Discovery’s Midnight Launch

At midnight last night I was on the beach to see another shuttle launch into the heavens. A shuttle launch never fails to gather a crowd, even after all this time. At midnight, though, we were a small group at the 20th Street Beach Access, and it was a mild, quiet, mostly clear middle-of-the-night.
Living so close to the beach I was able to scamper over just a few minutes before lift-off. Within seconds of the 11:59pm blast it lit the black sky with a bright orange glow and I could see the rocket and its fiery tail arching over the horizon.
My pictures were terrible. I should have practiced for these night shots but I didn’t so the results were disappointing. They did not reflect the awesome shuttle hurtling toward space that the twelve of us gaped at for a few minutes, until it was gone from sight. I applauded and one person joined me. It felt like the right thing to do.
Then we all went home.

Spotlight On: Atlantic Beach Lifeguard

Another great thing about our beaches is that they are manned and womanned by a team of experienced beach “first responders”, our awesome life guards.

Meet Adam.
Adam’s been a lifeguard in Atlantic Beach for four seasons now. He agreed to be photographed and interviewed for this site but I must declare that he kept his eyes trained on the water at all times – a consummate professional.
I asked a lot of questions about run outs and rip currents and how to spot them. You’d think I’d be able to recognize them by now but after ten summers on the beach I still feel incompetent about that. Adam pointed out an area close to shore where the color of the water was different, sandier, more churned up, and that suggested the beginnings of a run out. Adam told me that it’s possible that a run out could actually take a small child who might be playing in only thigh-deep water if they happened to be standing in the right spot. I’m generally not a fearful person but in the ocean…things can change so quickly.
He told me that there’d already been a rescue on the beach that day. He hadn’t been the responder and didn’t know details, but news is carried from station to station throughout the day.
Adam says that our beaches are the best and the people on the beach treat him really well. They offer him water, juice, snacks. Our beach access at 20th Street, doesn’t have a big red chair, so I’ve never developed a personal rapport with the lifeguards. But when he commented on the generosity of the people of on the beach…I felt good, and filed it away for the next time I’m near one. Remember your life guard! It’s hot up there, and our lives could be in his/her hands.
The lifeguards are out daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. They begin lifeguarding duty on weekends at the end of April til Memorial Day, then operate that same skeleton crew after Labor Day through the end of September. Then, we’re on our own.
Adam is trained as a firefighter and hopes to make that his full-time career. He’d prefer to work as close to our beaches community as possible; he’s still looking for the right opening. A friendly guy with an easy smile, Adam is 28…and single. Hey, I had to ask! I was conducting an interview, please. I’m no cougar and besides, I’ve got a great guy already. But I thought I’d put it out there for my single sisters: a future fire fighter, professional life guard who spoke politely with an easy smile, while watching his section of the ocean with careful eyes and whistle in hand. Adam was equal parts bashful and flattered to be interviewed which I found endearing. Best of all, he thinks our beaches here are the ultimate. Who am I to disagree?

The Last of Hurricane Bill, Evening Edition

Darn it all, my favorite neighborhood surfer told me that the waves spawned by Bill today were, “Epic. The best I’ve seen in a long time.” He surfed and said it was thrilling. And where I was I when I should have been on the beach with my camera?

In the house.

So tonight I stopped by to have a look and while the surf has subsided considerably, it was another “million dollar” evening on the shores of Atlantic Beach.

Regrettably both the Canon Rebel and the Little Canon Elph were at home, so once again, the ever faithful iPhone camera came to my rescue.

Perhaps the waves are now past their peak for the hardcore surfers, but they’re still alluring. And as always, it was a night for everyone at the beach, backlit by the western sunset. A chalky pink colored the edges of the sky while people gathered, doing their own thing before darkness came.

Lovers, watching the perfect waves unfurl.

This next image was so poignant on so many levels. As I go through my days here at the beaches I see the diversity of people who live here: families and singles; students and slackers; new couples, elderly couples, older people who’re active, and those who can no longer get around unassisted. Empty nesters and families with littles. Teenagers. Gay people, straight people, some people of color. We’re a little less diverse on the color spectrum but hopefully that’ll change as we move ahead.

When I saw this pair moving along, enjoying the gorgeousness of the beach as daylight dimmed along with everyone else, I was so glad I’d gotten a new photography app called Camera Genuis. This allows the trusty iPhone’s 3 megapixel camera to actually zoom in on your subject, so I hurriedly set it up and took the liberty of capturing this couple as they glided across the sand. I think iPhone did a very nice job given her inherent limitations (plus the available light was fading fast, and the zooming exacerbates the graininess of the photo):

“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” -Rod Stewart

It touched me deeply.

At 11th Street, Atlantic Beach…

…this sign was placed at intervels across the beach and met my eye the minute I set foot on the sand. It belied the gorgeousness of the surf on this glistening afternoon.

