Driveway surfing

I’m starting to feel permanently parked in my friend C’s driveway. Let’s see, it’s been five nights here already, and I think I’m going to be here another two. That makes it pretty close to my longest stay anywhere. Fortunately, C is tolerant: I think I would feel seriously awkward about imposing on anyone else this long, but C is delightfully nonchalant about the whole thing. And the actual physical layouts of the driveway and house make it easy to believe I’m not getting in anyone’s way, even though I probably am.

I’m still waiting on the part for my sink. The service guy originally said by the end of last week, then said delivery on Tuesday. On Monday, he said that the part they needed was back-ordered and he had no idea when it would come in. I’m sitting here hoping that the answer is any minute now — today, tomorrow, Friday morning? — but one way or another, I’m leaving on Friday. If the sink isn’t fixed, it’s going to have to get fixed on my next swing back through central Florida.

The delays have seriously tested my zen. Zen in the urban dictionary meaning of the word, not the real definition. I want to be all peaceful and centered about the delay, living my life in a present that is actually quite comfortable, but instead it feels like an itch I can’t scratch. It makes me want to growl a lot and mutter bad words under my breath.

On the positive side, I’ve gotten to go to two yoga classes with C, and they’ve been great. I really do want to find a way to get real yoga back into my life. One of the classes was at 7AM and it was the first time I’ve felt clumsy while doing yoga for a while — the people who make it to the early morning class at the yoga studio are definitely the serious, graceful, very fit type. But instead of discouraging me, it made me wish for more practice. One of the best things about yoga is how easy it is to see improvement: at the beginning of a class, there are stretches that feel impossible, like sitting cross-legged and bending your head to the floor, and by the end of the same class, it’s so much easier to do the same thing. That said, I expect to be seriously sore tomorrow and suspect that I’ll be limping on Friday.

I’m also having lots of sociable time, and getting to see so many friends, some of them quite unexpectedly. It’s both really nice and a little much for introverted me. I suppose vast quantities of solitude punctuated by bursts of crazy sociability is simply part of the life of the nomad (except maybe for the really extroverted nomads meeting people wherever they go), but I wish I could even it out a little. On Friday, whether the sink is fixed or not, I’m headed off for two solitary weeks of sitting still. I’m sure by the end of it I’ll be feeling like I’ve been alone for too long, but at the moment it seems very appealing.

And of course I’m hoping to get lots of writing done while I do. I’ve been trying hard this week, but it’s been going nowhere fast. I’m in a part that feels boring to me and I don’t know whether it’s boring because I’ve been living with this plot line for more than two full years or whether it really is boring. I guess I’ll find out eventually, but only if I keep writing. Onward!

two dogs

Bartleby and Zelda, in the same picture and almost even looking at the camera!

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Folly by Laurie King

FollyFolly by Laurie R. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was waiting for the oven timer to go off yesterday with ten minutes left. Not enough time to walk the dog or settle into writing, so I decided I’d read the first few pages of a book instead. Poor dog. It was over five hours later that she finally got her walk, because once I started Folly, I didn’t stop reading until I reached the end.

I’m not sure why it caught me so thoroughly. It has more description than I usually like, plus very in-depth details about wood-carving and building, and the basics of the story seemed potentially more depressing than enjoyable. But the narrator had an absolutely compelling mix of fragility and strength. She’s an unreliable narrator who knows she’s unreliable, who’s unreliable even to herself, and yet who is persevering in the face of devastating losses. I did guess basically every element of the mystery long before I’d finished reading, but it didn’t matter — the story had me and I kept going until it was done. A very satisfying read.

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Merritt Island

sunrise on Merritt Island

I read an article about #vanlife in The New Yorker today and it made me resolve to take more pictures of flowers and sunsets. I’m much better at sunrises, though — at sunset, I somehow rarely have the patience to sit and watch the sky, the way I do at sunrise.

This morning’s sunrise was spectacular. I’m drivewaysurfing again, this time at my friend Lynda’s in Merritt Island. She’s a writer friend, so when I invited myself to stay for a couple of days, I told her we would do lots of writing. Hours of writing! Many sprints! Words, words, words!!

