Exploring New Beaches

Last weekend we visited the beaches on Little Talbot Island and Big Talbot Island, Florida. We took the charmingly down home ferry from Mayport, across the St. John’s River and then drove a few miles north to Little Talbot Island.  It was a beautiful day if a little chilly  (not complaining) and it was fun to explore a beachscape different from our own.  And the temperature didn’t matter to the kids who were completely invigorated by seeing a new beach.  It’s true that they’re getting bored with our own neighborhood beach, lovely as it is.  (Kids these days.)

When we got there it seemed as though we were truly someplace else.  

The beaches of Little Talbot Island are sandy white.  So lovely and wild.  I felt like we were on vacation, not merely a few miles from home.  
necessitated this…
…before getting back into the car for a short drive north to Big Talbot Island.  We only explored one small area; there’s much more to see and do.  But we headed for the ‘trees beach’, as iPhone and I wanted to take some pictures of a different sort of coastline.
The approach to the beach was so lovely, with all sorts of trees whose species I do not know.  Water oaks, perhaps, or live oaks, or some combo of the two.  But I loved that they were large and glorious, with grand limbs and oh, so picturesque.
That’s the family, standing yonder on the bench.
The view from there to the beach below…
…was so enticing that I just had to brave the climb down an awkward sand path just wearing flip flops and clutching iPhone (and a soda), but it was worth it.  
The kids ran and climbed these terrific, downed trees, while a few other people on the beach were surf fishing.  It was quiet, about six o’clock on a Sunday evening.  
They could have frolicked for much longer than we were able to stay. My daughter loves to climb a tree and rarely do we encounter a good climber.  So she was enchanted. Never mind that the trees were horizontal.    iPhone and I were struck by the photographic possibilities, especially because these trees were prone. 



iPhone wanted to try out some of her apps on the following pictures:
The top picture is the original photo. The next image was shown in the Camera Bag app with the Lolo filter.  The last picture uses the Helga filter from Camera Bag app.
This trio starts with the original image on the top. The second picture uses the Camera Bag app with the Helga filter. Finally, the last tree photo is shown using Camera Bag’s Lolo filter.
The next two photos show the original image first, with Lolo filter from Camera Bag app, second.


And finally, these last few photos were taken with no enhancements at all!  
It was a fun way to explore the beauty of atlantic beachlife.
Little Talbot Island and Big Talbot Island, brought to you by your host, Atlantic Beachlifer and her trusty sidekick, iPhone.

Protecting Us From Baby Birds and Lizards, 24/7

The baby bird was maimed and found lying on a garden stone.  Pumpkin,  occasional huntress and domestic garage cat, was toying with her prey.  Her sister Angel was eyeing the goings-on with interest.
Naturally we were all  distressed to see this baby bird on the ground, and the cats deciding which of them would have it for herself.  Lily tried to pick it up so we could at least get it out of harm’s way but the bird fluttered nervously from her hand. It skittered over to and sort of burrowed itself instinctively into the mulch pile nearby. It was remarkable how effectively this former tree camouflaged the baby bird. (None of this fake, dyed mulch here at beachlife house. Real gardeners prefer real mulch. Beachlife housewife’s a bit of a mulch snob.)  

Pumpkin, from whose mouth this tiny bird was rescued, sits proudly in the foreground.

Over the years we’ve become accustomed to stepping over maimed and half consumed bodies of small lizards in the garage.  I’ve actually become blase about seeing a lizard with its top half gone, presumably in the digestive tract of Angel or Pumpkin. Sometime it’s the lower portion that’s missing, leaving a lizard head with its eyes open and front legs outstretched, as though it had a chance, still, to dart away from either of these  hobbyist predators.

These our are sweet family pets, although my husband’s “allergies” require that they live in the garage. Whatever.  Four out of five of us love our cats and appreciate their own little personalities.  The fifth of us doesn’t get cats.  And with cats, I think, you either get them, or you don’t.  There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground about cats.  

So they pretty much enjoy their daily diet of Purina One and water, with the occasional lizard thrown in for sport and maybe some extra protein. I suppose their vigilance keeps those lizards from darting into the house and for that I’m truly grateful.  I know that gecko and small lizard images are beloved by many but frankly, lizards in the house skeeve me out.  So does having to dispose of a mutilated carcass but I’ve learned to look the other way.

