What’s New at the Five-Way Stop?

This newly unveiled sculpture, that’s what!

After months of arguing its merit at City Council meetings, it has been paid for, placed and now occupies the east side of the Seminole Road, Plaza Road and Sherry Drive convergance, creating five streets that meet in a large center. It’s an odd combination but it works well, possibly because it is directly in front of the Atlantic Beach Police and Fire Departments, the offices of City Hall?

A few years back the city erected its first sculpture:

This puzzles me.  I get that it’s meant to evoke a wave (I think) but every time I look at it, I think, “um, skate park?” The buffed white concrete and the curvature of it reminds me of a skater’s bowl. Swoosh, up glides the skater til he flips at the tip…and swooshes back down again. This white concrete thing just looks out of place there, to me. As an abstract art lover I understand it’s in the eye of the viewer.  And I don’t like this one. The style doesn’t fit with the old school tide clock, street lamps, and now the bronzed metal,  fantasy sculpture. You could argue that it’s an extension of Atlantic Beach’s thoroughly eclectic residential style and you wouldn’t be wrong; true, that.
Our newest sculpture though, captures the ambience of Atlantic Beach perfectly: it’s a sea turtle-oriented place filled with residents who love the magic of the beachlife.  A girl, wild and free, swims along with this elusive, endangered,  mighty sea turtle on adventures only the two of them will share.  Although it isn’t something I’d buy for my own home (in a smaller rendition) or garden, I think it reflects the mood and motif of Atlantic Beach just fine.  

They put this sculpture directly across the street from the puzzling concrete wave. It’s a good enough spot, though, but many had argued for and against a more visible placement: the roundabout in the town center, where Atlantic and Neptune Beaches meet.  The roundabout has a grassy center where the Christmas tree stands each holiday season, and is empty for the rest of the year.    I followed the discussion of this sculpture minimally, via the newspaper. 
“It will obstruct the ocean view!”
“Who will clean it?”
Blah, blah, blah and et cetera.  But now that it’s arrived and has been erected,  it’s obvious that it would have been much more commanding over at the roundabout.  The two cities could have shared ownership of it and it would have become an iconic image of our beach towns.  Now I wish I’d followed the discussion more closely.  It seems a shame that it’s been relegated to the Atlantic Beach 5-way stop; although we all will see it regularly, visitors to the Atlantic and Neptune Beaches won’t… and it had the potential to be one of those things you remember fondly about a city you visited. 

(The sculpture was proposed for the area in the distance, between the two palm trees.  It would’ve been awesome there!)

(Oh well. It still looks nice where it is. It’s lit at night, too.)

On the southern side of the five-way is the much-argued-about tide clock which the city had set aside “art” dollars in its budget to purchase, but due to public disapproval had to raise the funds privately in order to bring in:

I like the tide clock too.  I think it’s charming,  and is in keeping with the design style of the old style street lamps they put on this corner. 

The funding of all these art pieces has been distressing to many residents of Atlantic Beach.  I honestly didn’t pay attention to the debates beyond a glance because in general I approve of things that improve the visual appeal of our town. Who doesn’t fall for ‘curb appeal’?  We love our tree canopy, have imposed height limits on buildings and restrictions on rental properties…all things that contribute to community character so why not support community art?   I expect the arguments to be renewed in The Beaches Leader’s  opinion column  of the next few issues, definitely.   I personally love the esthetic embellishments here in Atlantic Beach.   I believe that things like art, parks, wider sidewalks for bike paths, charming street lamps and so forth contribute to the reputation, appearance, and quality of life of our community.  And that also affects our property value as well.  

The City of Atlantic Beach has continued with projects that have prettied it up over the past several years regardless of the voices that argue against it.  Atlantic Beach’s vibe has always been laid back and inclusive.  The design elements make it charming.

Photo of the Day

The recent heavy rains fed our yards and gardens so well they are now lush and abundant.
They also spawned the production of a new generation of healthy and plump mosquitos.  I wasn’t outside with the Canon Rebel more than two minutes when I hightailed it back to the house.  I don’t like mosquito repellant, so, goodbye, photo opp.  I’ll enjoy the lovely yellow flowers from my usual perch at the kitchen window.  

Who Do You Think You Are?

It’s a good idea to say the words out loud if who you are is someone you’re on the way to becoming.  Maybe if you say it out loud you’ll get there faster.

All you need to do is click around the blogosphere to find people who made some big or subtle changes in their life…and changed their lives.  It seems all you need to do is try something – something your soul seems to be telling you to do – and your journey is begun.  How many times have I read about someone who started their now-successful venture: jewelry making, blogging, painting, photography, design – whatever it is, from a desire for personal development and challenge, to see it actually grow and become this thing that transformed how they view themselves, and possibly, their lives?   