Instead we sat and chatted, then went to the grocery store and bought delicious food for dinner. She got to do all the cooking because the dogs were not happy about being left on the porch by themselves and it’s too hot to leave them in the van, but it was lovely to sit outside on the patio as the sky grew dark and talk about life, the universe, and everything. She’s one of those friends that I can talk to for hours without ever feeling like the topics of conversation are running dry. #Vanlife – at least an authentic representation of #vanlife, for a solo traveler – includes a lot of silence, so it’s not a surprise that given the chance to talk endlessly I’m taking it. But we’re still going to get some writing done today!

I’m still waiting to hear from the dealer about Serenity‘s two final fixes. When I called them on Monday, they said the parts should be coming in next week sometime, so I’ve given up on getting out of Florida for now. When the days are hot and we’re trapped in the van, I regret that enormously — listening to the generator rumble while the sun blasts down on the van is not my favorite activity. But sitting here on Lynda’s porch, two sleeping dogs next to me, a view of the canal before me, listening to the sounds of drifting water and trilling birds, feeling the light wisp of a breeze… well, Florida doesn’t seem so bad.

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Wekiwa Springs

the moon over wekiwa springsI wasn’t planning on writing about Wekiwa Springs because a) I’m only spending one night here, mostly so that I could dump the tanks, and b) I’ve been here before, years ago, so I figured it would be familiar, nothing much to say about it.

On the tanks, for future reference for myself, ten days without dumping worked okay, largely because I avoided washing dishes or taking a shower in the van, but I was starting to get occasional whiffs of latrine. Seven days, as long as I shower elsewhere and am cautious with dishwater, is no problem at all.

On the familiarity, ha. I have been here before, years ago, and I have reasonably clear memories of it. My parents camped here with their motor home and R & I came and spent time in the campground with them. We swam in the springs, cooked on the grill, ate dinner outside at the picnic table. I remember it as scrub pine forest with sparse trees and sandy ground covered in brown pine needles. Somewhat desolate and barren — nice enough, but very different from the lush green vegetation around the springs.

Duh. It had recently burned back then. The landscape along the road was still blackened with dead plants and ashes. Fast forward a decade or so and it’s all lush and green and beautiful. But walking along the road this morning I kept being struck by the clear demarkations between one type of green and the next, as if the universe had drawn sharp lines between one terrain and another, instead of letting them smoothly blend together. It wasn’t the universe acting capriciously, though, it was fire — a long-ago fire, now.

That said, in other ways, it’s still much like I remembered. Sitting outside the camper, enjoying the breeze, the loudest sound I hear are some crows yelling at one another, but the second loudest and far more continuous is the traffic. From where I’m sitting, I can see the trucks passing by on the road. And when I got here yesterday afternoon, the park itself was closed due to overcrowding. The springs are a popular destination. Deservedly so — they’re a great place to swim, with water that’s refreshingly cold in Florida’s heat. But it’s the kind of park that you will be enjoying with lots of other people.

The campground, though, isn’t a parking lot. There’s lots of room & lots of vegetation between sites. Sure there are plenty of people here, but it still feels peaceful. If the weather wasn’t so hot — it’s supposed to be in the 90s by the weekend — I could see being perfectly happy to settle in here for the next few weeks. I saw wild turkeys this morning while walking Zelda, and I bet if I stayed long enough we might see a black bear. The warnings about them are prominent and I’m guessing one might have gotten into a nearby dumpster last night, based on the morning’s scattered trash, which looked a little too widely scattered to be raccoon mess.

I was disappointed with the results of my morning’s photo efforts, though. My dad thought I ought to be getting a camera instead of a zoom lens for my phone and now that I’ve had a chance to play with the zoom lens, I’m thinking he was probably right. (You were right, Dad!) The lens is part of this set: CamKix 9 Piece Camera Lens Kit for iPhone 5. (That is an affiliate link, so if you buy it from that link, something like $1 of your purchase price will come to me. On the other hand, you’re probably not going to buy it after I keep writing about it, so don’t worry that I’m getting rich. :))

The zoom lens is very nice if you have lots of time to set up your shot, use the tripod, can focus evenly, and don’t mind using the case that the lens attaches to, which both prevents you from using other cases and doesn’t look like it would offer any protection at all to your phone. All of my photos this morning came out so unusably blurry that I just threw them away as soon as I had a chance to look at them, even the ones of the wild turkeys. The photo at the top of the post was actually taken without the zoom lens.