I can’t remember a time when either of the cats successfully nabbed a bird or other small creature.  The cat of my youth would often leave her prizes (usually dead birds) at our back door. I suppose my Dad took care of its remains. So when we found Pumpkin with her baby bird, there was much to-do, and wondering what to do.

I sent Lily over to Mr. M for his advice (and secretly hoping he’d come over and get me out of this!) but she was soon back saying “all he knows about are sea turtles.”  Great.  Now I have to be the mom and deal with it.   But wait!  The tree guys were here, finally removing the palm that had cracked a week ago,
so I asked him.   He gently petted both cats, (he gets cats) told the kids it was ‘just nature’ and cradled the bird gently so we could see how badly it was injured.
(iPhone not at her best in these images which really is  why she’s NOT a real camera despite her often splendid performance at times.)
Tree guy decided it was best to let the little bird “rest” in the woods and went off to lay it down, particularly to hide it from the cats.

After dinner my husband and I decided to go for a short walk here:
and when we opened the door to go into the garage…yikes!  That bird was back.  Right there on the welcome mat. This time, it was Angel who’d claimed it.  (How did that cat find the bird? Tree guy’d hidden it pretty well.) Its head was already gone, and we could hear the tiny bones, crunching, as she licked her lips.  Truly a disturbing sight (which I had the courtesy not to photograph.)  

I reminded my husband (remember? the fifth family member, the one who does not get cats?) that when a cat brings her prey to your back door like that, it’s an honor.  She’s brought her prize home to her family.
Good guy that he is, he did not make me sweep up my cat’s carnage.  He did it, just like the guy should. 

Angel, meanwhile, sat there, content.  You could hardly blame her.  After all, “it’s nature”.

Sea Turtles, Part Trois

We were so happy to learn from that the rescued sea turtle’s health improved, and he’s already been released back into the ocean.  The girls reported this happy outcome to me, so I hightailed it over to X to get the dirt straight from the source.
Diagnosis:  dehydration.  The turtle was fed and hydrated orally.  The barnacles were scraped from his body.  X told me he was a loggerhead turtle, age eight.  
“Will he get any bigger than that?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied.  
(As if I would know.)
Apparently this guy will grow into maturity of about four feet in diameter.
“Was he male or female?”  I wondered.
X explained that that cannot be determined by a look-over. There’s an internal examination  to determine gender, and the State didn’t do that.  The turtle’s survival was paramount.  Gender in this context, irrelevant.
I was just rooting around for anecdotal information to make this story more interesting.  
I’d brought the sea turtle fact card X had given to the girls the other day.  I’m sorry to realize how little I know about sea turtles given that I’ve been X’s neighbor and have loved this coastline for over eight years.  He told me they made another rescue of a distressed turtle today.
He offered that the turtle who’d made the season’s first nest was a leatherback turtle, who weighs about one thousand pounds. Leatherbacks are rare, this far north up the Florida coast. The nest should hatch around the end of June.  
I’ll be keeping an eye on it for y’all.

Sea Turtles, Part Deux

a rescued sea turtle, waiting beneath a damp towel for help that was on the way.

X (“Don’t put me on the Internet”) also rescued a very sick sea turtle over the weekend.
My girls ran home to tell me it was in his little patrol car.
iPhone and I ran over to have a look, and snap a few photos.
Help was on the way for this turtle.  The State of Florida would take the turtle to a rehab center and, hopefully, nurse it back to health.
After taking several pictures of this lethargic but fortunate sea turtle I raised iPhone to X’s face…”Just my Facebook page?” I ventured.
“I don’t want to be on the Internet.”
(Not that any of my Internet gets much action.  X is a dedicated champion of the sea turtles but eschews attention.) I was especially interested in the turtle because of a very recent, well, Internet, discussion I’d been having about…yes, turtles…with some friends in an online group.
 I (finally) got the message.
I will never post X’s picture or mention the name  on the Internet. 
But here are some photos of the turtle.  When I remarked how barnacle encrusted he appeared  explained that yes, that’s what indicated he was ill.  That and, most likely, the fact that the turtle was lying on the beach.  I didn’t get the full story and X can be a bit laconic, so I didn’t press.
This poor turtle’s eye socket appeared sunken, and when I remarked, X then said that too was an indicator of his poor health.
This is all probably pretty obvious.  But me and iPhone, we like to ask questions.
We got over there just in time, too, for moments later the guy from the State arrived and lifted turtle from X’s patrol car, to the back of his van.
After the turtle was carefully lifted into the State rescue van, I chirped, “Wow, his first time in a car!”
X looked at me, pointedly.
“Um, right, his second time…,” I was sounding like the village idiot.
X had brought the turtle off the beach – in the beach patrol vehicle.

