Eastern Market Summer Saturday





Detroit, Michigan’s Eastern Market has to be one of the country’s older farmer’s markets.  It’s in downtown Detroit and Saturdays is its largest draw.  There are restaurant supply companies and little specialty markets in the district, but Saturdays is when it comes to life, and has been the only day of the week I’ve ever gone there.  Now that I live in Florida, it’s been ages since I’ve been to Eastern Market.  I’ve been reading this guy’s blog with fascination for his life in the city with his wife and kids (they live in a small historic district called Lafayette Park which is a pleasant area surrounded by decrepit Detroit (here’s an article about the architecture in the city in the Lafayette Park area); his elegant writing, his adventures and creative projects with his kid, and his trips to Eastern Market.  He and his wife have made a rich and satisfying life within the city that my Michigan family think I’m crazy to want to visit.  Hey, I used to work with kids in that city, back in the mid-90s. I went into the neighborhoods, into their homes, and saw dwellings so foreign to me that I had to feign nonchalance.  Surely I stuck out like a white girl in a Pontiac Sunbird, but never did I feel threatened despite the fact of the locale,  and the people I worked with who were (almost) always nice to me.  I also spent four years in a different Detroit career, downtown, playing with the big boys, although I was callow and naive at that time in my life. Later, I drove to Wayne State University for my Master’s degree, and loved it.  So I’ve been on these roads and walked the city streets, and I met my husband in a Detroit bar.  I’m not exactly a Detroit virgin.  I was born in Detroit, and grew up in a suburb that bordered Detroit. While I did not  grow up in the city with the city experience, quite different from my own, neither was I immune to it.

So this blogger used to post weekly pictures of his fresh food haul from these Saturday trips to Eastern Market,  and I was amazed by how much locally grown produce he got for such a small amount of money.  Since I’m in Florida, I’m stuck, pretty much, at Publix, but during my past few summer trips to Detroit (well, a close western suburb) during the annual Michigan trip with the family, I’ve longed to go into the city and have a look around.  Eastern Market was definitely on my to-go list.  But my desires were met by family resistance (“Oh, forget about that. Why would you want to do that?”  “Oooh, you don’t want to go there,” and so I acquiesced, and sat on the couch, instead.  Until this year.  (Well, I still sat on the couch, but I went into the city, finally.)  One Saturday I said, “I’m going to Eastern Market,” and took my foodie daughter and showed her the place.  You should have seen her face when confronted with all that fresh, colorful produce.  Here are some pictures from that day.  On another day, I went into the city again…but I didn’t tell anyone until afterwards.  Oooh, so daring!  But here are some pictures from the best farmer’s market around, with a great Saturday vibe.

























At home in the water, this is good water.*  There’s joy in good water, in full immersion, diving down and surfacing.  With no time pressure and sunshine it’s  tactile and sensual and cleansing all at once.  With no time pressure you can emerge and air dry and get hot again. In you go, back to the water which beckons.

It sounds so cliche, but this is how I experience the joy of good water, on a leisurely summer day. It’s a simple and exhilarating pleasure.

Lately, I’m adrift. I have lost my voice here. I haven’t been happy to write; I haven’t quit but I’m on pause.  I suppose the voice will come back but it feels like that voice is changing.  Writing through it will make it happen.

*Bouvier Bay off Anchor Bay off Lake St. Clair, in Michigan.

Summer 2011

My Blue Springs: A Love Story in Pictures

This was our third springs trip of the season; our first, to Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County.  Everyone knows this is my favorite springs of all – so far.  I’ve been to many, and enjoyed most of them, but nothing compares to Blue.  It’s like my first springs-love; the one you never forget.  The one you remember for always with a special place in your heart.

There’s so much about this place that makes me happy, and I’m not the only one who loves it here.  Its natural beauty thrills me.  Its cool, clear waters invite me  every time.  Fins and mask in place, I dive deep over the vent, or swim down the spring run, through the underwater plant life where the freshwater fish live.  There’s life in that water, and some 24 million gallons of it burst forth from the aquifer every day.  Maybe more.  I know it’s a second-magnitude spring, which staggers me as I’d have thought it a first.  But whatever.  It’s a wonderful place to take the family as there’s something here for everyone.

