple chocolate cake. Mind you, I ate it, but hardly looked at it. So I did what any sane person would do - I asked our server for the recipe. He returned with a piece of paper that he set on the table like it was the check but turned out to be the recipe, and got himself a very nice tip.

It will be interesting to see if I can duplicate the recipe. It calls for two double boilers which is pretty funny because I have one sauce pan. Total. We'll see how it goes.

Thought of the day:

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude. (Julia Child)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Traveling on paper

I'm a dinosaur when it comes to travel. I admit I like to use a GPS to get me from here to there without a lot of swearing and backtracking, but I love using an atlas or map to get an overview, to see the lay of the land.

As I was making my way south through Florida after leaving Andersonville I saw the tiny red letters on my atlas that tell me there's something of interest nearby. Let me say that sometimes they might be of interest to someone, not necessarily me. As much as I love museums, something along the line of the national tractor museum is not exactly what I have in mind. But when I was in the neighborhood of Bradenton I saw, off to the east, Bok Tower and Sanctuary. Hooray for Google because I learned it's a National Historic Landmark, and that was good enough for me, but I'd have to catch it on my way back north due to a nonrefundable reservation in Key West.

Yesterday I stopped to see what this place was. A selling point was that the grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. It turns out I confused him with his father, the original Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed Central Park and the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1890. (By the way, a very good biography of Olmsted is Justin Martin's Genius of Place: the life of Frederick Law Olmsted.)

The introductory film at the gardens showed an overhead view of the grounds, a view I would like to have seen in person, but from the ground it was still lovely. Stately old trees dripping with Spanish moss were everywhere and camellias were in bloom. And of course, palm trees.

The highlight of the place was, naturally, the tower. It was built from 1927-1929 by Edward Bok. It's 205 feet high and is faced with pink and gray Georgia marble and Florida coquina, a limestone of shell and coral fragments.

Ceramic grilles near the top surround a 60-bell carillon. When I was there the carillonneur must have been practicing for a live concert because there was a lot of music being broadcast, but not one tune from start to finish. It was pretty nonetheless. The bells range in size from 16 pounds to more than 11 tons. The introductory video showed them being played via the use of levers that are pulled and released by the carillonneur as well as a complicated arrangement of foot pedals. The bells are cast on the sharp side of their notes and are fine tuned by lathes that shave off metal from the inside of each bell. I had no idea.

There are carvings and sculptures all over the tower. Herons are at the top, eagles are at the base of the bellchamber. The literature says they were all carved in place

The brass doors depict the Biblical story of Creation. There's a wrought iron fence around the tower, and Edward Bok's grave is inside the fence, just outside the doors, so it's impossible to get a close or straight-on view of them.

It's a beautiful place that gives the impression of being much larger than its 50 acres. Maybe it's because of the miles of orange orchards that surround it, or because of the skillful landscaping, but it's worth the trip of a few miles on country roads to hear the bells.


Quote of the day:
The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No.'  (Aaron Copland)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

La vida buena, la vida dulce

Today I left Key West after five beautiful days there. It was on my bucket list and I'm happy that I could cross it off the list with no complaints. For the last couple of weeks I kept an eye on the weather and it wasn't promising - cold by Florida standards, windy, and rainy. I found out toward the end of my stay that the weekend before my arrival had seen four inches of rain in 24 hours, even though January is supposed to be in the dry season. But last Saturday, the day I pulled in, was gorgeous; the gods had saved up all their smiles for me. I got the rig plugged in, water line connected, and repaired to the deck with a gin and tonic in hand.

This RV resort's sites are privately owned and can be rented when the owner is gone (obviously). Each of the waterfront lots has its own dock. Some are fancier than others depending on how much money was sunk into it by the owner. Mine was plain, not even a ladder into the water.

Other lots have boat moorage, like this one next door.

The water was like crystal and I was told it remained fairly shallow a long way out, crocodile- and shark-free, so I could easily snorkel from the dock. I elected to sign on with a couple of boats instead, one to Dry Tortugas National Park, and one to Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, a coral reef about 40 minutes out. They were two great trips, well, actually three because the Looe Key morning trip was so good I signed up for the afternoon one as well. After all, I was already wet.

Each of the sites also has a tiki hut. Mine, like the dock, was plain, but the space on the opposite side of me from the one with the boat was completely tricked out with a full kitchen: cherry cabinets, huge stainless side-by-side refrigerator-freezer, and granite countertops. They had a jet ski. Even so, how could I complain with a setup like this?

I'm now near Fort Myers, Florida, where it could get to freezing temperature tonight. I know it's not as bad as "up north," but it also isn't the Keys. I'm counting my blessings that it's still sunny.

Thought of the day:

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. (Oscar Wilde)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Not dead, not quitting

It's been pointed out to me that I've not posted in a long time. I know! I've made my way down Florida and have been in Key West since Saturday, on the hop every day.