Turtle Season

We live exactly 1,300 feet from the shore, according to the insurance statistic keepers.  These things are crucial to know, I suppose, when one is writing a policy for a home in a hurricane-vulnerable region.  I mention this not to bring up the coming of hurricane season (hate hate hate all of that)…but to highlight our proximity to the beach for a really cool reason.

Sea turtles.

We happen to live in the neighborhood of one of the many Beaches Sea Turtle patrol volunteers.  For probably twenty years X has been patrolling our coastline every day.  In sea turtle nesting season he is logging up to 20 miles an outing, a couple of times a day.  He can spot when a loggerhead or other turtle has lumbered onto the shore to lay her hundred-plus eggs, bury them deeply, then returns to the sea.  So when his practiced eye spots a new nest, he erects a bright orange plastic netting to protect it, numbers the nest so its gestation period can be monitored. He also tacks the appropriate warning about not disturbing the nest or risk legal penalty, along with rules for human behavior on the beach and near the nest during turtle nesting season, which begins May 1 and ends in October. No flashlights are to be shined on the nest, no flash photography, beachfront residences are asked to darken their windows during the nesting season as well. 

Sea turtles are on the endangered species list.  If there is light shined on them or nearby when they are hatching it confuses them, as they are drawn toward the light, when they need to be drawn toward the sea.  Presumably they’d follow the moonlight to the water and make it in, their first brush with human obstacle and other predators thus evaded.  Once in the water they still have to overcome many deterrents to their reaching maturity and procreating, all of which can be Googled and read in greater detail than I feel like going into now.  The point of my lengthy preamble here is to report:

 Today, the very first turtle nest of the 2009 season was noted and tagged!  
The patrol used to tag the nest with the approximate dates of hatching, they said, but it became such a party around the nest – people showing up night after night (they usually hatch at dusk or so), cocktails and beach chairs, and of course you know that so many people won’t go anywhere without the dog… – that they felt a more subdued ambiance would be better for the hatchlings.

So…just a few of us who might happen to be ‘in the know’ (because we live at the beach and can guesstimate for ourselves a nest’s hatching due date) might monitor the nest at the end of its gestational period. I found myself ‘in the know’ late last summer, about a particular nest right at the edge of our beach walkway.  I, and a few others, showed up night after night, training our eyes on the sand within the orange netting…looking for any changes in the sandscape that would suggest the turtles had hatched and were on there way from within their deep hole, to the surface.

When the turtles are just beneath the surface and about ready to erupt, the sand will start to ‘bubble’.  Watching closely then, you can see it move…a little bit…hey, there it goes again…and…oh my god, it’s really happening…!

I was lucky, so lucky that night last summer when I arrived on the beach with my little daughter and our little neighbor, to check on the nest.  For there, nearly at the moment of our arrival…came the bubbling of the sand and the emergence of 103 small, crawling, endangered sea turtles!  Yikes, we were so thrilled.  It was really getting dark so we had to keep our eyes focused but there they were, these lovely, prized little creatures, crawling, alive, from their turtle nest and now toddling doggedly toward the sea.  It was low tide, so they had a long way to go, with the three of us prancing about the sand, to ensure that each little one made it safely to the water.

And we three were the only witnesses of this rare event.

(unhatched egg & egg shells left behind)

A couple of days later, the Sea Turtle Patrol will swing by in its sturdy little beach patrol car and comb through the sand to count the number of shells left behind.  They ensure all have hatched and report that number to the State of Florida.  This nest had 103 live turtles, and one egg (above) unhatched.

I happened to be lounging on the beach near the nest when the volunteers showed up to do their post-mortem process.  I photographed them, but was told in no uncertain terms: “Don’t put us on the Internet.”

“But it’s just my blog.  No one reads it,” I offered.  I had some great video too.  I was mightily impressed by their work.  