And before I left for our walk this morning, I had to take off my phone’s case and put the phone into the lens case. The chance that I am actually going to remember and be willing to do that at 6:30 most mornings is… nonexistent, really. I’d be far more likely to remember to hang a camera around my neck.

Of course, the lens was a lot less expensive than a good camera would be and it is fun to play with. But unless I turn into the kind of person who wants to carry around a mini-tripod and patiently set up for long-distance photos, I suspect it’s mostly going to sit in its box. It’s just not convenient enough to work for me. If it came with a better case, one with some cushioning to protect my phone when I drop it and a cover for the screen, I’d probably get much more use out of it. As it is, I suspect mostly I will use it to try to take pictures of birds right outside Serenity’s windows. And that will be fun, but it wasn’t what I was imagining.

Bah, somehow it is almost 10AM and I have to get moving. My one morning at Wekiwa is rapidly slipping away from me! I’m still trying to figure out my next plans, but I am also determined to get some words written on Grace this week. Fortunately, I’m going to spend the next couple of nights parked in a writing friend’s driveway and I know she’ll encourage me!

Easter Sunday

There are many nice things about my current campground (aka my dad’s driveway), but not the least of them is that there was a chocolate bunny waiting on the kitchen table for me this morning. Happy Easter!

I feel the tiniest bit of guilt that it didn’t even occur to me to send my own kid a chocolate bunny, but he probably would have been very surprised and maybe even skeptical if I had. I’m sure he wouldn’t worry that I was poisoning him, but he would definitely wonder about my inspiration: I was never much good at the candy holidays. Or rather, I was never much good at remembering the candy on the candy holidays — I’d be perfectly happy to be cooking him a nice Easter dinner, it just wouldn’t come with sugar attached.

Last night, I had dinner with my whole family, missing only my own kid. My brother and SIL and his two kids were visiting FL and my sister and her kids live here, so the ten of us went out for pizza. It was definitely a belated birthday celebrations: balloons and flowers on the table and I, at least briefly, wore a tiara celebrating my 50 years. Everyone filled up on delicious-looking pizza, except for my youngest niece and me — I don’t know what M’s inspiration was, but I knew there was gluten-free chocolate cake waiting for me. And now there’s lots of leftover chocolate cake waiting for me. 🙂

On Thursday, I went to Universal with my brother and his family. Universal has these express tickets, where you can pay extra (on an already expensive day) to shorten the lines. I’d say skip the lines, but in fact they sell so many of these passes that you’re still in line, just not for hours. But my brother got two of them for the kids, with the idea, I think, that the kids would go on all the rides together.

Good plan. Except M wanted to spend more time at Diagon Alley, so H and I took the passes and went off and rode roller coasters together. After lunch, we met up with the others at Hogsmeade, and went on the big Harry Potter ride over there. Unfortunately, H and my SIL were really not feeling well, so at 2 or so, my brother took them back to the hotel, and M and I took the express passes and played.

And played. And played some more. Twelve-year olds have a lot of energy. I can’t say that we did ALL the things, because I don’t do rides that spin, but we came as close as we could manage by about 7:30 at night. Spiderman, Hulk, the dueling dragons, all the water rides… we got completely soaking wet, ate ice cream, got a henna tattoo (for M), bought candy in Hogsmeade… had a really good, classic theme park sort of day.

Yesterday, I really deserved to sleep late. Or maybe spend all day sitting by a swimming pool. But instead my dad and I washed the van, put air in the tires, I took care of email and bills, and then I took my nephew and niece Pokemon-hunting. Poor H, who is going to remember Universal through a blur of nausea, at least got to put a Pokemon in a gym in Lake County. I hope it lasts for more than a day or two.

I still haven’t figured out the next stage of my travel plans. I’m hoping that Serenity gets her fixes sometime this week, which means I should be deciding where I’m headed next. Georgia? South Carolina? Beaches or mountains? North Carolina? There are so many places I’d like to see, but I’m still really tempted to just find someplace to sit still and write, write, write.

