Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scorched Earth

You'd think it was a deliberate government policy if you were a conspiracy nutter. Someone forgot to turn on the rain faucet in the Keys. Two weeks ago the met office on White Street was confidently predicting the start of the rainy season about now, as though they had a direct line to the rain makers, but here we are, as shriveled as raisins.
There's plenty of water, like the poet said, but none of it fit to drink, nor even to irrigate. Coconut palms do okay, their fronds get a little brown at the tips but they continue to provide greenery to remind us of what we are missing. Deciduous trees sprout leaves which promptly shrivel up and die after a week or two of waiting for moisture.The director of the Aqueduct Authority on vacation in upstate New York said they are being forced to run their desalinization plant on the mainland which would normally be turned off by now. It costs vast sums of money to operate and they are all hoping for enough rain to keep the level of the aquifer well above slat water intrusion levels. Burning energy to make water is ruinous and wasteful but that's where we are. Naturally draconian water restrictions are nowhere to be seen. It seems we have a God given right to as much of everything as our lawns require. And until climate change graces us with a change we sit and wait and enjoy the clear blue skies.


They come for the beaches but don't find sand. Some are disappointed by the find, I like the wildness of these short stretches of waterfront emptiness.Low tide produces rocks so people flock to Bahia Honda for the sandy beaches. I like to stand among the gravelly sand and the rocks and the flotsam and stare at the horizon.On the Pacific Coast they tout cold foggy coastlines of jagged rock, foam and heavy surf. Around these parts the waters tend to be flat punctuated by lumps of green mangroves, trees growing out of water.
It's not anything like the long sand flats along the shore of the west coast of Florida,...nor is it much like the sandy rolling dunes facing the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of the Sunshine State. It's the Florida Keys, a world apart.

Another Sunset

So, you think a car is useless when visiting the Florida Keys? I approve of that sentiment heartily because if every one of the two and a half million visitors to Key West got it into their heads to enjoy a sunset away from Mallory Square, The Top or any one of a dozen waterfront prime spots I wouldn't have the rest of the islands in the Lower Keys to myself.I wasn't really looking for a sunset the other night, I just wanted to take Cheyenne on a walk we hadn't done for a while so we ended up at Ohio Key and walked the beach all by ourselves for a half hour. If you don't count the locals who were already in residence on the island.My salt encrusted dog and I staggered back to the car as darkness descended and robbed the sky of the last of the colors and I heard the sounds of small children enjoying themselves. Normally small children don't do much for me but this lot reminded me of my own happier moments when I was their age, playing hide and seek in the dusk supervised by only our own good sense.Opening the shutter longer cleared away the cobwebs of the night and revealed Dad at the grill, and the children running around on foot and bicycles and punting a football. They sounded happy.Ohio Key has a huge campground on the north side, across from the wilderness area on the south half of the island. It's a getaway from people on the mainland to come down on weekends and fish and swim and let their children run loose in a way they feel is not possible in the suburbs. Fishing on the old Flagler Bridge was not apparently on the agenda.It was dinner time for the civilized but I am sure that by the time Cheyenne and I were home the bridge would occupied by firefly lights and men with poles hoping against hope for success on the running tide. Summer time in the Keys, miles from Mallory Square.

