Travels with Mimsy: Part 2

It’s official … if there were ever any doubt, Mimsy is not a Labrador Retriever. Apparently, she likes her water in shallow puddles and in drinking bowls. Vast spans of water that have no end in sight and are constantly in motion are not to be trusted. She wants nothing to do with even the gentle surf of the Gulf, and as you can see, she turns away, denying its existence.

For me, there is something magically therapeutic about the experience of being on the beach. On Sanibel Island, that experience is amplified, here there are no highrise buildings, no amusements but what nature provides, no traffic lights, and no fast food establishments outside of a Dairy Queen and Subway, here before the current zoning restrictions. Each visit I make an effort to absorb and memorize the input of each of my five senses. To the best of my ability, I tuck them into my memory bank, held safely and securely until the Midwestern winters call for a withdrawal, and a much-needed reminder of warmth, salt air, and the cry of gulls.

Hearing: It’s a looping soundtrack that changes throughout the day. The sound of the surf attacking or caressing the shore (depending on the weather) is a constant theme and the back-beat for every other rhythm. The early morning hours feature the sound of shorebirds, pelicans, and gulls as they begin their daily quest for food. The slap of fishing skiff’s hulls against the chop of the Gulf provides a staccato beat as they head out to begin their pursuits. The sun rises and people begin to populate the beach, murmurs of voices are added to the mix along with the squeals and laughter of children as they splash, running in and out of the waves. Eventually dusk falls, people and birds retreat to their nesting places and the soundtrack becomes muted until only the beat of the waves against the shore remains.

Vision: Before sunrise, the color palette of the seascape is muted, one of cool blues and grays. The sky bleeds into the water as they struggle for distinction. Then the sun rises and the horizon becomes a razor-sharp line dividing the elements. On a cloudless day, the brilliance of the sun creates a hot-spot directly below and highlights the tip of every wave as they dance and weave toward the shore, creating points of light that put a diamond to shame. Cloudy and rainy days orchestrate their own understated beauty, an impressionistic painting that slowly shifts and changes, absorbing and reflecting light and hues of muted colors. If we pause and observe they are just as beautiful as a cloudless sky.

Herons, Egrets, and Ibis move in slow motion along that magical line where the water meets the shore. Each leg is lifted and placed with thoughtful and deliberate intent, while Sandpipers, Plovers, and Willets scurry in frantic motion zigzagging across the beach.

A potpourri of people populate the beach; a middle-aged lady sets up her chair and umbrella, pulls a book from her beach bag content to spend the day relaxing and reading, not moving from that spot … families with young children also set up their gear, shovels, buckets, balls, and toys while attempting to slather SPF 50 sunscreen on the exposed skin of their offspring … young lovers and newlyweds hold hands as they stroll down the shore … fishermen wade into the surf succumbing to the seduction that the next cast could hook the “Big One” … serious and casual shellers hunch over in the famous “Sanibel Stoop” searching for that elusive shell.

Dusk comes and the color palette is dialed down, clouds reflect soft shades of gold, coral, and pink. Trees, people, and buildings so brilliantly illuminated at mid-day become silhouettes. On a clear night, the sky becomes a bowl of stars. Familiar constellations are displayed overhead; Orion, the big dipper (part of Ursa Major), Canis Major, and others reminding you of the enormity of the universe and your own insignificance.

Touch: The most dominant sensation defies categorization, it’s not a physical touch in the truest sense of the word, but on a sunny day, it’s the sweet caress of the sun. It’s a calming celestial massage that dissipates stress and trivial worries as only nature can do. Coupled with the rhythms of the surf and you have a heavenly prescription for stress relief that no pill can duplicate.
Of course, mother nature has a fickle side. Late afternoon thunderstorms may not be as relaxing, but they provide an equally delightful sensory experience. These brief intense storms are not just related to touch as the wind roars in your ears (hearing), You watch as the dark clouds form on the horizon, roiling and churning, containers for flashes of lightening (vision). Then you feel a quick drop in the temperature as the wind gusts arrive, picking up particles of sand and horizontal raindrops that sting your skin. People scramble to lower umbrellas and gather gear as air mattresses become airborne twisting and turning away from the beach. (Yes, I love experiencing these tropical storms)

And then there is sand … it’s ubiquitous, under your feet, under your fingernails, and into places, you don’t want it to be, yet you wouldn’t trade it for anything. As you stand where the waves rush onto the shore, you feel it pulled from beneath your feet. You sit on the shoreline, dig your hands into the sand, overturning dozens of coquinas, and watch as they greet the next wave as an opportunity to dig themselves back in. You try to be a good citizen and rinse it off as you leave the beach, but it still finds a way into your condo.