It was a perfect beach afternoon. The rip currents / run outs warnings always set me on edge and while I’d known that the ocean was going to be prone to run outs today, I’d never seen these signs out before. I’m not a surfer, so I don’t feel the rhythm of the moving ocean water in the same way they do. I love swimming but run outs / rip currents scare me. Before letting my kids charge into the ocean they and any friends who happen to be with us must suffer my “rip current overview lecture”, which is basically this:
And if the kids have their boogie boards as they often do I just say, “If you find yourself getting sucked away from the shore, just hang onto your board and enjoy the ride. I will get help.” Because eventually the current eases its grip and the swimmer can then swim parallel to shore and back in. But people often panic when they feel the current taking them, and panic + confusion = fear and fighting it, and that’s when disaster occurs. So some of the best advice I’ve heard is to remind people/kids to just hang onto the boogie board or surf board and “enjoy the ride”. I figure that if an agitated person can remember that, it might quell the panic and help them to remember what to do. Having never been caught in a rip current, I can only imagine how someone might feel as they find themselves getting further and further from shore. You’ve got to resist the urge to simply swim toward the beach; rather, swim parallel to the shore until you feel the current dissipate, and then you can swim to shore. But unless one is accustomed to the tempo of the constantly moving ocean water, it can be a terrifying experience, I think.
I guess I don’t need to tell you that my kid did not go into the water on this gorgeous afternoon.
I know the surfers have great anticipation for Bill’s waves, and experienced ones know how to use the rip current to their advantage. But I just stood on the beach and soaked up the sun. The sunshine shimmered with salt air. Tide was low and the beach was wide. The last of the kids who’re still off school in Atlantic Beach around here made the most of this final day of summer vacation before the weekend, which brings Monday’s return to school life.

Hurricane "Reality Check"

( in front of Neptune Beach’s City Hall offices, one block from the beach)

I guess it was about five years ago that the beaches cities brought in these poles and color-coded them to give us an “in your face” visual of how far, and how deep the storm surge would be at various distances from shore, depending upon the category status of the particular hurricane.

I’ve lived here for ten hurricane seasons and my insurance policy tells me that our home is 1,300 feet from the coast. So, while not ocean front, our proximity does give me pause. Especially since watching live coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Ike these past few years. So this morning when I drove past that “reality check” pole I had a rather visceral reaction to it (chilling). I grabbed for my trusty iPhone and pressed her camera into service once again. I guess they’ve made their point when you gaze at this multi-colored pole for a bit…and realize that your neighborhood could be largely submerged if the circumstances of storm strength, tide and wind converged. Your entire neighborhood could be destroyed. It’s not like we haven’t seen that happen before. The memory of the hurricanes of 2004: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne – all categories 3 and 4 at landfall – ripped across our state. And while we here in the beaches of Jacksonville – the First Coast beaches – Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beaches didn’t suffer the brunt of those hurricanes, I lost power for four days and I witnessed plenty of homes whose roofs sank under the weight of large water oak trees who can be easily uprooted by strong winds.

It makes me long for the security of having a hurricane-proof home. Honestly, if I was going to build a new home today, I would definitely use this technology, and not only because a hurricane-proof home is a sensible choice for the coast. It’s also tornado-proof, fire-proof, flood-proof energy efficient and green/sustainable. (And think of what you’d save on your insurance premiums, which only go upupup every year at renewal time. If they don’t drop your coverage completely.)

And so although Bill doesn’t appear bound for our shores at this point, I’m monitoring the tropics here, and have installed it on my bookmarks bar so it’s front and center for the duration of the storm season. I figure if we make to the second week of October, I can exhale.

Hurricane Names for 2009!

As of today it appears that these tropical events won’t be a threat to those of us who live at Jacksonville’s beaches. Take a look at the National Hurricane Center’s graphic in the previous post for the most current weather update on Tropical Storm Ana and Hurricane Bill.

A third named storm, Claudette, is making rain and weather up in the panhandle so…no worries for me.
I’ll be watching the tropics for these names that hopefully we won’t see:

2009 Hurricane Names






















And After Ana, Bill…

…another named storm, the second of the season, is brewing in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Bill has organized behind Ana.
[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]
Julia, of I’m Julia, commented about how she loves storms, and that got me to thinking…really, why worry? I can’t influence the storm’s track; I can be prepared, and then look for the interesting, I suppose. Interesting surf, surly skies, lots of rain. Free irrigation!
I am not going to focus on falling trees or storm surge or roofs blowing off in fierce winds. I need to develop a thicker skin around hurricane season because it’s going to go where it will. And while I’m always relieved when its course becomes clear that it’s not barreling towards Jacksonville’s beaches, my heart always goes out to the residents who are in the storm’s path.
[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]
You know, when your community experiences the turbulence of a tropical storm or hurricane there’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie and supportiveness amongst neighbors.
Last year we lost a young woman who was visiting the Atlantic/Neptune Beach area and decided to swim in the ocean’s waves generated by Tropical Storm Fay. Please, people, when the waves are no longer surfable: don’t go into the ocean. Stand safely on the beach with your camera, like me.