“I don’t want to be on the Internet,” I was told again again, tersely, barely looking up from their work.  I’ll call them  X, both of them. They’re both well into their seventies, and were on their hands and knees with rubber-gloved hands, combing through the sand and counting the shells.  

Which are soft, by the way.  

The Xs have been involved in Sea Turtle volunteer work for years and while they’ve turned over the management of the entire organization to a younger crew several years ago, they are still out there, patrolling, too, along with the other volunteers who care so deeply about this species.  I see them zip in and out of the neighborhood in the beach patrol car
but I’d never seen them actually at work.  Digging through the sand on a very hot day.  I’d lived on their street for eight years, and never really appreciated their labors. My girls know them very well as they scamper over to their house practically every day after school and come home with treats like hand-knitted flip flop decorations or sea turtle fact-and-coloring books. But having seen what they do, just when a nest has hatched, I am mightily impressed. I’m thankful for their efforts to give these mighty creatures now endangered, who start out as vulnerable hatchlings, a fighting chance.  You see, if a turtle makes it to maturity and reproduces, she returns to the beach she was born on to lay her own eggs.  Amazing!  Another wonderful reason to appreciate atlantic beachlife.

And so it begins again, the 2009 season.  I’ll be watching this nest…

The website for more information is visible in one of the photos, above.  See, I did that, on purpose.  Maybe Rosie, or my sister, or Uncle Paul or my cousin Maria, you know, my readership, will be interested enough to check out the work of the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol.

If any of you have read this far.

I asked my husband if he ever read the blog and he said, “yes,” in  his false voice.  I challenged him, and then he admitted, “but it’s so long.”

To My Mother on Her Birthday

Hi Mom,

It’s April 16th, a date that will be forever engraved in my mind and on my heart as your birthday.  Oh how you wanted to be feted on your special day and oh how you feted us, on ours. You always made me feel like my birthday was the one day where even the most outrageous dreams and wishes just might come true…a day rife with possibility.  I still feel that way about my birthday, yes, even at my age, and I know you felt that way about yours too. It was meant to be a day of magic and fun with great expectation.

You were such an awesome gift giver and always came up with the exact right thing.   I knew you wouldn’t let me down!  So it was sometimes a challenge to come up with something equally as cool or thoughtful for you, and I know you yearned for the magic, too.  I like to think I always came through in the end with a gift that would make you smile, and please your heart when you opened it. And you know what?  I feel satisfied that I did.  I know this because I now have so many of the pressies back in my possession.  In honor of your birthday I put out the art glass tulip plate I’d given you about ten years ago when we lived near Holland, Michigan.  You loved tulips and the spectacular Holland tulip festival, and wonderfully cool art glass creations.  I have the art glass vase on the tabletop across the room.  I have the cool, semi-vintage turquoise and amethyst necklace I chose for you a few years back.  I’m cherishing these things for you now,  because you don’t need them in Heaven.  And I’m looking over at the plate as I’m writing at this very moment… it’s a poignant reminder of you.

 You were born in the Spring, and you died in the Spring.  I really hated that your final journey was in Springtime.  I hated trudging into the hospital where you lay dying while the daffodils and tulips were pushing through the soil in the beds that cheerfully surrounded the building.  I suppose there really is no good time to die, but certainly not Spring, the season of rebirth.

But wait.  

Rebirth is exactly what death – as you believed, and taught to me – means… that you’ve arrived…at your place, with the Lord, and to be there in joy for all eternity.

When you were dying I learned that you’d actually been born on an Easter Sunday.  A few days after you’d died we realized it had been Ascension Thursday.  I like to think that this was a spiritual gift for you, and for us.  You loved the Lord with all your heart, never once wavered, all your life.  Your faith, and the practice of it, came so easily to you.  It’s not that way for me. I fight for it every day, but I do believe.   You just believed with such ease, though,  and lived your whole life true to the Creed.

And when it came time for you to leave us, even your leave-taking was peaceful.  The only thing that made watching you go easier (if you could call it that) was that you didn’t appear to suffer; you seemed peaceful.  And then you went home to Heaven on the anniversary of the date that Christ ascended there.  To the place He promised would be our home of peace and joy for all of time.  So: born on Easter and died on Ascension Thursday.  For a woman who lived her life as faithfully as you did, I feel strongly that these dates have a deeper significance than mere coincidence.

