A Real Holiday Season

This morning we were treated to a beautiful snow fall. A flake bumped up against the window over the sink to get my attention – saying, “Here we come.” A few minutes later I realized that there were lots of flakes falling – some of them dancing on upward drafts, not ready to fall to the ground where they would soon melt.

Snow and cold seem to be an important part of the Christmas season, at least for those of us who grew up in the northern regions of our country. I remember the excitement of hearing the knock on our door, running to open it to our guests because my childhood anticipation of the forthcoming party had reached its peak. I remember the scent of cold coming in, relatives handing presents to me for under the tree as they stomped the snow off their shoes, took off their boots, unwrapped scarfs, stuffed mittens and hats in sleeves, and handed to outstretched arms piles of coats to put on beds. All completed to chants of Merry Christmas from everyone to everyone. This ritual was also reversed every year as we went to homes of friends and family. The teeth-chattering cold in spite of being bundled up, the snow, the lights of the Christmas tree in the front window welcoming us in even before we got out of our car, and the crunch of snow with each step. Ah, and the foggy eye-glasses as soon as I entered the house. This is what I’m remembering of my Christmas’s past.

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We fly back to Michigan to be with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each year on the evening before we leave, we say goodbye to Naples by going for my favorite meal at one of my favorite restaurants, fish and chips at the Old Naples Pub on 3rd Street South in the oldest area of Naples. We went for early supper, as the sun was getting low over the Gulf of Mexico just 4 blocks away, but the temperature was still a balmy 80 f. We ate outdoors, with smiles because it was so perfect.

Christmas decorations had been put up during the previous week so we decided to go for a walk down 3rd Street after we had finished sharing a piece of key lime pie.

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What I see every year is a jolt to my emotional memories. Poinsettias don’t seem to belong with tropical plants – outdoors no less (even though my brain knows they grow into large shrubs in people’s yards). We smiled, enjoyed and laughed as we talked about how different Christmas feels in sub-tropical weather.

Driving home we went down 5th Avenue South just because we could. In high season, when we get back, it takes forever to drive this two-lane, 7 block shopping district because of the cars and people. In November we breezed through, with windows down and sunroof open.

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I hold these memories in my heart and smile, as I am now preparing for a real Christmas with cold and hopefully just a little snow. I have a poinsettia on the kitchen counter and no palm trees with lights wrapped around their trunks. I’ll see the palms in a few weeks.

It is strange how we come to believe that traditions should be the way we have always known them to be. One of the advantages of traveling and spending time in different locations has been learning that even the simplest activities of daily living can be different when people live in different climates, have different faith stories, are a part of a different culture. When I took students abroad to study culture I learned that culture learning requires an open mind, an ability to identify similarities and differences without judgement, an eagerness to explore and understand.

I wish you a holiday season in which you have the opportunity to explore and learn customs that are different than your own and that this experience brings you increased joy. I also hope you find a way to maybe assimilate a little bit of different into what you find familiar and comfortable.

I would love to read your stories if you write them into a blog and leave a link in the comments. Please do!

Reflections on the March

 

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Why participate in a public march – what do you hope to accomplish? Isn’t it a waste of time – who in power cares? As I browsed the internet over the past couple of days these questions were occasionally asked. Historically, the answer is that well organized marches made a difference in the lives of people who had been denied the rights guaranteed them under our Constitution.

It is a way of making our voices heard that is guaranteed under our Constitution. I have traveled in Russia and Cuba and was struck by how afraid people are to speak about their governments, how afraid people are of the police in Russia. My daughter-in-law immigrated from Russia as an adult and speaks forcefully about how difficult it is living in fear of serious consequences when people are a disfavored cultural group or speak out in dissent, speak truth, posses banned books that may expand a person’s perspective. Actually she doesn’t speak about that as much as she speaks about how much better it is to live in the free world. I marched for these reasons because I have observed that our new president’s fragile ego and need for constant demonstrations of support make me fear that, even though he says no one respects the Constitution more than he does, his insecurities cause him to act in ways that aren’t consistent with who he believes he is. I have seen way too many good people do really bad things because of their unresolved insecurities. So I decided to march.

I think the strongest reason I marched was because of guilt that I didn’t march in my younger days. I have carried that guilt with me for way too many years, silently. I was silently angry about racial discrimination, and I was silently angry about gender discrimination. Maybe I didn’t have the courage to be angry out loud, in public. Age and politics have given me the courage to be more public in stating my thoughts when I believe that something is wrong, when people aren’t playing fair, when people are being hurt in ways that aren’t right or just.