On my way I stopped on a whim at The Ringling, a huge complex in Sarasota that is home to the John and Mable Ringling mansion, the circus museum, and the Ringling Art Museum. After that there were two nights at Flamingo campground in the southernmost part of the Everglades, where I had no Internet, water, or electricity but plenty of mosquitoes. One night I killed two dozen before going to bed and the survivors have retaliated by giving me at least as many bites. I don't think I ever have been so mosquito-bitten. Flamingo campground is 34 miles from the closest city which fortunately has the most amazing produce market, Robert Is Here, with the best milkshakes, so I was fortified coming and going.

I'll be back soon with photos of fun things I've seen along the way, promise.

P.S. I found the sun and warm.

Thought of the day:
Mosquitoes remind us we are not as high on the food chain as we think. (Tom Wilson)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Where's the sun? Where's the warm?

I'm now in Florida, admittedly not very far into Florida, but I'm already asking, Where's the sun? Where's the warm? It's chilly and cloudy with a low of about 20 tonight. I'll keep heading south and west until I can't go any further on land and it had better be warm and sunny. I don't know what I'll do if it's not, but it had better be.

Yesterday was my last day working at Andersonville. The two months flew like the wind but in that brief time I learned more about the Civil War than in all my time in school. This morning I finished a book called Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy by Peter Carlson, a nonfiction account of two New York reporters who were captured by the Confederacy and held for 19 months in Southern prisons, most notably Salisbury Prison, North Carolina. Salisbury was brutal even by Andersonville standards. It's an easy read, mostly reconstructed from their correspondence, but what I liked best about it was how it brought the war down from the Generals, big battles, death rates, and chronicles of disease to the people who lived in it and through it: those who participated in the Underground Railroad not only to help slaves escape north but also to protect Unionists, Confederate deserters, Union soldiers who came home to the south on furlough, and New York reporters who wanted to go home. 

But I digress.

While at Andersonville I found myself collecting tombstones. I've been accused of having "all these hobbies" and he was probably right, but I've enjoyed them all, including my fascination with cemeteries. While wandering the rows in the cemetery I started noting the different faiths represented at the top of most markers, birth and death dates, wars participated in, and what I call tombstone sayings. Families apparently have a designated number of spaces and lines in which to record something about their loved one. Lots and lots say things like BELOVED WIFE MOTHER AND NANA (punctuation not allowed). I don't plan to be planted but rather scattered so there won't be anything said about me that won't be carried on the wind, but I'd still like to think my kids or I could come up with something more original and on the far end of the sassy spectrum. One note, before I show a sample of the tombstones I've "collected," and I don't mean disrespect, but in the thousands of grave markers I walked among, not one said, HE WAS AN SOB.

So here are some that struck my heart or piqued my interest, leaving me with questions that likely will never be answered. I will apologize in advance for the funky spacing of the photos. It took me more time to try to place these in some kind of order than it did to take the photos and process them. Thanks, Blogger, for making it hard.

Gone fishing with the Lord.
I'm as free as a bird now.

A bag of tools by R.L. Sharpe.
All good Navy men rest in peace.


Beloved son and brother. God bless you, shining star.
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

I wonder what significance the lion and the lamb, with a child between them, has to the family.

Atomic veteran.
The symbol for atheism.

Eagle, globe, and anchor - Shanghai.

I love you until the 12th of never.
The same on his. Note they died within weeks of each other.

A Civil War era marker, I think a reinterment from another cemetery, but almost none of them have the date of death noted.

Two feathers.

May your garden grow in heaven.
Purple Heart. POW. Say goodbye, Ed.

I'm coming.
You're one of a kind.

Beloved father, pilot, & golfer. Bit of a rascal.
The giant is home.

I am with you at each new dawn.
A Southern lady of style & grace.




We love you. PS, God loves you.

The sunshine lady.

Don't worry, be happy.
Forever a song in my heart.
Her life touched many.

Volunteer American field service. Killed in action. Ambulance driver in Burma.

The first man to die at Andersonville. Subsequent graves were numbered.
Thought of the day:

Isn't it strange how princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common people, like you and me,
are builders for eternity?

Each is given a list of rules;
a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.

(R.L. Sharpe)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

And good riddance

I, for one, am happy 2013 is over and done. A steady diet of lies and cruelties large and small, loss, betrayal, fear, and a multitude of other negative and destructive emotions has met an arbitrary end. I've thought that 2013, with its ending digits of 13, might have been worse only if the year was 666. I'm glad it's done. There are still connections with the ex-husband but the contacts are getting to be fewer and fewer, and that's a very good thing for my mental and physical health.

I'm looking into 2014 with a fresh and renewed mind and spirit. I've resumed daily meditation. After abandoning my yoga practice last February, I'm ready to begin again. I also stopped writing in my journal when the worst of the pain abated, but will once more pursue it daily, even if only to record the many things I am grateful for. Won't you join me in noting one thing you count as a blessing, something you can at least grudgingly cut a notch for on the positive side of your life's balance? Even on my darkest days I could find a pinpoint of light to guide me. Your own beacon is flickering and beckoning to you.

Thought of the day:

Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me. (Walt Whitman)