Hometown minutiae

I had weird dreams last night: the kind that are not so disconnected from the real world as to be impossible (no flying, no spaceships, no monsters) but that are mystifyingly implausible. In one of them, I was taking on the responsibility of raising the infant of a friend’s son. I woke up from that one trying to figure out how I was going to change diapers in Serenity — the actual logistics of storing diapers and wipes and clean cloths and that kind of thing, and was both relieved and a tiny bit disappointed when I woke all the way up. I’m obviously not going to be raising any children while living in a van, and I can’t imagine how I would end up being the person responsible for that specific imagined kid, but I do like babies. The other dreams are all a lot less vivid now — can’t remember a single detail — but all had that same sense of taking on impractical responsibilities that don’t belong to me. At the time, they were mysterious, but looked at in the cold light of day, it’s more obvious to me where my brain was wandering.

This morning I went to yoga with my dad. If I had dreamed that ten years ago, it would have been mystifyingly implausible. If I had dreamed it two years ago, it would have been surreally unlikely. As it was, it was very fun. I haven’t been able to do real yoga at all while living in Serenity. I have about twenty different video classes saved on an iPad, but it’s too small inside to even do a good stretch, and outside… well, there’s uneven ground, dirt, heat, bugs, observers — a bunch of things that have disinclined me to make that choice. Going to a class reminded me of how much I love it, though, and how great it feels. The instructor suggested putting my mat on a picnic table and doing it there and I really ought to try that. Observers to be ignored, of course.

Right now I’m parked in my dad’s driveway, one of my favorite camping spots, looking forward to a quiet day today and a busy day tomorrow. The last few days have been busy-busy, with lots of stuff that realistically I could have done any time but somehow I saved until I was back in central Florida. Example: after more than eight months, I finally went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought small bins that fit inside the medicine chest. When I opened up the medicine chest this morning, nothing fell out on me. It was so exciting! Why I didn’t do this somewhere along the way, I can’t say. Some tasks still feel like things you should do at home and central Florida still feels like home. I wonder how long that feeling will last?

I also bought a new garlic press. When I still had a house, I had three garlic presses, and I decided I didn’t need them when I was getting rid of things. It’s the one kitchen item that I have regularly looked for, not found, and — with regret — remembered that I thought I didn’t need. I thought I might have kept one in the storage unit, so I looked when I was cleaning it out on Saturday, but nope, I truly did get rid of all three of them. I’m going to have to make something with garlic really soon to try the new one out. Maybe salad dressing for dinner tonight.

I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be in central Florida. I’d hoped I’d be able to head north next Monday, but Serenity still needs some warranty work done. The sink in the bathroom is broken (again — 3rd time) and the heated tank system is falling off. So I’m busy making fun local plans for next week — Pokemon hunting with a friend one night, visiting another friend at her childhood home for a couple days, lunch with a third friend — but also trying to decide what makes sense for the three weeks between the time the van might feasibly be repaired and when I need to be back in Florida.

Three weeks feels like forever — that would have been a great stretch of vacation for me ten years ago, certainly sufficient to have any kind of adventure, up to and including driving to the Grand Canyon and back again! — and not nearly long enough. What I really wish is that I could find a place that I love to settle down and finish Grace. But I suspect I could easily spend three weeks just trying to find such a place. If it weren’t so hot here, I’d just stay in Florida. And maybe I’ll do that anyway, but I’m having to run the AC for the dogs most of the time, which is not my favorite thing. Decisions, decisions!

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A happy birthday

On my birthday morning, I woke up around 5AM and it was cold enough in the van that I decided I needed a comforter, so I pulled it out, unfolded it, snuggled down — and then Zelda came and snuggled under the covers with me, tucking her head into my shoulder and lying on her back so that I could rub her belly. I love it when she does that. Really, truly love it. And that’s pretty much how my birthday went.

Jumping back in time, R arrived Thursday night in time for dinner at the Bistro, the fancy restaurant in the retirement community where my parents live. We hadn’t planned on going but that day they won a gift certificate for it, and reservations were available that night, so away we went. When we got there, I was waiting to be seated when my dad said, “I think you can figure out which one is our table.” It was the one with balloons and presents. I was surprised, charmed, and pleased, which was fun. On Friday, of course, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all (although I still would have been charmed and pleased — I like balloons and presents!), but it was fun to have that surprise factor.