Tropical Storm Ana…

…is the first named storm of the 2009 Hurricane Season and its effects appear to be coming our way. This is the part of atlantic beachlife that just set me on edge during August and September. And the weather people, oh, isn’t their excitement palpable, when they’ve finally got something to actually follow, instead of sitting around on-air discussing the ‘what if…?’ scenario of the new storm seaon.

It’s when they actually descend onto a region with their cameras and storm equipment and start interviewing the hapless residents of the town to which said hurricane or tropical storm seems to be approaching, that I start having all sorts of one-side conversations with the TV.

“Yeah, sure, it’s all fun and games for YOU, Jim Cantore. What about those folks who’ve got to nail plywood over their window and face possible evacuation? You’ll be safe, holed up somewhere with the resources of The Weather Channel behind you. YOU won’t have to fight with the insurance company to put your life back together after the storm blows through.’

And so on goes my muttering.

But the surfers like the storms; the waves that come from storms hundreds of miles away are what they wait for all year long round here.

So another season is heating up in the Atlantic. Let’s all say “hello” to Ana and keep it right here at atlantic beachlife for your personal ‘tropical update’. (Ana is the red graphic with the ‘hurricane symbol’ marking her.

On Birthday Parties and Deleting Posts

Recently I wrote a post critical of certain birthday party choices that different parents make for their children. Having celebrated the birthday of my own child yesterday, I’ve got birthdays on the brain, and who among us doesn’t want to delight our child on this most special of days? Yet sometimes I feel that the way we celebrate our kids’ birthdays pales in comparison to the extravaganzas the kids attend in honor of their friends. With three children, I’ve seen a lot of different birthday parties.
Several people commented on my post, and gave their points of view, which I appreciated.
But later I worried that some parents might have read that post, which would almost certainly read judgemental despite my protestation to the contrary. I clearly am opinionated – who am I kidding? But do I want to hurt people’s feelings? No. I’m a sensitive soul myself, easily wounded by strong opinions of others at times.
So I pulled that post; hit delete. I haven’t changed my mind about certain things being given to kids as being overindulgent but I think I’d simply reached my own personal tipping point when I sat down and dashed off the original post. As the parent of two middle schoolers I’m now in a different realm where materialism is becoming more important to kids, and here is where I’ll stay for a good many years, I suspect. Their friends will have many things that my children won’t, and it might not simply be a matter of can we afford it? Just because a friend has this, that or the other, doesn’t mean that my kids will. And my kids will have things, or be allowed to do things that another set of children won’t. In finding my blogging “voice” I don’t want it to become critical of others and their choices that are not that important in the general scheme of things. I regret the post because it was rather obvious and if the subjects did happen to read it, I’d honestly feel badly about that. While it’s true that I don’t agree with some styles of birthday parties that parents throw for their kids, is it necessary to vent my feelings about materialism in a public place where someone might (think they) recognize their own selves? Now I believe it’s the kind of thing to be discussed in private, with my own family, if I feel a need to vent or pontificate about the choices that other people make.
So, it’s gone. And with it, a blogging lesson learned.
So tomorrow, let’s go back to the beach, shall we?

My Midsummer Giveaway Winner…Part Duex

Because I’m so lame about these things and my tech support person is taking a nap, I decided to go ahead and post the winner of my first giveaway via the Random Number Generator so everyone would see the result. Problem is once I cut and pasted the widget to the ‘new post’ I couldn’t get the cursor out of the number generator’s box to write text, so…I just posted it all alone, and made this the rest of the story.

So, the winner is…# 9, Anonymous… who signed her post, Zurg. Calling Zurg, who says she loves my blog (!): you are the winner! Come out and claim your prize. I’ll put you in touch with Mickey at Nicholas Landon Jewelry and you can decide which bracelet you love the most.

And Mickey: big hugs for sponsoring my first giveaway! Your jewelry is totally great, and you’ve been such a nice blog supporter / friend to me. Gracias, merci beaucoup, grazie, kamsahamnida and xie xie. Thanks to you in Spanish, French, Italian, Korean and Chinese.

It was really fun reading everyone’s comments about their summer plans. I love summer and it’s coming to an end, figuratively, here at atlantic beachlife. The kids start school on August 15 (that’s just too early) and life reverts to its more orderly and routine counterpart that the academic year requires. My inherent nature chafes at the the constraints these responsiblities place on us! I like an impromptu life!

So we’re soaking up the fun til the last day because once school starts, it suddenly feels like Fall; 95 degrees and sticky notwithstanding. It’s terribly confusing for me!

Congrats to you, the Anonymous Zurg! Happy Summer everyone.