Riding The Highway

When I find myself on the corner on Highway One where Mad Dawgz barbecue used to be I find myself wondering where and what and why. The lot is cleared, the barbecue stand is gone and all hint of commerce has been erased from the former garden center turned eatery.Change seems to be a constant in the Keys, people come and stay a while and go "home" some of them content that they lived their dream for a while at least in the Fabulous Florida Keys. Some come and can't make it at all, not for a minute. They come and tell people how stuff was done Up North and I guarantee you there is nothing quite so aggravating to anyone who lives here as being told how to do something better in this place that welcomes anyone anyhow. Making a life for yourself here isn't always easy but it is made that much harder when you come here and try to change things. Be like my dog and enjoy the sunshine and relax.For a type A personality like myself learning to let go has been one of my middle aged life's hardest tasks and I have failed a few times at this necessary task. I am known at work as a fire breather because I expect things to be done a certain way. However when I explain to my young colleagues that we don't get nasty grams, I don't write people up, and we get to enjoy working in an atmosphere unencumbered by negative expectations the method in my madness usually becomes clear. If it doesn't they move to another shift where there is more excitement and drama. Being anal has it's compensations, and in Police Dispatch dotting t's and crossing i's is a good thing.In most of the United States you can get lost by moving. You can live in a big city and never seem to see the same face twice, or if you restrict your movements you can certainly keep seeing the same faces in your neighborhood. You can live in a community where nothing and no one changes, or you move over the hill and live in a completely new and stimulating environment. In the Florida Keys, not so. The Mile Markers delineate the parameters of life. The road goes only in one direction with no alternative routes. Intellectually it is easy to understand that life is governed by proximity; a glance at a map and it's obvious that land ends abruptly and tidal water is close by in every direction.However translating that perception into reality doesn't always work well. People get bored in communities all over this land even the most stimulating and usually end up limiting their travels despite the many opportunities they may have to see things new and different. I was rare among my colleagues in California in that I used to choose different routes too and from work and I would drive the mountain roads for the pleasure of a different horizon, for the desire to see a new vista. Most people, and I myself much of the time, stuck to the same dangerous curves of Highway 17 through the Santa Cruz mountains hoping it wasn't our turn to be crushed by passing indifferent traffic. I commuted by car in those years after riding to and from work and getting so tired in a day's work I felt it safer to drive a car. That was the measure of stuck in a rut I was. In the Keys there is no choice, there is but one road, surrounded by water on both sides, there and obvious. In the Keys you follow the road because there is no other and when the road runs out the journey is over. I still can't explain why some ride the road for longer than others and why some can't seem to settle into the groove. My wife and I found our way here by accident and stayed deliberately, very deliberately against our own expectations. I've seen others come and lose their minds trying to make this strange place, frequently a life long dream, work for them. I keep saying these small islands are the land of the inexplicable and how to come and why to stay is one of the biggest unexplained mysteries of all. Businesses come and go, people come and go, a paradigm for life itself. And here, sometimes, you can take the time to ponder the mystery.

The Lunatic

We are come round once again to that time of the month when the moon is full and the light at night is brighter than one has a right to expect. My civilized life in home and office had separated me from this natural truth and I was slightly surprised yesterday evening to see the almost full moon rising in the east.The incessant south east breezes had died down at last allowing calming flat seas at last and Cheyenne was busy exploring the beach and finding nasty things to smell so I had time to stand with the camera and think lunatic thoughts by myself.The Romans called crazy people lunatics believing them to be governed by the moon, luna, and the term has survived into the modern era. In many respects I feel the world about me is moving into an age of public lunacy as I listen to debates about our economic future and our political choices. As usual I revert to history to be my guide, as I am of the school that nothing new happens under sun and because we ignore history as a species we are doomed to repeat it.Every month the moon fills, or waxes and after it reaches maturity it thins out, or wanes, and over and over it repeats the cycle leading those of us who follow our own thoughts to be termed lunatics, waxing and waning ourselves as we hope for the best and expect the worst. We follow the sound of a different drum they say when we emigrate, change jobs, move across country and decide to not follow the fashion. "Key West?" they said. "That's a bit restrictive isn't it? What do you hope to find there?" The moon on the water perhaps? As we march toward what even the most optimistic voices in our country finally admit is a Great Depression led by people who are determined not to understand our past I give thanks that I live in a place where community means something and where natural beauty is still there to be admired and my wife and I have few enough preoccupations that we can still admire a sunrise or a moon rise and not have to worry too much about where our next paycheck is coming from.There are still lots of people on vacation and in a few weeks I will join their ranks and the whole concept of vacation has a lunatic ring to it. Turning one's back on where one lives and rushing off to spend money and time away. Recharging the batteries they call it and every journey these days feels like it could be the last for a while.There is no doubt I am tired and need a break but still I feel like a lunatic. In the face of Climate Change and Peak Oil and budget cuts in every direction except those that hurt the monied classes it seems lunatic to take a break. And yet how necessary. The next time I see a full moon it will be under a different sky and as lunatic as I may be, I cannot hardly wait.