Those glimmers of desire, a yearning to indulge in a creative pursuit?  Answer them.  The successful ones did.  Their journeys might have been in fits and starts but they celebrate the process. I love to read the raw, confessional stuff that these fearless (mostly) women publish on their blogs and websites.  Perhaps you start with one idea in mind, or no idea at all – you just begin. Where it all leads might be surprising.  But you keep pushing forward.  Doing it, creating, trying.  Succeeding or not, you don’t abandon the process.

Is this trite?  Does everyone else know this already,  and I’m finally just getting with the program?

Maybe.  But that’s fine because I’ve always been a later bloomer.  I won’t say late, because it’s never too late.  Recently I learned of a woman well into her seventies who earned her PhD.  Now there’s an inspirational life.  It gives me hope that it’s not too late for me to become more fully who I want to be.  

I am a writer and photographer.  I’ve now been published three times in our local, twice-weekly newspaper as a guest columnist.  At this moment my fingers are hovering over the keyboard, itching to write the disclaimer which explains that this “honor” is really just something cute and not a thing to be taken seriously.  I frequent quite a few blogs of writers who can generate digital reams of prose that is worthy of being lauded as extremely original  or literary or journalistic,  but not cute.  I wonder how long it takes them to compose the piece that amazes me, amuses me, shocks me.  Such talent will always generate a good following but it’s often the giveaways that bring out the readership in the comments section.  Everyone wants a freebie, no?

And so I ask you in all sincerity: who do you think you are?  Who are you becoming?  Are you taking steps to fulfill your dreams? Are you willing to share your process with me?

Four Photos That Make Me Smile

Agapanthus, just starting to bloom, photographed with the Canon Rebel XSi.

Food as art: A spaghetti smile.
(Little Canon Elph)

Spaghetti smile, displayed as art!
(Little Canon Elph)

Tonight, a surprise rainbow.
(Little Canon Elph is supposed to live in my purse for photo opps such as these, but no.  Not tonight.  Thus, iPhone had to step in, which accounts for the less than dramatic picture.  Live, this was quite a nice, solid rainbow. Little Canon Elph should have been on duty tonight.)

Bonus Day

Memorial Day Weekend Monday.

A bonus day. It was a perfect day on the beach.  Blue skies.  Sunshine.  Sea breeze.  Low humidity.  

This is my bliss:

and this is theirs:

Swimming is great too but the beach is the best place to read.

So ends Memorial Day 2009.  A salute and a thank you to our veterans, and those who gave their lives for our freedom.


This summer we’re going to try things a different way.

We’re going for fun & free.

This year we said  no thank you to the country club pool membership…and signed up for the swim team at the local high school pool.  Cost:  none.  Several of us parents have decided to strike out on our own, so together we’re trying our local, low or no-cost natural resources in lieu of the club membership. 

Yesterday we went, for the first time, to find this pool, meet the coach, get the kids on the team.  It’s ironic that all the years of  driving past the high school we didn’t really know where on campus the pool was located. (In our defense, our kids are still in younger grades.)  But being the capable adults that we are, we figured that one out.  We had conferred together about making the switch from the private, country club pool, over to the public pool.  While we all do love the club and have had many good times there, lots of us are watching the Benjamins more closely than ever.  We’d heard good things about the summer swim team / city league held at the neighborhood high school.  When I called for information several weeks ago I was advised to sign up on the first day as “that location fills up quickly.”

Memorial Weekend was opening day at the pool.  We parents converged on the young coach, making jokes about our exodus from the private club. We wanted so much to like this new place, and to see ourselves happy there.   We arrived in a group, waving our checkbooks and clutching the downloaded registration forms, eager to secure our kids’ spot on the swim team.  We peppered her with questions, made self-deprecating jokes about having cut ourselves free from the monthly dues payments and high food and beverage bills. Really, though, I think we were holding our breath as we wanted this  first visit to the pool to reassure us that we did, in fact, make a good decision in leaving the comfort of the club behind.

For her part the coach handled us newbie parents in good humor.  She stifled her own smiles as we smacked our foreheads in glee when she told us there is no cost for the swim team.  That only ratcheted up the euphoria among us.