Taste-Smell; I’m combining these two senses because they are so linked and let’s be honest unless you get a mouth full of saltwater while swimming, you are not going to be tasting the beach, but the two senses are very connected. The aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee or the fragrance of a batch of chocolate chip cookies pulled from the oven excite not only your olfactory nerves but your taste buds as well.
I wonder what percentage of us Sanibel fanatics roll the windows down as we begin to cross the causeway … purging the dry, air-conditioned, antiseptic air with a warm, salt-filled breeze?

Like every-other sensation, the smells of the beach vary from day-to-day. The central theme will be one of the scents of the Gulf; salty, organic, and rich in nutrients. Depending on the tides and the weather that can be mingled with the acrid scent of seaweed and fish or layered with the sweet fragrances of coconut oil and suntan lotion.

Just two weeks removed and we already miss those shell islands, but we have the stored senses in our memory banks ready for withdrawal when needed, and know we will return.

Peace, Poppy

Travels with Mimsy: Part 1

Disclaimer … This is not a literary work like Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie,” just a few musings of Mimsy’s first real vacation and our first post-retirement road trip.

In many ways, we were traveling old paths … a road trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, a route we have taken many times before. But chapters have turned, we are leaving from a new location, a new route, on a pace with minimal deadlines, a future undefined, but underscored by solid old paths; years of love and commitment.

October is a wonderful time for a road trip, the trees in the heartland are just starting to turn, the temperatures have dropped, and the skies seem just a little bluer.

The first day was a mixed bag. Several internet sites informed me that the first leg of our journey should take 7, maybe 7 1/2 hours. They did not take into account numerous road construction sites and a horrific wreck that all but closed the highway for an hour … other parts of the day were delightful. We traveled south down interstate 55 then cut across at Cape Girardeau, Missouri into the farmlands of southern Illinois. Those two-lane roads provided the best vistas of the day. The skies were a brilliant blue, dotted with minimal white puffy clouds whose existence served only to provide contrast to the azure hues behind them. The sun backlit the fields and low rolling hills as plumes of dust generated by combines and tractors reminded us that the food we purchased so neatly wrapped in grocery stores is a product of someone’s toil and sweat.

This brief journey across rural America also underscored that we were weeks away from a major election. Political signs and banners sprang from the edges of cornrows, houses, and small businesses. These are clearly people who are passionate about their politics. Every office from the President of the United States to the local circuit clerk was in evidence. If dog-catcher was an elected position, I have no doubt that we would have seen signs springing up alongside the highway extolling the virtues of various dog-catchers … “Vote Fred for Dog-Catcher, he can corral 3 Pit-Bulls, a feisty Chihuahua and 2 Airedales before you can say Dog Gone.”

I can also say with certainty that if the presidential election were held only in southern Illinois, Donald Trump would win in a landslide. We counted only one pro-Biden sign amidst hundreds of pro-Trump banners.

We ended our first day in East Ridge Tennessee just south of Chattanooga. This destination was chosen not by chance or geographical location, but by pizza. East Ridge is home to Portofino’s Greek and Italian restaurant. Years ago we made a stop at the La Quinta at East Ridge, we often travel with our pets and La Quinta’s are dog friendly. As is our custom in Poppy’s family we end our days travels about 7 or 8 o’clock p.m. Mrs. Poppy and whoever else is traveling with us (kids or grandkids) start the preparations for closing that day and organizing for the next. My organizational skills are limited, but I excel at foraging for food. I returned that night with pizzas from Portofino’s. I can’t speak to anything on their menu other than their pizza … a yeasty, doughy, bubbly concoction of cheese and pepperoni goodness. Since that first night, we make every effort to end our travels at East Ridge for the sole purpose of eating Portofino’s pizza in our motel room.

Did I mention the construction delays and the highway closing wreck?

We checked into the East Ridge La Quinta at 9:45 … Portofino’s closes at 10. We had Wendy’s that night and were thankful for it.

Peace, Poppy