I spent your last birthday on Earth with you in the hospital.  Even though you weren’t aware that it was your birthday, I couldn’t bear to not have a present for you.  But what to get a dying mother who was slowly leaving all things material, behind?  Mom, I shopped in Kroger.  It was heart-rending, really, to be shopping for your birthday in the grocery store, but I was up and down that personal care aisle looking for something that would be relevant and of some comfort to you. It wouldn’t have felt right, given the reality of your life at that time, to come to you with a gaily wrapped, uselessly superficial present from a nice shop or gallery. Your needs were basic and your wants…well, I don’t think you wanted for  anything.  So,  I chose a box of Pond’s Facial Cleanser Cloths, and a pair of fuzzy socks. I knew you liked it when I would give you  the warm cloth facial every night in the hospital, and I thought you’d might appreciate your feet being cozy even if you really didn’t care from a practical point of view.  I wrapped these presents in your home, in your well-stocked gift wrap center, where a last minute daughter could always find some great selection of wrapping paper, ribbon and tape.  I’d hastily wrapped many a present there in your basement, over the years. 

I lay the gifts on your hospital bed, and helped as you gamely struggled to take off the ribbon although I don’t believe you understood it was your birthday.  I knew it didn’t matter anymore.  I needed to do it honor you though, because it was your birthday, your final birthday, and because I was there, with you.  

I hated to say goodbye to you, too, on your birthday, but I’d had to return to my home in Florida, having spent three weeks with you. It was just a twist of fate and a scheduling fix that sent me home on April 16.  But I was glad to have been with you to hold your hand,  on your last birthday, Mom.  Somewhere deep inside, though, you did comprehend the intimacy. I know you did.  We’ve all remarked on it:  the fact that you seemed to understand even though you were blissfully protected from the passage of time, and fear of the future.  Was it your faith, the ultimate partner, Jesus, who walked by your side from this world into the next?  Your family was with you every step of the way, your sweet husband nurturing you until the end.

I called Dad today, as I do most days, and wished him, “Happy Mom’s Birthday,” which he liked, I think.  It’s hard to think of him living without you  in the house, Mom, and I can’t believe this is your second birthday we’ve observed without you here.  But I want you to know that April 16 will always be Your Day and my gift to you is this letter.


Your beachlife daughter.  

And your last birthday gift to me? Those lovely starfish earrings. Did you know I was going to go all ‘beachlife’ on  you somehow?!

(A post-edit p.s.:  my mom is wearing the aforementioned necklace in the photo above.  Didn’t plan it that way; I simply noticed it after I’d written the letter and uploaded the picture.)


Hey, good times at Beachlife house this week as we’ve got our Michigan relatives visiting.

Relatives.  It sounds so formal, doesn’t it,  when really it’s anything but.  She’s Marghie, my cousin-almost-sister and we’ve been soul sisters since…well, let’s just say a damned long time.  She’s brought along her guy, Paul – her husband and baby daddy – and her baby, too.  But a strange thing has happened, I tell you.  Her baby grew and now he’s taller than she is.  Come to think of it, my baby is taller than I am too and, worse, he doesn’t think I’m his hero anymore.

A couple of days ago I found some notes I’d written, with all manner of cute preschooler observations he’d made, including: “Mommy? If I didn’t have you, I wouldn’t have a hero.”

Now, sure, I know, as a reader you think, “whatever.”  But to a mother, reading that sentence was very nearly a physical experience in that the words wrapped themselves around my heart and squeezed it, just a little.

I guess I’m going to have to work a little harder.  My baby is a sophisticated almost-teen who now sees his mother for who she really is.

I’ll have to ask Marghie if her baby still idolizes her.  As soul sisters, we were so lucky to have become moms within weeks of each other, to bright boys who, although quite different in temperament and style, seem to enjoy being together as much as we still do.

So we all hunkered down together in Beachlife house today watching the loose limbs and palm fronds hurtle from the bending trees as the winds tore through the coast and rain came down.  Later I discovered another tree leaning dangerously down (it’s dead) but luckily this time it doesn’t threaten anyone’s house. Still,  we have to call back the tree guys for another go round with chain saw.  And goodbye to the Benjamins.  