I didn’t think the sister march in Naples, Florida was going to be very big because this is a Republican strong-hold and Trump won Collier County. This is where a government official said that Occupy Wall Street demonstrators wouldn’t be tolerated here because this is where the 10% come to relax. None of us in the 90% disagreed. I was surprised when I found out that there was a march organized, and speculated that maybe a couple hundred would show up. It took courage for me to register, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to die with a clean political conscience if I didn’t do it. I had to pull up something greater than my “big girl panties.” I had to wear my “courageous girl panties.”

Here are my random observations and thoughts:

It wasn’t particularly well organized, or their organization hadn’t been publicized. They had kept the starting point of the march a secret. I soon realized that this march was much more spontaneous and grass-roots than nationally organized. How powerful it felt. All these people who didn’t know what was suppose to happen, making decisions and helping each other form a cohesive whole. The starting point ended up being 4 blocks away from where we were told to meet. We waited for a shuttle bus that never came. People around us were making decisions to walk east to the starting point, but JB and I decided to walk south to join up with the people who had already started (after all I didn’t expect there to be that many so they would all be gone by the time I reached the start). As we passed people walking to the meeting place, we told them the parade route and they joined with us – and we joined others at the next corner, and more at the next corner to join in the real march. Our little march to join the real march was attracting attention. Someone asked what we were marching for and received several different answers – one a little snarky.

By this time I was getting excited about the diversity of people. Don’t let me miss-lead you – this is a primarily white community with a sizable population of brown and black-skinned people working the service jobs but living further inland. They are living on the edge, literally and figuratively, and they probably had to work at keeping their lives together instead of marching. I guess I was marching for them. I want them to have the same chance at a slice of paradise that I so enjoy, even though I’m not a part of the 10%. Maybe I don’t belong here any more than they do – or they have as much of a right to belong here as I do. There were young families with children, many men walking with wives, people of all ages including old people with walkers, with limps; walking in physical pain but who couldn’t stay home.

I didn’t feel any anger in the march, instead I observed people feeling powerful – speaking out for what they believe is important for the good of society, our common good. People were holding signs on climate change, human rights, reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood, Affordable Care Act, anti-Trump, and my favorite “We shall over-comb.”

There were a few police. I saw a couple of police cars and a couple of police on bikes. Another police was directing the marchers to turn onto 5th Ave., probably more to keep us from expanding the march than to keep us from losing our way. The police weren’t on high alert – they were curious and maybe a little concerned about the large number.

There was no we-against-them. We all cheered and supported all causes. We laughed and talked. In the end, my favorite chant was “What does democracy look like?” “This is what democracy looks like.” (I need to wipe my eyes because I can’t see the screen through my tears.)

There were a lot of people marching. The Naples Daily News estimated that there were 2,500 – a few more than the 200-300 I anticipated. I didn’t think of the people on vacation who wanted to join in because they were away from the march where they live. As I walked along, I thought of the people I knew who were marching all over the country. I felt a connection with those in D.C., but also Lansing and Ann Arbor, Seattle and Los Angeles, Portland Maine and Portland Oregon. When I arrived home I was blown away by the news coverage of all the marches that exceeded expectations.

I was touched when I learned that people marched in Toronto, London, Paris, Germany, Australia and lots of cities in between. Thank you if you marched in support for us, but more so for marching for those issues that are important for you. Are they any different?We are a global community and whatever happens to one of us, impacts all of us. There is no way that we can be selfish in order to keeping ourselves safe and comfortable and prosperous. The only chance we have of protecting ourselves is to work with others to protect all peoples and the environment we live in.

As we left the march at the end of the route, JB and I held hands, and he said he was glad that he marched.

Me, too!

 

I’m also joining in The Travel Theme: March. See you there.

 

 

 

Breakfast at Blueberries

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We have a Sunday morning ritual of going to early church and then to Blueberries for breakfast. We never deviate from this routine when we are wintering Florida – right down to what we order. Our ritual has become routine so they no longer give us menus. We start with coffee, and I order two eggs over medium, whole wheat toast, and fruit. JB orders a short stack of blueberry pancakes that come with a hot blueberry compote. I then give him an egg and toast, he gives me a pancake and we both eat out of the fruit cup. Every Sunday – except when we deviate by adding bacon or potatoes. Today we were in an extra happy mood so we added Canadian bacon and a fresh squeezed orange juice.