Dinner was terrific, as it always is there. It’s not just a good restaurant by retirement community standards, it’s a good restaurant by any standards. But the fact that it’s a small community and the waitstaff all know the patrons really does make it exceptional. Instead of helping me find a gluten-free option on the menu, the cook made a modified sauce for my meal. And they all sang Happy Birthday to me along with a candle in my ice cream, but it wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as it usually would be, because I’ve chatted with most of them before and they all know my parents. It was just nice. It felt very celebratory.

In the morning, I got to feed R breakfast — the third-best commonly-available yogurt (IMO), fresh blueberries, and my homemade granola. He approved. Since he’s the first person to try my granola except for me, I was pleased, although realistically, it’s not like he would have told me that my granola was terrible on my birthday. Or any day. But I think he really did like it, except maybe for the dried blueberries, which I’m not so excited about either.

Afterwards, we went off to a hardware store to buy a part to repair damage I inflicted on Serenity the day before by trying to go under a roof (yes, stupid! but we are not dwelling on that, it is what it is), and to Starbucks to collect my free birthday treat. And we stopped by Goodwill, too. It felt so cozy to be running errands with my dad and my son. Like snuggling with Zelda in the morning, it was the kind of everyday that I don’t get everyday and so appreciate all the more.

For lunch, R and I ate roast beef rolled with horseradish cheddar cheese, a little mayo, and arugula. It is a perfect taste combination, one that I just discovered recently, so am still enamored with.

After lunch, we went to Beauty & the Beast. I’d suggested a few different options to R for my birthday activity — a Segway tour of Mount Dora, kayaking, thrift-store shopping, or the movies — and the movie won. That movie is pretty close to a sure thing: enjoyable for all ages, impressive eye candy, fun and nostalgic, and we all liked it.

For dinner, we were intending to go to a pizza place with good gluten-free options with my sister and her kids but they were unfortunately all sick, so we went to Bonefish Grill instead. I had the special of Georges Bank scallops on parmesan risotto, which the waitress was told was gluten-free. Honestly, I don’t believe it on the gluten-free part — I asked, but I expected to be disappointed, and I was surprised when she said it wasn’t — but it was absolutely delicious. I don’t even care if I’m paying for it on Tuesday & Wednesday. I will tough it out, knowing that it’s a gluten-reaction, and it will have been worth it.

I had a little bit of a low point in the afternoon, when I was getting dressed for dinner. I’m not sure why, really. Maybe it was just low blood sugar. But I was really missing my mom. I adore my stepmother (and I know she reads my blog, but it’s true and I’d say it anyway!) and I’d had a really nice day, but… I don’t know, I just wanted my mom. I went into the kitchen to get a drink and my dad had picked up the mail and left a card for me on the table. It was from my aunt and uncle with a very generous gift, but an even nicer message. I had to go into the bathroom and cry, but not in a bad way at all — it just felt like my aunt gave me an immense long-distance hug at exactly the moment I needed it.

After dinner, I got a couple more presents — an induction cooktop and an immersion blender. Yep, the longer I live in Serenity, the more complicated I get with the cooking. But I’m looking forward to playing with both of those toys. I miss making soup and the induction cooktop means I can cook anything outside. It’ll be like setting up a little outdoor kitchen. Yes, there is bacon in my future. Also soup. Lots of soup, I hope!

On Saturday, R and I went off to a matinee of Your Name, an anime that I’d seen a review of somewhere. When I first mentioned it to him, he rejected it, thinking I was talking about some other movie, and I’m so glad I persisted, because it was amazing. Not in the popcorn movie sense of Beauty & the Beast, where the movie is perfectly straightforward and not likely to cause any tension (although I did shed a tear when Mrs. Potts was searching for Chip at the end). But it was captivating and interesting and… I think the review said something like “go see it and when you’re done, go see it again” and yeah, that was pretty much what I felt like doing. Instead I waved good-bye to R and went off to spend the next three hours cleaning out my storage unit.

Alas, rats had gotten into the storage unit. Or is that yay, rats got into the storage unit? It was much, much easier to let go of some of the things that I’d been holding onto — linens, blankets, stuffed animals, even pictures — when they were covered in rodent droppings and/or chewed on. The woman at the storage place let me use the dumpster, probably grateful that I wasn’t yelling about the damage. I also let go of two boxes of books, a lamp, and most of the remaining kitchen items, although they were dropped off at Goodwill. I’ve got four bins, a cedar chest, a chair, and a small table left, and I’m hoping to move all of them up to my brother’s basement. Sometime this week I will see how the cedar chest fits into Serenity, because it’s the big issue. Beyond those things, I’ve got some pieces of luggage and a vacuum cleaner left to figure out. And three paintings. But I’m really close to having simplified as much as I ever hope to. And it only took me a year longer than I wanted it to! A year ago today, in fact, I was looking around the house debating whether I should try another garage sale and feeling pretty wiped out after the two previous days of selling. It’s amazing how there’s always more stuff to get rid of.

As a combined result of birthday presents and cleaning out the storage unit, I spent a big chunk of the evening and today reorganizing Serenity. I was prepared to let go of the kayak. Instead, I let go of some clothes, some dishes, some containers, and a blanket. And it doesn’t feel over-stuffed. I think I have it organized enough that all of things that I want are accessible to me. There’s still some stuff I’d like to do — I’d like to get bins for the medicine cabinet, so stuff doesn’t always fall out on me, and maybe the same for spices. And it’s funny to see how my use of space is evolving. With every passing month, the kitchen supplies take more room, clothes and entertainment get less. Although I guess the kayak counts as entertainment and it gets a lot of space. But I was thinking of the cupboards, not all the storage.

Anyway, this is a long, rambling post and probably not of interest to anyone but me. But ten years from now, I do want to look back on this birthday as it is right now, not as I will remember it then. We were talking about my fortieth birthday at dinner and it was a reasonably dramatic birthday as they go, so the stories were of C’s broken arm and T’s tears and who had the stomach flu. It was only later that I remembered the fireworks and the calm when it was just R and me, home with Zelda, and I was so glad to be just us again. This birthday was very nice, most excellent, and ten years from now, I really don’t want to remember it as the weekend when I crunched Serenity and rats invaded the storage unit. It was a weekend of many treats, much delicious food, cozy family time, and both nostalgia and joy. A happy birthday, indeed.

Edited to add: I can’t believe I forgot this already. I can see this will be a process…

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Mount Dora

sunrise at Mount Trimble Park

The word breathtaking is a cliche, but the sunrise was so lovely this morning that I only realized I was holding my breath when I started to run out of air. I suspect it wasn’t me finally breathing that made the heron fly away — at the same time Zelda pulled the leash out of my hand and rustled through the leaves — but I was sad to see it go. Then it settled on an overhead branch and annoyed a squirrel, making me laugh. A day that starts with incredible beauty and laughter probably has no place to go but down, but I’m going to be more optimistic than that.

This is my birthday week — I turn 50 on Friday! — so I’m being really nice to myself. Or trying, anyway. I decided to give myself a present every day. Socks on Sunday. On Monday, I got my “Nevertheless She Persisted” t-shirt from Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, which I decided counted. Yesterday, I set out to buy hair ties — yes, I’m not being elaborate in my gifts to myself — but my dad bought me a gluten-free butter pecan cupcake, so that was my present instead. Today, I don’t know. I’m really hoping to get some writing done, but… well, I guess that’s how I’m not being nice to myself. I’ve been really beating myself up about not getting more done over the past few days, like that’s ever done me any good at all. But I am going to endeavor to find some way of being nice to myself today. Maybe it’ll be the hair ties.

I did manage to add an email subscription field to the blog. Right there, over on the left hand side, above the mailing list subscription, you can enter your email address if you’d like to get email notifications of new posts. Personally, I would hate that. An RSS reader, like feedly, lets you subscribe to lots of blogs and read them at your convenience instead of having notifications pile up in your inbox. But I’ve been informed by relatives and people who try to follow posts on Facebook that I could make it easier for them to find new posts if they could subscribe, so subscribe away. I do warn you, though: I am not going to feel guilty for cluttering up your email by writing multiple posts in a week if I have lots of things I want to write about. On your own heads be it!

In other boring business things, I’m going to start adding Amazon affiliate links to the bottom of my posts. If you start your shopping at Amazon by clicking on an affiliate link, I’ll get a percentage of whatever you buy for the next few hours. The items don’t have to be related to anything on my site or my posts. So if you read a post of mine and think, hmm, maybe I should buy some hair ties, and go to Amazon and while you’re shopping there, stumble across a really good deal on a $600 vacuum cleaner and buy that, Amazon might give me $6. That would be nice for me and more to the point, it would make my blog a much better tax deduction. Yes, I did my taxes yesterday. No, I probably shouldn’t have done my taxes during a week when I was trying to be kind to myself. So it goes.

I’m actually not at all down about turning 50, although this post does sort of sound like I am. My brother (aka Best Brother Ever) has given me a fantastic birthday present, which I will collect in May; R is visiting me this weekend so I get to spend time with him; and honestly, everyone should turn 50 feeling so good about how they’re spending their life. I think I’m just frustrated today that I have too many things I want to do and not enough time to do them. And I’ve wasted too much time on things that don’t really matter, like, why, oh, why, are the two Subscribe buttons different sizes and how can I make them be the same size? Answer: no idea, no idea, and I could have spent three hours writing a book instead of trying to figure it out.

I think I will go bake some more granola, walk the dogs again, admire the incredible beauty of the park I’m in (Trimble Park, Mount Dora), and then try to settle in to writing some good words on Grace. Because at the end of the day, those things will make it a very good day.

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O’Leno State Park, High Springs, FL

O'Leno State Park Dogwood Trail

The Dogwood Trail in O’Leno State Park

I feel like I’m parked in a ghost town. Or, more accurately, I guess, camped in a ghost campground.

I got here last night after a long, long day. Because I’d done ALL the things during my stay at Komoki Mounds, packing up was more of a chore than usual. I like the kayak but getting it clean enough, dry enough, and packed small enough to stow under my bed is a chore. And I love the end products of the grill, but it is a serious pain to clean. Also, since I hadn’t really had internet while I was there, I stopped in the front parking lot and spent an hour catching up online — answering emails, posting to my blogs, responding to comments and so on. Once I got on the road, I had a three plus hour drive to my next campground that turned into a five hour drive while I searched for dog food.

It was hot — in the high 80s — and I was tired and feeling sort of grouchy. But as I drove into the park, all that resentment faded away. The road into the campground was packed white sand, narrow and winding, totally bordered by trees with bright green leaves everywhere. Everywhere I’ve been recently has been in early spring but Florida is in late spring, with everything full and lush and not yet dried out. It felt magical.

I got Serenity connected, then immediately took Zelda for a walk, out of the campground and onto a trail. Well, it felt more like a path than a trail. It was one-person wide, not very big. Dead leaves and dried pine needles crunched underfoot as we wandered through rich, dense forest with tall, tall trees. I kept thinking about a scene in Grace that takes place in the forest outside of General Directions and thinking, “This! This! This is Grace’s forest!” I am not going to go back and rewrite that scene — I think the forest descriptions in it are fine — but I was sorely tempted.

The campground was close to full, I think. Lots of people and lots of sounds of people. Kids on bikes, campfires, dogs barking. Loads of tents. There are a couple bigger RVs here and a few long trailers, but I can’t imagine trying to get into most of the sites with a big RV. Honestly, I can’t even imagine driving on the road into the campground with a big RV. At least not this part of it. There’s another loop, farther into the park, and it might have easier sites for bigger rigs. But the whole place had the friendly, cheerful atmosphere of a busy campground in spring.

And then morning rolled around and people started leaving. Through the day, it got quieter and quieter and quieter. Last night, every site near me was occupied. Tonight, three sites in either direction are empty. It’s not like being alone… well, no, it’s a lot like being alone. I guess I mean it’s not scary solitude, it’s peaceful solitude. But at the same time, it definitely feels a little spooky to have gone from busy, busy, busy to completely quiet.

I’m sitting outside now, at almost 8, and it’s still light, but probably pretty close to sunset. Also still hot. It was 95 degrees today! It’s so hot that it smells of hot, like the sand is cooking. It’s a smell that you get on beaches sometimes, usually balanced by the smell of ocean, but here it’s just the smell of hot sand. I’m listening to the birds and an occasional clank from a neighbor many sites away as it slowly gets darker and darker. And the mosquitoes are getting just a little too happy about my presence. I pulled a tick out of Zelda today and one off of me, so I’m feeling a little bug paranoid, but I’m getting munched. Time to go inside.