Je Suis Sous Chef

I bow to the greatness of my eleven and a half year old daughter and gladly serve her in the kitchen.

She handles the place with competence.  She needs very little supervision.  

She made Easter brunch, she did.
She buttered and cubed all 14 slices of bread, beat eggs, milk and spices, and measured quantities of cheese.  I put it all in the casserole and refrigerated.  Yesss!

She made her cute ‘bunny salad’ and I took a picture of it. Yesss!
She made, from scratch, her Grandma’s cheesecake…and I ate it.  Yesss!

The only thing I did was bake the Tilapia, which came with a yummy, pecan and breadcrumbs topping.   She watched, because, as we all know…she’ll do it the next time.

Lily rocks the kitchen!

Not Sure…

What I bring to this already crowded blogosphere?

I’m not creative.  I don’t sew, and if I did, it would certainly never occur to me to fashion cute girls’ skirts from funky beach towels.  And if I were, ever to do that, these certain girls would certainly not deign to wear them, however cute they may be.

I don’t offer classes in anything.

I would never, ever think to make budget knitting needles out of wooden spoons from the dollar store, with a handy husband to whittle them just so.  (She knows I’m referring to her, and I have nothing but – sigh – admiration for her prodigious talent and energy); This, a spur-of-the-moment educational and fun rainy day activity – all while on vacation.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.

I don’t make cute labels or do any crafts with my kids.  I do occasionally go to a craft store and buy craft items (so many opportunities that it’s alluring, but in reality I’m left looking, bewildered,  at the contents of the bag, feel overwhelmed and put them in a drawer.

I don’t have an etsy shop.  I’ve never made anything in my life that I am proud of…well, no.  I have created dish gardens that I think are fine enough to show you:

I thought they were lovely enough to gift, so I did.  And kept a few for us, too.  Okay, so I do like gardening.

I don’t cook, or create jewelry or write reviews.  I don’t paint. 

However I did recently wield a can of black spray paint with satisfying results:

Repurposed a formerly blue frame into this black one.  Was so proud of my mad spray painting skills.   So proud, in fact, that I went in search of other objects that might benefit from a little black, and found this boring formerly white starfish. Ah, such “adventure” in this modern beachlife home. Hey, no smirking.

As tickled as I am with my results they are hardly something fresh or new (except, of course, to me, and, well, isn’t that the point?).

So I continue to cast about for my creative niche.  And while it will probably never be something original enough to offer to a wider audience I’m learning to accept that if it makes me happy then that’s okay too.  It’s what I’d tell my own kids…I guess I miss my own mom for no matter how old I’d get, she’d have been there with her encouragement.  And for so long I didn’t really listen…but down deep, I think I heard.

And so.  While I’m no _________ (i-could-fill-in-the-blank-with-two-dozen-blog-names-at-least-but-it-would-seem-like-pandering), I’ll be who I am.  Your host of Atlantic Beachlife who will continue to bring you the finest of her kindergarten artwork while living in The Finest Beach Town on Florida’s First Coast.

I leave you with ‘my Peeps’, and another of Easter’s sweeter moments:

(app: Picolo with ‘sharpen’ and ‘posterize’ filters)

(no filter, just caramel oozing from a Cadbury egg.  Mmm.)


Tonight I walked to the beach. I was logy from my long nap, and trying to shake off images of the house that wasn’t mine. (See prior post.) It was evening already, rather windy with clouds, chilly.  I wore my favorite, lemon-colored wind breaker, possibly for the last time since our beachlife heat and humidity is starting to make its annual debut.  But for tonight it was refreshingly cool and just what I needed to snap out of the lethargy.  I was half-heartedly thinking about an iPhone photography challenge issued by the iPhoneography blogger:  Take a picture of what Easter means to you, and use one or more of iPhone’s photo apps to create something unique.

Void of ideas as usual, that didn’t stop me from snapping images that appealed to me.  I walked across the boardwalk at 20th Street, to “my” beach and then I saw it:  two old, dead, brown Christmas trees.

Had someone just cast them out to dune’s edge? (Such litterers, in this neighborhood – surely not!) They were not there on Friday.  Could they have ridden in on the tide and been left behind? (From where?).  So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my Easter image:

Twin Pines on Easter Sunday