Anyone driving up US 41 out of Naples can tell that Blueberries is a good restaurant for breakfast because of the people waiting on the porch for their number to be called. We have had other things on the menu – before we settled on our usual. We know the Greek omelette is wonderful, filled with feta cheese and fresh spinach. Friends have told us the eggs benedict is the best they have ever had. We go there for lunch or supper when we are hungry for a gyro sandwich. They make a really good one because the owner is Greek. The service is the efficient and non-intrusive kind that is found in Europe because most of the servers are Eastern European immigrants.

We don’t wait for a table, we wait for two seats at the counter (first come, first serve). We love the counter because we can watch the servers as they efficiently work together to keep the coffee and food moving. Four machines are constantly brewing fresh-ground coffee and whoever has a few free minutes is emptying grounds and starting new pots, even the owner. I enjoy the end of the counter where we can see the dance that takes place as plates of food coming from the kitchen are sorted by order and given the finishing touches, like a shake of powdered sugar, a cup of fruit, a scoop of butter, blueberry compote. Then whoever is available carries them to the correct table – or in our case to the counter.

We love going to Blueberries and have been going for enough seasons for the staff to recognize and greet us with smiles and a warm “How are you today?” We look forward to seeing them when we return each fall. But we also experience an extra joy that comes from sitting at the counter. Maybe you have noticed this if you are a counter sitter. We have the joy of talking with people who are sitting next to us. Sometimes we recognize people who we sat with before and we greet each other – but mostly they are regulars, too; and thus neighbors who we don’t know, yet. Blueberries is the place where we go and feel at home even though nobody knows our name.

 

Morning at the Beach

20150122-beach 001The Gulf of Mexico beach is just a 5 min. drive from my door but I haven’t gone this winter on one of those early morning photo excursions. I enjoy them so much so decided it was time to go on Thursday morning. I was motivated by my wonderful memories of joy and peace, remembering how all my senses are delighted when on the morning beach. I wanted to experience this again.

Thursday morning, however, something was wrong. I struggled to become engaged and didn’t feel my normal joy and peace. It wasn’t a problem with the beach as the water was a beautiful color, with the low tide exposing interesting patterns in the sand. The morning air was cool and the sun was gently warming my back. I walked to the water’s edge and was intrigued with a couple of starfish that had been dropped by the outgoing tide and were now being retrieved by the rising tide.

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I have been carefully choosing when to walk because of foot pain, so I did what I have done so many times in the past – I sat my fanny down on the sand and waited for the beach to come to me. Not much came to me except lots of walkers and a couple of gulls.

20150122-beach 004The problem was within me. I took some deep breaths to center myself and focused on the beach around me to catch the mood – but it didn’t happen. I felt a dullness of mind that interfered with my ability to engage and focus. My intention was to practice photographing the movement of water, and even though I took some shots, my heart wasn’t in it.

Today I am ready to admit that I am feeling this same dullness of mind in all that I do. It has taken me 10 times longer to write this blog than it normally takes me. I maintain my health through a very fine balance of self-care and medications. This time I think the balance of medications is off – and I need to cut back on a new medication for nerve pain I’m taking.

I am so thankful for my past doctor who taught me how to manage my self-care and for my current doctor who trusts me and is willing to work with me so I can make modifications as needed. I’ve looked at the weather predictions for the coming week and I think there will be some days that will be perfect for returning to the beach.

Lingering Look at Windows: Lemon Tree Inn

 

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I wouldn’t normally think of posting a photograph of a motel window for my Thursday’s Lingering Look at Windows. They are normally quite boring – seen one… boring. But when I define “lingering” as 30 years worth of looking I think this window has earned posting rights.

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For 30 years we have driven on US 41 just a block or two north of where it turns to go southeast, that corner where all the congestion is because it is where all the Naple’s action begins. This little stretch of road hasn’t always had so much traffic, but it has always had some congestion. They have widened the road (now 6 to 8 lanes wide) as the traffic increased.

In this area, the “Lemon ┬áTree Inn” caught my eye – still does – I look for it. It is a small motel in the old fashion way with just two stories in one section, just one story where the lead photo was taken. This is the kind of motel that lined all the US highways before the interstate system was built. It was always someplace I thought I would like to stay. But of course I would never pay to stay there when we were staying just around the corner and over the bridge.

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If I do decide to stay there, I had better do it quick. They are going to tear it down to build a new hotel. By the time we return next fall they will be building a three-story inn with a restaurant and shops. I’m sure it will be attractive and inviting as everything in downtown Naples is done to attract the discriminating tourist with money to spend. But I’m going to miss the old Lemon Tree. It is one more way that the sleepy little fishing village we once knew is disappearing and a vibrant, exciting new Naples is emerging. I love them both.

For additional looks at windows, visit:

http://lingeringvisions.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/a-lingering-look-at-windows-week-13/