Privately owned, well-kept in a rustic atmosphere, that’s what I love about this place. The sandy beach entrance.  The quarter mile boardwalk that follows the spring run to the Santa Fe River.  The canoes or kayaks you can rent if you want to head out and explore life along the river.  A few smaller springs on the property, my favorite being Naked Spring for its natural beauty and intimate feel.

The pictures tell the story here.

This little spring is called Naked Spring.  Backstory on Naked Spring is here. These pictures were taken from its small, floating dock. Most picturesque. Unfortunately, there was a guy standing on the dock when I approached. I lingered, hoping he’d leave, so I could enjoy just a few minutes there, alone with my camera.  No such luck.

Above, the quarter mile boardwalk that follows the spring run to the Santa Fe River.  Many times, I’ve swam in the run out to the river…and back. You need your fins for this as the current is definitely a challenge. Upside? You can stand up in the water if you’re tired!  It’s not deep.  I feel strong and invigorated when I make this swim.  Also, the water temp between the spring run and the river is markedly different.  You swim into the river and instantly it feels ten degrees warmer.  You hang out in the river for a while, swimming about and treading water (fins make it all so easy).  Then, you know you have to swim back.  It’s like someone’s turned the hot water off in your shower, the minute your body leaves the river and enters the spring run again.  Yowsa.  Keep moving, you’ll get used to it!

See how the current flows in the spring run?

Big Blue Springs: quiet.

Second Springs Visit of 2011: Ichetucknee River

Last week, we took a group of Japanese students and their teachers to see one of Florida’s most pristine rivers and popular natural attraction: the Ichetucknee River and two springs – the headspring and the Blue Hole.

The Japanese were guests of three families from our school, and were visiting the States for their participation in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.  Our Odyssey leader requested to host a ‘homestay’ team and we were matched with this lovely group from Japan.

The teachers were a husband and wife team, both older than average.  “Like grandfather,” the Japanese man told me.

He’ll be 71 this week.

The students are middle schoolers.

And they were all delightful.

The only real English speaking person was his wife, Mioko.  The families who hosted took them to the beach a few times, down to St. Augustine, to the Alligator Farm, shopping, boating, had pool parties, and played Kinect on the X-box. No English required!

I attended the parties, and of course, the trip to Ichetucknee, which I anticipated greatly.  I didn’t even bring my camera.  Gasp!  I snapped a couple of pics with iPhone, and that was it.  

Our Japanese guests paid for all our tubes and rafts.  We needed the tube center’s van to haul them to the park (usually we have them tied onto our cars and they just retrieve).  We had a quick picnic lunch and then it was off to the river.  Oh, after a long school year and a HOT week in Maryland, by the time we got to the river’s edge, I dove into that crystal clear 72 degree water, and the cares of a long school year melted away.  I  do love being in the water.

Since we’d chosen one large raft (I had two girls in my care), and a single tube for me, I brought my snorkel gear and fins down to the river, having a place to keep them if I decided to use them during the tubing float.  I made sure I had extra twine, for tying things (like my flip flops) onto the raft.  I put my fins on right away which was a smart move. We’d rented the large raft because one of the two girls thinks she “doesn’t want to touch the water”  in this lovely clear river. The two agreed to share the raft, while I’d take the tube.  Once we’ve been on the river for 20 minutes or so, it’s ‘abandon ship’, and Jeannie’s left to corral three (how did I end up with three?! ) tubes and the large raft,  and keep us moving as a group.  It’s easy to get ahead of your friends on the river, if one’s a tentative tuber. There is some effort (not much, certainly easy and do-able; but one can’t be completely passive) involved in keeping your tube or raft floating down the center of the river.  It’s easy to drift from side to side, and the riverbank is lined with trees and logs and all kinds of interesting nooks and crannies that I do prefer to enjoy from the center of the river.  But I don’t freak out if the tube drifts and I have to push off from the bank.  I just preferred to keep the flotilla moving down the center of the river, so I did have to do some ‘against the current’ swimming, to go back and help someone, or ‘steer’ the raft along while also holding onto tubes so they didn’t drift away. Thank goodness I was using fins for it made all my in-the-water helping out possible.    I tied my  tube to the mother ship (raft), and soon, I’d tied the other two tubes, as well.  Thus accomplished, our group  (by now we’d acquired a third girl!) was now free to enjoy the river or the tubes, and I only had to assist one thing instead of four!  Now, it’s all good.  I loved being in the water, swimming along with my fins, for a good part of our two hour float.  After a while I got out to drape myself over one of the tubes and let the river take me…oh, that’s SO nice.  This is what’s so great about the Ichetucknee River tubing experience. One can swim, snorkel or float; or one can rent a small tube with a bottom on it, with a head rest and arms – there are options at the various tube rental places that dot the highway close to Ichetucknee State Park.

The larger group of Japanese kids, other adults and kids from our school were having a blast floating and swimming and log-rolling (really!) for nearly two hours, until we reached the stopping point.  Then we drove out of the south entrance and seven miles around the park to the north entrance, where the headspring was located; the Blue Hole, a second spring, was about 1/4 walk into the woods.  It’s well worth it to see (and swim in, if you’re a swimmer) both of these springs, when you come to Ichetucknee. Why drive all this way and not visit the actual springs?    Each has a different environment, and a different swimming experience, if you have a mask or goggles and can view the underwater world.  The springs create clear, freshwater ‘lakes’ or ‘large swimming holes’  with a ‘boil’ or ‘vent’, and a fair amount of fish to look at too, if you’re snorkeling.  I watched underwater as the Japanese kids swam with gleeful abandon in the Blue Hole.

After another, last swim of the day in the Ichetucknee headspring, it was time to make the two-hour drive home.  The two girls in my car were asleep before I drove out of the park, and never stirred until I reached the neighborhood.

It was a good day.

Hello Summer, Thank Goodness You’re Here, or: My Year with Odyssey of the Mind.

It’s been a long school year and it’s nearly over. I’m calling it over though there are some (er, one) in this house who needs to study for finals (and stop watching the Cartoon Network).

In the meantime, I’ve been to the University of Maryland and back, escorting our state’s winning  Odyssey of the Mind team to the World Finals.  It was our first year as a team and we won first place at Regionals, so we went on to the State Competition in Orlando.  There, the team knocked it out of the park very early on competition day,  and I started to think they had a chance to make it Worlds (well, everyone calls it Worlds, so I will too).  We waited for the entire day’s competition to conclude and for that evening’s awards ceremony with my heart pounding.  I’ll be honest:  I had mixed feelings about going on to Worlds.  Worlds is a BIG time deal and would require so much more of my time, money, energy and emotion, when I was really quite ready for it to be over – for so many reasons.  I co-coached this team to do something meaningful for one of my children, who’d never expressed any interest in anything extra-curricular,  and it became a school-year-long thing that has a story of its own – there were so many ups and downs and issues and triumphs and tensions… You know, the usual.  Except I don’t usually get involved in such matters at school.  Well, this year, I decided I would.

The day of state competition wound down and all the competing teams from across Florida gathered in the arena on the campus of University of Central Florida for the closing awards ceremony.  Emotion ran high in our section, as honorable mentions were given and we were not among them. We all knew the kids had nailed the public part of the competition, but there is also a private challenge (Spontaneous problem-solving)  that’s not open for public viewing – just the team and the judges. The scoring system and the challenges are quite complex.  Finally, it was time to announce the second, and first place winners.  You know, they build anticipation by announcing the honorable mention winners, for each of the five problem categories, in four divisions.  Then they start over, and announce the second and first place winners. (It’s a long ceremony!)  Finally,  second place  winner in our problem category and division was announced, and it was not us.  My heart was in my throat and the entire team and coaches were poised on the edges of their seats.  Finally, it happened.  “… in first place, and going on to Worlds: St. Paul’s Catholic School in Jacksonville Beach, Florida!” and the team ran wildly (myself included, I admit it) onto the stage, slapping outstretched hands all along the ways.  What a moment!

The kids claimed their trophy with unbridled joy – especially one of our boys, who’d been on various Odyssey teams over the past four years, and had joined ours, this year.  Pictures were taken, hugs all around, and we returned to our seats to let it all sink in.  We were the first team from the Manatee Region (four counties) to ever send a team to World Finals.  We were rock stars.

A coaches’ meeting followed immediately after the awards ceremony and our blazing victory, where the reality of our win sank in.  The costs of going to Worlds was discussed.  A million other details were rolled out – and I felt awash in a sea of mixed feelings.  Certainly, exhilaration of the win was stunning, but the reality of cost, fundraising, logistics, and team unity, were also forefront in my mind.  We had a team member threaten to quit, twice prior, each time just before the important competition.  The reasons for quitting were essentially a lack of interest/commitment to the team and program on the part of the parents.  The coaches had made numerous concessions for this team member over the past several months.  I was weary of that part of the coaching job, which had drained me in particular.

We had a wonderful person at our school – the person who’d brought Odyssey of the Mind to our school several years ago, and had coached teams to the State level every time, but her team hadn’t won Regionals this year, sadly.  Still, she and two of her young team members drove the two and a half hours from Jacksonville to Orlando to support us (and watch as many of the competitions as possible to prep, already, for next year’s Odyssey of the Mind team!). When we won first place, she swooped in and worked her magic, organizing us around fundraising and in the end – after various car washes, hot dog lunches, bake sales, social mixer night for adults, and very generous contributions from our school’s PTA, the Dads’ Club, and the Knights of Columbus – we had enough money in the bank to make it happen.  Each of the kids’ cost of staying in the dorm on campus was covered.  Also, the cost of the dorm coach was covered.  Guess who the dorm coach was?  Yes.  Me.

We still had the dramatic wait while the recalcitrant team member made up her mind about whether or not to join us for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  (She decided to participate.)  We still had the usual resistance of that team member’s parents. While everyone pitched in washing cars and supporting fundraisers, they participated peripherally.

All of this happened, too, with very few weeks between the State win, and the start of Worlds, with a spring break holiday from school thrown in to make our fundraising even more challenging. But it all came together so well.  We decided that since we were going to Worlds, we might as well embrace the entire cultural experience.  We requested a to be a buddy team which meant that our kids (and coaches) would sort of be like American hosts to a team coming from another country (yes, teams from about 14 other countries journeyed from as far away as Asia, Russia, and Africa).  We requested a homestay team which meant that families from our school community would host, in their homes, members of an international team who’d traveled to the U.S. for Worlds, to give that team a days-long, regular American experience.

Our buddy team was a South Korean group of kids who were the same age as our team, competing in a different problem category.  Our homestay team was a Japanese team – again, the same ages as the kids on our team, and also competing in a different problem category.  Great, because we could cheer each other on and not worry about them as The Competition!

It was truly amazing.  There were 800 teams from about fifteen countries in the competition.  In our problem category alone, we were one of 66 teams.  The whole campus was filled with students and coaches and parents.  We stayed on campus five nights and when we arrived I learned we’d been assigned to a non-airconditioned dorm, with community bathrooms down the hall.  Just like my freshman year of college – redux!  Except this time, I had a single.  My cell, as I called it, was stark and hot.  They all were.  Naturally, Maryland was experiencing its first,and early, heat-and-humidity wave of the summer.  HOT in the dorms.

But awesome too.  The kids had a blast in the dorm, where the hall was co-ed and mostly filled with South Korean kids.  South Korea sent 22 teams to Worlds this year.  Everywhere we went we heard Korean being spoken.  We found our buddy team and learned to communicate through smiles and simple words, for while they performed their skit entirely in English, their English skills in conversation were quite limited.  Odyssey hired a U of Maryland Korean American student to interpret for them and it was through her that we conversed with our new friends.  But it’s amazing how much kids can learn to interact, nonverbally.  Playing Ninja became a favorite activity as games sprouted spontaneously everywhere: dorm lobbies, metro platforms, outside the ballpark.

We competed and did not win or place.  This time, I felt we’d finish in the middle of the pack, somewhere in the 30s of 66 teams, so I was happy to see we were 25th of 66 teams!  After watching so many other teams compete, I could sense we wouldn’t take top honors but that didn’t matter so much now:  we were at World Finals of Odyssey of the Mind.  We were mixing with bright and creative kids from all over the world.  And five hot nights in a dorm was exactly where we needed to be; not off campus in a nice hotel, separate from the moments that made the entire Odyssey experience so singular for them.  The nights in the dorm, horsing around with themselves and new friends.  ‘Pin trading’ – an strategic enterprise one can’t quite explain until you’ve experienced it – was going on all times during down times.  Every team would bring their own team/state Odyssey pins, and then start hunting for cool pins from other teams.  All these pins are attached to a towel, and the kids would plop down and lay out their towels and negotiate with their peers for the pins they coveted.

This is indeed the longest post I’ve ever written, and I doubt that anyone will actually read it.  I’m writing it to tell you of the amazing journey I’ve been on during the past few weeks, and to explain my bloggy absence!  I suppose I could go on and on but I’ve bored you enough, so I’ll try to wrap this up now.  I am writing this more for me, than anyone, I think.

We had a great time with our buddy team.  They showed up at our team’s performance with cute signs, to cheer us on.  By sheer luck or providence, we happened to eat lunch after we competed in an off-campus little restaurant whose owners were Korean.  I told them about Odyssey, and our buddy team, and asked him to write ‘good luck’ to them, in Hangul, the Korean language.  He thought about it, asked exactly what we wanted to convey, as the translation of ‘good luck’ varies in Korean.  He settled on a ‘do your best!’ message, which was the exact right sentiment, and printed the characters onto our poster board with a pink Sharpie (we planned to write our sign to them during lunch, and so we conveniently had the materials with us!).  The kids then wrote the rest of their message to our buddy team in English, and signed their names.  It was a great sign!  The buddy team loved it.  I was glad we were able to impress, and not merely copy what they’d surprised us with earlier in the day.

We wanted to do something special with them, so on Monday, Memorial Day, we treated them to a major league baseball game.  We took them to see the Washington Nationals play the Philadelphia Phillies in Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.  It was awesome.  The boys and their coach (a male) loved it.  The girls, not so much, but they had fun and our seats were shaded the entire time, and for that I thanked God.  I couldn’t imagine sitting in that HOT sun and heat for nine innings. It was a Phillies crowd, despite the home stadium, and we all cheered for Nationals, who lost 5-4 (it was a good game!).

As a team, we were all over the University campus for events, competition, and activities, and we managed to take the metro into D.C. twice, en masse.  Yes, I did indeed don my bright yellow group tee shirt emblazoned with our school name, noting we were Odyssey state champs / World finalists and troop around Washington with our yellow-shirted pack.  Perfect for spotting everyone in a hurry, and count off the number of people in the group so we wouldn’t leave a kid inadvertently on the platform of the Metro or lose someone’s child in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.   I’m not usually one to travel in large groups, but I did it, and survived!  Had a great time, in fact.  There were moments…but in any venture, there are always moments.  I’d consider doing the coaching gig again, now that I’m experienced, and really know how to put together a team.  I’d have the team choose its members wisely: choose minds over friends, because a commitment to do this is a long-term one.  If a team member loses interest and decides it’s not so important anymore, it adds stress to the others.  The parents of the team members should also understand what their child is committing to doing.  I suppose I now have a greater understanding of a teacher’s experience, and how important the parent interaction/involvement can be.  I just have to say: if you’re a parent who’s a complainer or overly defensive of your child, tread carefully with the teacher.  They want to work with you…with being the operative word.  Teachers and coaches are human beings with feelings and I think that there’s probably a sort of line out there, different for all of us, that once crossed,  subtly changes things.  Perhaps it changes the way the teacher regards your child, and parents want what’s best for their child.   It’s good to pick one’s battles wisely.

Now that our team has been to Worlds, there’s been a lot of excited talk among the kids and everyone wants to join Odyssey.  I told my child, “You’re celebrities of the moment.  Odyssey is very cool, and fun, and a hard working, long-term group experience.  They need to understand that. They need to want to win and to put in the extra time it inherently requires as competition time approaches.”  Having seen the best of the best, I know what it takes to go the distance.  A new team forming with excitement at the beginning of a school year should truly understand Odyssey, and the creativity it affords kids, and understand that they do need to work to make it happen.  It helps if parents get it too, otherwise they inherently get sick of the long-term involvement and think nothing of leaving a team when months have already been invested in the effort.  It’s a wonderful thing to be involved in; I met so many Odyssey alumni who came up in the program and some who are still competing at the college level.

But now,  school is out, and summer is here, thank goodness. We’ll all have time to regroup and let our Worlds experience sink in, and fade away a bit, as the norms of summer livin’ take over.  No one’s more ready for this than I am.

Shelling Sapelo Island

If you come to Eagle Island with your own boat, Captain Andy Hill will spend a few hours with you, orienting you to the creeks and waterways so you can comfortably command your watercraft to all the places you might want to  go – or you can rent his boat and services and let him act as your guide.  Eagle Island would be the perfect place to arrive by boat, and you can stay the entire time without seeing a single other person. You can even order your groceries at the mainland’s local supermarket and Captain Andy will ensure that your kitchen is stocked and ready for your arrival.  You don’t have to leave the island, or the waterways, the entire time.

You’re snuggled in the back barrier islands – privately owned – interconnected by creeks and rivers and the intracoastal waterway and finally, the Atlantic. So  you can boat (or be taken!)  out to Sapelo Island, and enjoy a long, windswept beach all to yourself, and I mean all to yourself.  One could walk naked at the shoreline at high noon and not worry about being seen by another human being unless you brought one along.  William and Kate really ought to consider a trip to Eagle Island; they could live in anonymity and while I’m sure Captain Andy has hosted well-known individuals, he isn’t going to kiss and tell.

Sapelo Island is remote, pristine, and only accessible by a ferry if you’re coming to visit as part of the ‘general public’.

If you’re arriving via boat – either yours, or Captain Andy’s, you’ll have access to his truck so you can drive around Sapelo and out to its beach.  There’s a lot to see of the island, apart from the beach, but a as beachlifer, this is what made my day.

Eagle Island guests all know about Sapelo and its treasures: the natural marine forest, Hog Hammock and the 47 permanent residents of the Geechee culture, the white-sand, windswept beach with conch shell, sand dollars, and driftwood lying on the sand.  Show me a beach lover who isn’t enchanted by such treasures.

Andy gave us each a pail for shelling and some of us were more dogged in our pursuit of shell than others were.  It doesn’t take long to find a few, but for those of us who can’t stop with just one or two, you can walk a long, long way down the beach and back and fill that pail to overflowing with conchs and sand dollars that we just don’t have on my own neighborhood beach.  When I saw that Andy had returned with a pailful of beauties I set out again, determined to walk beyond where his footsteps ended in the sand, and that’s exactly what I did.  I kept walking and walking and for some reason I set the pail down, thinking, “I won’t go much farther, and I just carry back a few more in my hands.”

Well, a few more became a pile more and so I left those in a mound on the sand,  and kept walking.  I should have realized I could never carry so many shells without the pail, which by now was … a quarter mile behind me?

What did I do?  I couldn’t just leave those beautiful conch shells lying in the sand; my heart was racing for the excitement of finding them all.  I was wearing a tankini.  And, like I said…there weren’t any other human beings out there, except for my group who were so far beyond where I’d set the pail down… so… I removed that tankini top and made a carrying sack for my shells and still they were spilling out and I was holding that thing like a baby!  Crazy.   I made my way back to the mound I’d abandoned earlier and had to work those shells into my ‘tankini-sack’ and finally reached that half-full blue pail, where I gratefully deposited by bounty.  I tied my top back on and trod waaay back to where the others where gathering their stuff up to leave: perfect timing.  And no one was any the wiser.  Jeannie got her shells, and now they’re lining my deck and in my outside shower: so lovely.  And, a lovely memory – my solitary afternoon wandering a deserted beach dotted with magical shells.

Cleaning my shells before coming home from Eagle Island.

Outdoor Showering…

… is the best.

Living at the beach in Florida, an outdoor shower is a luxury/necessity for me. I love the beach but eschew beach sand in my home, so I’ve set up a pretty nice outdoor shower environment on our side deck. Last year we expanded it, too, because my husband knew how much I enjoyed showering under the stars even if I hadn’t been to the beach. I love it.

My three-day retreat at Eagle Island was a sensual delight.  Now don’t get all freaked out, y’all who don’t really know what the word sensual means.  Eagle Island was a delight to my senses. Visually: gorgeous.  Accommodations: luxurious, comfortable. Cuisine: perfection (someone else cooked. We had Low Country Boil; oysters and shrimp; seafood pasta and pecan crusted chicken breast. All I had to do was sit and dine). Mood: relaxed, and friendships formed.  Experiences: both active and languid.  Sunshine. Water. Trees. Sand. Shells. All the things that excite me.

With all the indoor/outdoor amenities, of course the lodge home would have an outdoor shower, which I rhapsodized over in a previous post.  I took 50% of my showers in that shower.  Awesome.

It was like a screened in cabin, and tucked under the expansive stairway leading from the ground level to the upper living area.  One could wander past and not even notice it.

It has a screened-porchlike door with a latch hook to lock it from the inside – not that anyone would barge in on you.  The interior was very roomy and two generous shower heads were set parallel, overtop, and a fieldstone floor.  I was utterly captivated.  Showering there, particularly in the dark of night, was one of my favorite things to do.

That fantastic outdoor shower: day and night, below.

It was charmingly decorated in found object style, and I plan to steal a few ideas to decorate my own outside shower.  Shells, and more shells!There’s really no excuse to miss the outdoor shower experience when you go to Eagle Island.  Every guest is given her own cozy robe to use during her stay, so there’s no worry of dashing from shower to room with but a towel wrapped around you.  Your thick towels stay nice and dry on the hooks inside.  There’s even specially made Eagle Island  liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner on hand (as there is in each of the lodge home’s bathrooms) for guests; nothing is overlooked.  

Take it from me, the outdoor showering aficionado: this was a killer shower set-up. I loved ever minute under the rainwater shower head, patting myself dry with a clean, thick towel, and letting the moisturizer sink into my skin while the cool spring breeze dried me off.  A refreshing and sensual way to start or end a day.  It was a girls’ getaway weekend so my shower was Just for Jeannie.  But if it’s a romantic getaway you have in mind for Eagle Island, this outdoor shower is definitely designed to accommodate two.

There is even a sink and mirror for your convenience!  Clearly, I’m enchanted, and wish I had a setup like this at my house.  While my own is much more basic, it’s still pretty great to be able to shower under the stars whenever I feel like it.

And there you have it.  Your tour of Eagle Island’s outdoor shower.  If you’re a guest here and don’t take advantage of this, you’re missing out.  Don’t let that happen!

Kayaking Mayhall Creek

Ever heard of the Mayhall Creek?

Neither had I, until I arrived at, Eagle Island.  Day two was our ‘hanging out’ day, which we did, so languorously, until our  guide Danny  Grissette of  Altamaha Coastal Tours arrived with the kayaks.  

How great to have a guide to get us all situated, and encouraging the reluctant among us (not me!).  One of our group was hesitant, unwilling to commit even while she was walking down the sloping dock to the water, saying, “I’m not sure,” while the rest of us  piled (ungracefully) into our kayaks. (Is getting into a kayak ever graceful?)  Reluctant Girl eventually did consent to riding the tandem kayak with Danny, our affable and most capable kayak guide.

Even Tami, the consummate city girl among us was game, outfitted in her cute swimsuit and signature PINK sunglasses.  All was well with her, looking fine in the yellow kayak that I kind of wanted for myself (yellow being my signature color;  ask anyone!).

Once she started paddling though, it got a little challenging. Tami circled the dock, and then heard me yell excitedly that I spotted a baby alligator.  I turned  back toward her only to see her making a beeline for the dock, saying, “No thanks.”  She was done. Well, that’s okay… now she can say she kayaked.  For about three minutes. But who’s counting?!

Mayhall Creek from my kayak

The conditions on the Mayhall Creek were somewhat challenging for me – the occasional kayaker.  The tide was coming in, the current was against us, and the wind was blowing in our faces.  I’m always last in any kayak group no matter how hard I try to keep up.  But I don’t mind; still, today was a workout on the outbound journey.  I wouldn’t have missed it for anything though.  I wasn’t coming out to a private island nestled within the salt marshes of the Georgia coast and passing up the chance to kayak there, particularly with a guide who did all the hard work of hauling the kayaks to and fro and ensuring the newbies were safe and comfortable.  He showed me how to use the rudder which helped a lot, as I was flailing from one side of the creek to the other!  Still, our group made it from Eagle Island to the mouth of the Darien River which was about a mile and a half each way – huzzah!  My last outing on a kayak was a put in point at Amelia Island all the way out to the Nassau Sound – a round trip journey of seven miles! Yowza; I was proud of that one.

Here’s our group:

Kayaking was fun. Tami, girl, you gotta give it another try!

Eagle Island: Our First Day

Meeting other travel and destination writers, and being ferried  out to Eagle Island by  the owner, our host (and yours, if you come, too) Andy Hill made for a lovely day. We’re a group of seven, all from different backgrounds and media, getting to know one another…and just relaxing in this most relaxing of venues. It’s has been a splendid day.

As afternoon melded into evening, Andy and his staff of two prepared a delicious low country boil while I took a walk down the path to the dock, as the citronella lanterns were lit to keep any pesky insects from bothering us.

I wandered with my camera for a bit, zeroing in on the macro, and particularly entranced with the flame.  The spacious and thoughtfully appointed house with its generous screened porches on both upper and lower levels was golden in the fading daylight.

To make the whole experience even better, someone else was preparing dinner.

Our gracious host, Andy Hill finishes up the Low Country Boil, replete with local Georgia shrimp from the Boone* family shrimpers, three generations of them providing fresh shrimp to families and restaurants all over the region, and other traditional ingredients that makes this dish so favored in the South.

The writers all gathered from their spaces in the house – some of us on laptops, others, resting, or reading – on the screened porch to enjoy a meal together and hear more from Andy Hill about his love for his several back barrier islands.

What a secret, hidden treasure Eagle Island is.

At end the day, I luxuriated in the best outdoor shower I’ve ever seen.  If you know me, you know I love my outdoor showers. This one was like a small, screened cabin, spacious enough for two shower heads attached to the ceiling, and several hooks for towels and robes and clothing in no danger of getting wet; a fieldstone floor, and a wooden bench for sitting, if you cared to.  And that is how I ended this day.  Showering by the light of the stars with nothing but the singing of the frogs to keep me company.

This is how Jeannie goes camping.  From the outdoor shower, to a comfy bed with clean sheets.

*more about Boone shrimper and the development of the TED (turtle excluding devices) later. We were lucky to meet the grandson of the inventor of this net, who helped prepare our delicious meal tonight.

Visiting Eagle Island

Have you heard of Eagle Island?

I hadn’t, not until I was invited by local public relations woman Leigh Cort of Leigh Cort Publicity in Ponte Vedra Beach to join her and five other journalists and bloggers on a media trip to spend three days and nights here.  Eagle Island is a back barrier private island off the coast of Georgia, north of St. Simon’s Island.  Touted as a ‘girls getaway’ for us writers, I was thrilled to be among those invited.  My new friends are Linda Erbele, who writes for Georgia Crossings, Motel.com, her own website , and is also editor of Georgia Trend Daily; Tami Reed of Talking With Tami, Rolling Out, and Kontrol Magazine; K.K. Synder of Southwest Georgia Living; and Jan Schroder, the Managing Editor of Travelgirl Magazine and her blog, Girls on the Go; and Jeyme Colodne of Best Self Atlanta Magazine.

Eagle Island is privately owned by Andy Hill, who has several small islands here, and is only developed to the extend that it allows guests to fully experience the quiet of a small island, in its natural condition save for the most comfortable home,  nestled among the Georgia coast’s barrier islands.  

Today, we all met in Darien, Georgia and were transported by Captain Andy, who acts as guide and concierge, with all our necessities to this luxurious home that is built with respect for the environment.

The home is outfitted with every amenity a guest could want, and the grounds are eco-groomed for walking pleasure.  Andy Hill has a deep love for nature, and serving his guests so they are comfortable, and free to explore the salt marshes, fish, go crabbing, kayaking, snoozing on the hammock or sleeping on the outdoor, hanging bed.  It’s two stories, each with wraparound screened porches.  The outdoor kitchen, pond, and fire pit, with pine-needled paths inviting you to walk about and take in the scenery which is … dead quiet.  More about all of that, later.

I’ll leave you with that for now,  as my new friends are getting acquainted around the large kitchen table while I’m here, blogging.  Watch for updates on our adventures, and lots of photos.  This is a lovely location, just an hour and a half from Jacksonville, four hours from Atlanta, and is easily accessible via air service to Brunswick, Georgia.  Then, of course, a short boat ride to Eagle Island.  Think:  complete and utter privacy.

So long for now!