Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Summer Horizons

I see these flat waters every day when I ride into work in the evening but usually I have left my departure too late o be able to stop and still get to work in time. So during my commute I look and I marvel, but on an afternoon off I can stop and spend a little time just looking.What amazes me, even after all these years, is how the sky and the sea join imperceptibly on the horizon. Indeed there is no horizon as one would conventionally expect to see one. The sea becomes air and the air becomes water and the dividing line is invisible.
Channel markers looking south toward the open waters of the Straits of Florida simply accentuate the desert barrenness of nothing that stretches to infinity. The US Coastguard puts out these markers in an effort to bring order to the void, but all the poles manage to do is emphasize the emptiness. It is time to get out on the water and i am ready to get my new cables installed on my skiff. Most people go out to fish. My wife and I go out to swim and contemplate how small we are and how large is our pelagic back yard. Summer in the Keys looks like this.

Lower Keys Ride

The skies have been a little bit hazy, thanks to a cover of thin, gauze-like clouds but the dry heat continues. The light makes some pictures, particularly those taken over water, come out as though sepia tinted.Cheyenne stayed home, snoring in the air conditioned house while I took off on a job, watering the boy's plants on Sugarloaf Key. They are freezing in Missouri, reporting cold temperatures (the 50's) and gray skies and they are ready to be home. In these parts one is supposed to photograph the motorcycle in an exotic locale, palms, water, islands and so forth in the background. I wanted the Bonneville with it's new utilitarian saddlebags to be posed industrially with a chunk of guard rail for background. I couldn't resist the dreamy seascapes alongside the highway so I pulled over and watched a couple not catching fish for a few moments.
The air was warm, the light was perfect, the Bonneville ran as a motorcycle should with 50,300 miles on the clock.

Cars emanate boredom on the highway, rightly or wrongly. I'd never have stopped to take pictures at random had I been driving the Ford.


It was a birthday party at 1075 Duval and it was a lovely evening to be out with a bunch of police officers. Mark on the left and Tami on the right, both work night shift. I get to tell them what to do, and sometimes they listen.Niko's mother is Japanese and John leaned over to ask her how to say "Happy Birthday" to Rachel the birthday girl. "Happy Birthday" Niko deadpanned. She's a police officer, paramedic, and emergency room nurse, always working somewhere to help people, but she doesn't speak Japanese. Some of us ordered sashimi, some ordered tempura or teryaki while I alone ordered an Udon, but we all had to wait a while.
After an hour and a half my soup appeared with a pile of fried vegetables which one is supposed to dip in the broth. I am Americanized so I like my fried food to be crunchy. I slurped like a proper Japanese, not least because I had been anticipating eating for a good long while. My Udon was the last to appear so I pretty much vacuumed it up.
Someone brought a cake and we embarrassed Rachel by singing Happy Birthday (in English).Rachel and I have worked in dispatch together for years as she is one of three dispatchers who have been there longer than me. Next year we agreed we will have dinner someplace where the food appears in less than two hours. Not fast food perhaps but at least not glacially slow; a place where excellent food can appear in less time than it takes an inexperienced officer to write an arrest affidavit.

Watson Trail 2

It takes a bit of ingenuity to find walks short enough not to over heat the dog and yet interesting enough to keep Cheyenne moving. The Jack Watson trail on Big Pine Key was a good choice as we hadn't been there for a while. Cheyenne stumped along the trail with a will.Until she spotted some water and promptly flopped into it to cool off. She had found one of those mosquito fighting canals that they used to dog into the rock across any Key where development was proposed. into these freshwater canals they would put Gambusia fish that like to eat mosquito larvae and can also live in damp mud when the water levels drop in dry season. I'm not sure how effective these ditches were (they don't use them anymore that's for sure) but they are still around and very puzzling until their purpose is explained.
I saw this spider-like palm and knocked off a quick picture. It was a good walk in the woods and a reminder that we need to come back more often, especially as summer is upon us and tourists are in shorter supply than in winter. On this walk we had the place entirely to ourselves, just as we like it, we misanthropes.

Watson Trail 1

I hadn't been out here in this corner of Big Pine Key for some time. This organized wildlife trail is on Key Deer Boulevard about a half mile past the Blue Hole.On this visit the trail seemed to have been spiffed up during the busy winter, with freshly painted signs and so forth. I really like pine trees as they remind me of the pines of my youth. I wrote of this trail here: http://conchscooter.blogspot.com/2008/03/walk-in-woods.html Generally I like my back wood trails a little less organized but one owes a tip of the hat to the man reproduced in this picture. Jack Watson was a wildlife ranger hired by a group of businessmen who bought the original land for this refuge determined to preserve this area that they had discovered on a trip to the Keys. Watson is credited with preserving the Key Deer that were almost entirely wiped out by the time World War Two was over. He managed the preserve such that 50 Key Deer grew to number 300 and got the species on the road to recovery.
Cheyenne and I saw none of them on our stroll but they are easy to spot all over the island elsewhere ironically enough.
The trail is flat of course and an easy walk on well manicured gravel. The loop took us about a half hour to stroll around, a slow three quarter mile walk with my Labrador pausing to smell absolutely everything.