We, so accustomed to paying year round club fees that chafed at our budgets just for the privilege of swimming during the ten weeks of summer.  Now add to that about $300 for the registration fee for three kids, plus the swim team bathing suits (another $125 or so) and I’d be looking at writing a check for just over $400 for the privilege of forcing them (my kids don’t go willingly) to join the club’s swim team. We’d  practice a few times a week and endure interminably long swim meets that always cost more money because we’ve got to purchase food and drinks and snacks at whatever-club’s snack bar (or haul your own but what kid doesn’t want to order a Slush Puppy or eat from the buffet that’s being proffered?)  Being that we’re not competitive swimmers but merely a mom who’s looking for a lap lane and three kids who need to burn off some  summer energy and have a little competitive fun, this seems like the perfect fit, really.  Budget considering.

Sure there are a few downsides. The public pool doesn’t have shade.  As in, no shade at all.  No umbrella table, no table, no chairs.  Okay, I can bring my own beach chair but I really need to do something about the shade.  I see an attachable chair umbrella in  my immediate future. Rash guards for everyone. Check.  The public locker rooms are not much worse than what the club is currently offering its members.  Check.

The pool will probably be crowded.  Well, for a no-cost program, I guess we can deal with crowds.  We won’t know how that will be until it happens.  Because we’ll be  there together already with friends, we expect we’ll be laughing together regardless.  And most likely we’ll see other people we know enjoying the pool the same as we are.  Check.

There is no snack bar.  So we’ll pack our own cooler with budget-wise picnic foods. I suppose that a frozen juice bag will quickly become a Slush Puppy when that’s what your friends are having, too.  Check. 

This pool has a diving board. Check!

We conferred last night about our other plans for a Florida fun & free kind of summer. We decided we’ll plan low cost day trips once a week to lovely Florida locales.  I guess we’ve  somehow overlooked these sites during summers past, while we’ve been lolling around the club, I suppose.  We’ll go to Huegonot Park, Little and Big Talbot Islands,  and Anastasia Island beach.  Different beaches make you feel as though you’re on vacation, and when you pack up the cars and go with friends, it’s an instant party. Up to Fernandina, down to Ponce Inlet, over to Ichetucknee Springs.  

And of course, our own, ever-changing Atlantic Beach, with its shifting tide pools and and cooling sea breezes make this mom feel like she’s always on vacation.  We have a neighborhood Dad who does an ad hoc surf camp for the kids.  We can come and go without getting the car all sandy and that, in itself, is a great fun & free, summer resource.  Still, we have Dutton Island beckoning, and a walk on the Jax Beach pier and an ice cream cone spells summer fun close to home.  

Maybe this will be the summer when we actually do pack up the beach chairs and head over early to the Sea Walk Pavilion for the fun & free summer movies on the lawn, oceanfront?  Now when you live where we do, a place that offers all that we’ve got locally or within driving distance, it makes the term staycation truly mean something.

A Holiday Weekend, Salvaged

Sunday evening, Memorial Day Weekend, Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  8:00pm on a day that marked the end of a six-day monsoon saw people unwilling to give up the waves:

taking a stroll on the pier:

contemplating the scene on the strand, where live music was playing and people were out and about:

  coming in from the surf as the darkness encroached:

and hoping that tomorrow brings more of the same.

The end.

Tropical Storm or What?

This has been our third day of wild weather across the entire metro area.  Here at the beach it’s especially intense. We all think they might as well give it a name, call it a Tropical Storm and be done with it.  I’d christen it after one of my daughters whose behavior has been very stormy this week, but her name doesn’t begin with letter ‘A’.

All photos were taken from within the safety and comfort of my car.  I didn’t want to get the little Canon Elph (or my hair) wet.  Actually, one would be soaked through in a matter of moments; it’s incredibly windy and raining hard.  The sea is a roiling mass of chaos.  Lovely to look at but dangerous.  The water breached the Jax Beach pier and has taken out some sections of it.  The pier was closed today.

I think all of us beachlifers are feeling a little squeamish about this storm…it’s not even the start of the hurricane season yet.  Is there anything portentous  about this weather?  Or is that really just being superstitous?

The weather pundits love to forecast hurricane season.  And boy if there’s a storm brewing, aren’t they all down here in a hurry to broadcast from the beach,  aflutter with excitement.  Those of us who live in the real world of hurricanes and tropical storms have homes, possessions and lives at risk. We don’t have the security and resources of a major news network to protect us, so sure, Geraldo Rivera and Jim Cantore and Shephard Smith, it’s fun, isn’t it, to stand on the beach while the wind blows ever fiercer?  We’re scurrying around trying to figure out evacuation plans; what to take and what to protect and how to store the stuff we cannot take?  You pretty much have to wait until the last minute to decide whether to evacuate because it’s a huge deal, leaving it all behind.  So there we  sit, for a few days beforehand, while the networks are gleefully showing “Live Storm Coverage” 24/7, biting our nails and battening down the hatches.  Those of us who live close to the beach realize what could happen.  And although here in Jacksonville, it’s considered somewhat protected from the onslaught owing to the curvature of the coastline right at our shores, we understand how unpredictable and devastating a wind event can be.