Despite the heat, I took some long walks during the day. Apple Health tells me I walked 5.5 miles. If I felt very moderately ambitious, I could break my step record for the year, which I’m actually pretty tempted to do, just because.  Later: One loop around the campground to reach 12,518 steps, aka 6 miles, comfortably beating my previous high on March 9th of 12,103 steps. I think this is sort of a silly thing to keep track of — I definitely wouldn’t be doing it if my phone didn’t make it so easy — but there is something satisfying about seeing that average number going up.

This is definitely a park that makes it easy to take good walks. Between the trails and the roads and the signposts and the interesting Conservation Corp history and even the river, there’s enough to look at to keep me wandering. It reminds me of Palmetto State Park in Texas in that way.

My day here was not so glorious, though, mostly because 95 is just too hot for the dogs. For B, panting is not just a cooling mechanism, it’s a necessary part of getting enough oxygen because of his malfunctioning heart. He sometimes works very hard to breathe, even when he’s cool enough, so I don’t like to let him get anywhere close to overheated. Therefore I was running the AC from about 1PM on.

Also, I forgot to dump the tanks when I arrived yesterday, and they’re full, so I’ve been trying to be very sparing of water. If I was here for longer than a day, I would have just gotten my act together and packed up for a run to the dump station, but I’ll do it tomorrow when I leave. Still, it meant very simple eating, since I don’t want to make any dishes dirty. It’s not a big deal, but it’s not a relaxing attitude to be anxious about using water.

Also, ticks. Let’s face it, no day with ticks in it can be a glorious day.

All that said, it was still a pretty darn good day.


Best of March 2017

Palmetto State Park flowersTwelve campgrounds, six states. March was a busy month! And it’s a challenge to choose what was best because I enjoyed so many of them so much. Galveston Beach, where I said I would happily live, didn’t even make the top three. Neither did Matagorda Bay, which was number one in February.

But March has Kolomoki Mounds. I’ve been paddling, had easy three-mile walks with Zelda, wrote outside with the dogs at my feet, climbed the mound and admired the horizon, tried to envision life as it was a thousand years ago, appreciated beautiful sunrises and sunsets… It’s a great view, a great site, a beautiful campground, even nice showers. The one thing I’m not so excited about with Kolomoki Mounds has absolutely nothing to do with the park: my allergies hit “take a pill, already” levels yesterday and so I’m kind of feeling drugged out and slow and sleepy. Which is better than yesterday’s burning eyes, itching, and congestion, but still not a thrill.

Plus, March had Arkansas and Lake Catherine. I think appreciating a place is partly based on what it is, partly on what you bring to it, and partly on when you’re there. I was in Arkansas at so the right time. There were so many incredible purple flowers. People whose gardens bordered the road had beds of irises, all in bloom, a wash of purple across the bright green of leaves and grass. In one place, wisteria was growing wild, in full bloom, and it reached high into the sky. On trees, of course, that were probably not all that grateful to have a predatory vine twenty feet up their trunks, but still, it was stunning. I was driving by and there was no place to stop so I couldn’t take a picture, but the color was so surprising that I hit the brakes hard and then had to be grateful there was no one behind me. Also lilacs (I’m pretty sure) in bloom and violets growing in the grass. And Lake Catherine is forever going to be associated for me with the sound of the laugh of the little boy in the next-door camper — that unrestrained gurgle of joy. If they hadn’t been my neighbors… well, I’d still be smiling at the memories, but it wouldn’t be the same smile.

In a different month, either of those (these?) two places could easily take the top of the list. But I’m going way back to the beginning of the month and giving the best of March 2017 to Palmetto State Park. In a month of so many good days, so much serenity and joy, the day that I spent at Palmetto still lingers in my memory as perfection. (Except for the mice. So almost perfection, I guess.) I remember it in colors of green and gold and red: the fun of exploration; the beauty of the wildflowers and the tree humming with bees; the thrill of hopping along stepping stones; the warmth of sitting in the sun with a snuggly dog in my lap; the satisfaction of writing well.

I’ve been living in Serenity for eight months now, and they’ve flown by. They’ve not been un-stressful. Things have gone wrong, it’s been a huge adjustment, and I’m still working all the time to figure out how to live more comfortably in such a small and mobile space. But March as a whole feels like the month where it all came together, where an awful lot of the time I lived in a continual state of awareness, acceptance, appreciation, and anticipation.

In other words, happiness.