Saturday, October 19, 2019

Winter Light

This is the time of year when summer breaks at 24 degrees North Latitude and cold fronts start to roll through the islands creating a familiar cycle of weather that lasts through April or even May. Except of course  that climate is changing and the weather thus changes too in small ways here and there for now.  
It used to be that after Fantasy Fest scheduled for next week by the way, one could expect increasingly cool temperatures as cold fronts stacked up with humidity dropping off noticeably followed by a period of pleasant weather cool enough to allow air conditioning to be turned off and windows and doors thrown open. Which hasn't happened for several years in my memory.
Earlier this week i noticed an early morning walk with Rusty on my day off produced a calamitous sensation of melting. We both had to pause after an hour and sit and get our composure back, Rusty panting and me dripping. I looked at my weather app and noticed north winds predicted for this weekend. Aha! I thought,m this humidity is the predictor of a mild early cold front, excellent.
Because that's how it works, first you get hot humid air pushed up from the south as air masses collide then the cold air from Up North starts to assert itself and winds start to clock round ("veer" in sailing talk) going from southeast to south and then southwest and then as dark clouds mass to the north the wind goes northwest and brings a line of rain which clears as the wind goes due north and honks and reduces temperatures to even a slow as 50 degrees in January or February. Which may not sound cold but it can be bone numbingly damp and windy and even visitors remark how cold it feels. We had a quick such blast last winter but it doesn't seem to last as long as it did, the cold snap season.
In November and December I enjoy cold fronts but by the time March rolls around I am ready for summer and swimming and fewer people, more heat and longer days. Getting dark at six o'clock when daylight savings ends in two weeks is really annoying, especially as dusk in the tropics is short and very abrupt when you live close to the equator so one minute it's day, the next it's night. In winter  it gets dark around 6pm or at most 6:30 while in summer it gets dark no later than 8:30 and at the moment its around 7:30 or so.
So when I got a lunch break and had forty minutes in hand in which to get some "shutter therapy"  I went to Higgs Beach.  Shutter therapy is so called by Robin Wong a photographer in Kuala Lumpur when he goes walkabout with his camera, and I find it a good way to exercise my legs and rest my mind when my dog isn't available. So there I was at Higgs Beach to find shadows and light and a desert of white sand and practice my black and white photography.
Key West's homeless population increases in winter oddly enough. Somehow they find their way down and they leave in Spring when the mosquitoes get more aggressive but just as  there is a permanent population in the city of people with homes there is a population year round of residentially challenged. The interesting thing  is that the city offers a multitude of  services including a free shelter and programs to get people off the street but for some, public living is preferable. The homeless don't bother me but what does bother me is when they are  a living symbol of social indifference. 
There is a population of working poor in Key West, the people who can't get into housing in this expensive city. First they can't pull together thousands of dollars for a deposit for a one room apartment. Consider that it may rent for $1500 a month which means a deposit could run you  $4500 to move in. Do that on a working salary...So instead  you end up sleeping at KOTS, the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter on Stock Island that gives everyone a chance to sleep in an air conditioned dormitory with showers and so forth. Dismal yes, but safe legal and dry. Key West is not the right destination for people hoping to start their lives on a wing and a prayer.  
For me, landing in Key West on my own boat, living for free at anchor and then in a marina was the way I eased into life one step at a time in a city that was never easy for newcomers. I had tried Key West earlier and found it too isolated but in the Internet era with a proper highway Key West was quite bearable and even enjoyable and somehow my wife and I found sensible jobs.  It is still something of a surprise to me that a town noted for it's vacation ethic to outsiders became the place where I settled down to a proper job, a career even and all almost by accident. 
In the hunt for winter light at Higgs Beach I found what I was looking for and at the African Cemetery I found a compass rose. It was as though it pointed the way forward with no idea how we will get through the winter but get through we most probably shall, with cold weather or not.