So, this week, as the rain began on Monday and the winds gained intensity yesterday and today, I think we’re all wondering just a little if this early storm means we’re in for it this season.  

Or maybe it’s just me?

Humility and Trust

Have you ever had something happen, a situation that comes at you instantaneous and unexpected, and you’re forced to make a snap decision about how to handle it? You might pull it off, you might manage it effectively, but if you don’t, you face certain humiliation?  To up the ante you don’t have too much time to waste considering your options because if you don’t make a choice you won’t have a choice to make. Later on after it’s passed, after you’ve had a little time to think it over, you’re astonished by how well it all worked out – and how it could have gone 180 degrees differently.  It was, frankly an either / or predicament.  Any number of things could have occurred to alter the outcome from sweet relief to abject mortification – and they didn’t.  They didn’t. 

It was a discrete situation.  It happened, and then it was over.  Unlike other times in our lives when we’re beset by events that aren’t so immediately resolved however much we’d like them to be.  Instead of a crisis moment,  they are a condition; an amending of circumstances that might be precipitated by crisis, or other, more subtle influences that ultimately shift your reality from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’.  Or straight to point ‘d’, no stops along the way, an abrupt trajectory, a white-knuckle ride from ‘before’ to ‘after’.   There might be a continuum of condition, a sliding scale perhaps.   Whatever it is, you do understand that now is the time to call out the “coping skills”, that handy little term so useful when soothing others but is often a challenge when faced with adversity.  While you do hope that the condition will resolve itself by either miraculous means or luck, and soon, it doesn’t.  It’s here to stay. For a while, or forever, you just don’t know.

Unlike the sudden situation that comes and goes forcefully but swiftly, the condition settles in and brings its friends, the sinking feeling, the heart-in-the-throat, the punch-in-the-gut and the generalized anxiety. It’s a longer lasting state of being. It might take a few months but you realize that those feelings come with the condition, and what else can you do but figure out how to share the space without letting them take all the air in the room?

Sometimes you contemplate other people and wonder if they have a condition too? You’ve learned, from living with the condition for so long, that others’ lives aren’t always what you expect.  Maybe the condition is new to you, but living with a condition truly is the framework for many people’s lives and now it’s your framework too.   Perhaps security and oblivion were the aberration and the condition is more the norm. You dig a little deeper with people; they’ll fill you in.  Maybe you improve your social skills by asking how someone else is doing instead of perseverating on your own condition. There is such a thing as too much introspection.  It’s called self-absorption. 

Sinking feeling, punch-in-the-gut, heart-in-the-throat, and generalized anxiety come and go in varying measure from week to week or day to day. (They’re never far away.)  You might be coasting along just living in the moment (which = good coping skill) when suddenly you hear that someone you know has lost their house and hello! punch-in-the-gut.  Always there, always lurking.  Give them an opening and they’ll slither on in and wrap themselves around your thoughts and your viscera until you remind yourself that you’re in charge, not some feelings, and you struggle to regain your equilibrium however precarious you think that it is.  You aren’t going to lose to the condition.

Then one day you experience this little crisis moment; you have to react quickly, so you do, and everything that could have gone wrong, didn’t.  You think, quite simply, if that wasn’t God watching out for you, you don’t know what else to call it. Serendipity? You believe serendipity is God.  So you consider it in the larger context of your condition, when sometimes, you admit, you’ve wondered (and you can’t be the only one):  ‘‘where is God?”

So: this little crisis moment.  It’s an illumination, proof.  Proof that there is something larger than our own selves, who cares about our own, personal lives. Only you know how the crisis moment could have turned out.  Twenty different things could certainly have happened in that span of fifteen minutes; things you would not so easily forget.  Your tentative social abilities would have been eviscerated.  Instead you were spared.  It was, quite simply, like the voice of God straight to you, “I am here. I’ve got your back.  I’m glad to see that you understand this. Now about that situation you’re calling the condition? Release it to Me.  I don’t make guarantees because human life is hard at times, it just is.  But don’t let those other feelings you’re talking about take over because they crowd me out.  I’m a pacifist; I don’t fight.  If you call on me when you’re in distress –  like you just did – I won’t let you down.  Remember that, and carry on now…”

And just like that, I’m gifted with a bit of insight and while I didn’t actually hear the voice of God, you know they say that actions speak louder than words.





Sunday Plans

Last night we did this:

So this morning I am doing this:

And in a little while, I will do this: