Friday, February 27, 2009

A Visit to Florida

It's so nice to escape the dreary northwest winter (God bless it) and within a few hours be in the swirly humidity of Florida. Not only is it hot, but I'm reminded that not all life is dormant in the winter. Osprey are nesting on tall pillars. Gopher turtles scurry into sandy holes. Spanish moss drapes from tall cypress. Oranges are hanging heavy on the trees if they haven't already been harvested. Strawberries are in season and local festivals are happening.

Oh yeah, and I have also been vacationing in a nudist resort. There are no juicy details to share, just regular people who like to kick it in their birthday suit- year round. I think the fact that these folks live in a resort is more striking than the fact that it's a nudist community. The residents here are some families and mostly retired people. Actually, only married couples were allowed here until about 25 years ago, to promote a mellow, family-oriented vibe.

They are bonded by the fact that they like to have the freedom to be naked- which doesn't mean they always are, just that the option is there. Actually, with being so acclimated to the Florida weather, most resident nudists are wearing clothes if it's below 72, and inside with air conditioning if it's above 90. The resort draws all different kinds of folks, from a former head of the NYSE with his shiny kajillion dollar RV and hummer, to people who want to commune with nature and pitch a tent at one of the rustic campsites. What I really like about the lifestyle it is that it promotes an awareness of your own body in a healthful and non-judgemental way. No one has a perfect body, and since no one is hiding it, then no one is self-conscious, and you reach a totally new level of comfort.

Also, since the weather is so nice most of the time (there are more nudists per capita in the county north of Tampa than anywhere else in the country) most people spend a lot of time being active outside. These are the fitest retirees I've ever met. The other day I got a tennis lesson from a 71 year-old in amazing shape. He pointed out a man on the court next to us playing doubles, who was 85 (and looked 60). "That man has 14 YEARS on me, and look at him!" my instructor exclaimed. "Keeping active is the way to stay young."

So I've been enjoying the facilities, swimming daily, running in the woods, learning petanque (French-Canadian version of Bocci Ball), sunbathing, watching volleyball matches, and in the evening when it gets chilly in the 60's, taking a soak in the hot tub.

I wish I had some photos to post, but taking pictures here is strictly prohibited. For obvious reasons.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy V.D.

For the 5th year, I took part in the madness that is Valentine's Day at a flower shop. It was a great excuse to come to Bellingham and see old friends and co-workers, and get lost in piles of sweet-smells for a few days. Despite the long hours, we have a blast in our warehouse of creativity.

You talk to lots of people and hear about their lives, which is part of why flower shops are an important part of community. You might make bouquets for a man sending flowers to his wife of 40 years, or a husband in Iraq to his new bride, or a sister to her sister, or a dad getting a small bouquet for a young daughter. My favorite story though was from an older man who hobbled into the shop, eyes watery. He wanted to get a plant for his neighbor woman across the street. He explained that her husband had drowned a couple years ago while they were on vacation in Hawaii, and she was 6 months pregnant with their first child. His wife of 50-some years had also recently passed away. While the neighbors hardly knew each other at the time, they ended up bonding over their similar losses, and as he was also a pediatrician, he could answer her questions about the new baby. Now they have dinner together every Saturday night. He reminded me of how close love is to loss, and that sometimes the best relationships are unconventional.

The old man leaned in close to tell me, "And we're just good friends, there's nothing, you know, romantic going on." Well, I had assumed as much based on the age difference, but I thought it sweet that he made a point to clarify. I assured him that a plant was an appropriate "friendship" valentine gift, and the man wiped his eyes and left the shop smiling.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter Vacation

I've decided to take a break from the island for the rest of the winter- to work in Bellingham, see family, and do some traveling. I'm looking forward to a change of scenery, and just as much looking forward to returning to the yurt in the spring. I had a lovely last day here- horseback riding followed by a farewell dinner. It was a mostly outdoor meal, undetered by rain on a cozy porch, around a grill and fire. There were oysters with tomato-wine piquat sauce, mashed potatoes with summer's pesto, root veggies, grilled blackcod, steamed chard, and homemade chai with milk milked hours before from a local cow. It was a wonderful feast.

Here are a few more recent photos from this winter...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Doing my Reluctant Part to Pollute

Not to toot my own horn, but I live a lifestyle of pretty light environmental impact. I haven't owned a car for 5 years, instead cycling, walking, mass transiting, or sailing to get around. I lived off the grid for half of last year, only using minimal light generated by a solar panel. I eat almost entirely locally during our growing season, including produce, honey, and meat from Orcas. As much as I love Spanish wines and Argentine malbecs, I make a point to buy Washington wines and even San Juan vineyard or Lopez ones regularly. I compost, buy used clothes, and always bring my own grocery bag and coffee mug.

As hard as I try to minimize my consumption of fossil fuels, I bought a car today! It feels like a regressive step in a way, but a big move forward in others. I'm pretty excited to not have to ask for rides, bicycle in the pouring rain, hitch-hike in the dark, or take city buses loaded down with bags. It's a maroon '85 Toyota Camry, and looks pretty much like this one. It's a 5-speed that should get good mileage, and I bought it from the original owner who took great care of it.

Oh, and I've vowed to keep my front seat clean so I'm always ready to pick up hitch-hikers and start repaying the transportation gods for all the times I got great rides.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mental musical exercise

I'm learning an instrument for the first time in my life! It's the baritone ukulele, and it totally rocks. Forget your assumptions about how ukuleles sound- the baritone is different, more like a small, 4-stringed guitar. I love to sing, and it is so satisfying to be able to accompany myself now. Having such small hands, I always struggled with the guitar, but the moment I picked up the baritone uke, it just felt natural. It feels accessible, and yet I have to remember that learning a new instrument takes time, and even simple chord changes challenge my brain more than it seems like they should. I'm stoked and I can't thank Jon Manning enough for introducing it to me over bubble tea.