Galveston Beach

Beach and shells

Dead things

It’s a measure of my mood yesterday that I walked along the beach thinking about how beaches are really just big cemeteries. Sand? Just the decayed and crumbled skeletons of sea creatures. Shells? Leftover body parts. Dying jellyfish? Well, you know, dying jellyfish.

I was sort of glad that I’d already read online that there’s no point in trying to save the jellyfish because otherwise I might have felt I should try. But a) they might sting you and b) the conditions that caused them to wash up on shore still exist, so they’ll be back onshore soon even if you do manage to get them into the ocean, so no point. And c) there were far too many of them. I know if I’d managed to save one that it might have appreciated it, but I would have felt overwhelmed by the futility. And probably stung, too.

On the other hand, look — gorgeous beach! Beautiful dying jellyfish in iridescent greens and blues. Big shells — the brown one was the biggest shell I’d ever found on a beach, and the white one was probably second. And the weather’s been crap — I swear, Texas might be the wettest state I have ever spent time in — but the sun came out twice, once at sunset last night, and then this morning for about an hour, just long enough for Zelda and I to have a really nice walk. It’s gone now and might not be back while I’m here, but at least I got to appreciate the sunny ocean for a little while.

My mood has been shaded by the mice. I’m not even sure I can explain how oppressive I find it to be living with something I’m trying to kill. Or to find mouse turds scattered across my kitchen counter. To not know whether mice are running across my bed while I’m sleeping. To never know when I open a cabinet whether there’ll be a mouse inside. To wonder whether my congestion is allergies or the first symptoms of a virus that might kill or bankrupt me. I know, total over-reaction. But Serenity is such a small space. It’s not like sharing hundreds of square feet with rodents. I’ve lived in houses with rats before and it hasn’t bothered me this much. I wonder how much the extremely high-pitched whine of the ultrasonic repeller, just at the edge of my hearing, is getting to me? Maybe a lot. But I’m not ready to give up on them, since the mice appear to be laughing at my traps.

I’ve also been probably out of proportion upset by the loss of Zelda’s duck. For ten years — literally, ten years, since the Christmas when she was not quite two — she’s had one toy that she loves. Every night, she licks it for a while before going to sleep. When people came over to visit, she would find her duck and bring it to them. One year we went on vacation in my dad’s RV and didn’t bring the duck. Every night she searched for it, then stared at me plaintively, asking for my help. We were both so glad to get home to it. It was battered and worn and gross, the fur licked off in places. But it was her lovey.

And it’s gone.

I have no idea how. I imagine a horde of mice carrying it away in revenge for the murder of their leader, but that’s pretty unlikely. I did laundry, so maybe it got caught up in the clothes? But how would I not have seen it in the laundry room? Most likely, I suppose, is that Zelda carried it outside at our last campsite and I didn’t notice. I called the campground — not that anyone would ever have turned it in to a lost-and-found, it would have looked like trash. The guy on the phone was super nice about it and promised to look, but he didn’t call back, so I’m sure he didn’t find it. I am not surprised. But oh, watching Zelda roam the camper, trying to find her duck, just breaks my heart. I feel like such a bad mom. I keep coming up with implausible places that I haven’t checked — like, maybe I put it in the microwave when I was stuffing all the food the mice might want in there. No, I didn’t. A) Why would I? and b) there’s not even enough room for the food in there. Maybe she carried it outside at this campground and it’s under the van! No, it’s not.

It’s stupid, I know. In a world where desperate refugees are trying to keep their children warm, worrying about a dog’s lovey is just ridiculously privileged. But she doesn’t understand why it’s gone and why I won’t find it for her and I… well, I am really sad about it. I understand, I suppose, that I’m projecting all my fears of losing Zelda, that anticipated pain, into her experience of loss now, but intellectualizing the emotion isn’t helping me feel better about it.

On Matagorda Bay, this weekend, we were on the beach when it started to rain. Zelda was off-leash and she started to run. She disappeared into the dunes and I had a long minute of thinking of all the possible things that could happen if she didn’t stop running — would she get lost? Would she run out into the road and get hit by a car? Would she step on a snake? And then she popped out again, cocking her head to the side, like she was saying, “Mom? Could you hurry it up here? We’re getting WET!” I hope that if she could choose, she would choose our adventures of the past seven, going on eight, months over keeping her duck safe at home. And I can’t know if she would, but I know that I would, and that does help me feel better.

Time to write more Grace. Akira’s finally coming home. I have never gotten farther than this part — this is where I’ve turned back and started over again from the beginning several times — so it’ll be interesting to see what today brings. *fingers crossed for new words,  not self-doubt.

 

Brazos Bend

I spent one night at Brazos Bend. I’m starting to believe that one night is not enough for any park, but it’s especially not enough for one as big as Brazos Bend. So many trails there! So many things to see! An observatory and a windmill and multiple lakes. I’m not even sure what I might have missed. Well, except for the alligators–based on the warnings, I should definitely have seen some alligator activity there, but our one morning there was cold so there was no sign of them. I don’t actually mind that, ha.

We did see vultures. Lots and lots of vultures. Zelda and I actually startled about a dozen of them while we were out walking. They’d been hidden in the brush and I hadn’t noticed them, but we were so close that the sound of their wings beating the air as they leaped into flight was incredibly loud, like a motor suddenly starting right next to you. I ducked, heart abruptly racing. Zelda was totally nonchalant, of course, but vultures are quite big when you’re only a few feet away from them.

The above plants were really loud, too. The wind blowing through them was a steady rustle, like… I don’t know what. Maybe I don’t have a comparison. They sort of sounded papery, but loud papery–like dozens of people all reading newspapers at once, making no other sounds, no clearing of breath or shifting weight, just shuffling their papers around. I’m not musical enough to be sure, but I bet there’s some musical instrument that could replicate the sound. It was so loud and steady that I’m fairly sure I’d never heard anything like it before, though.

Traveling like this is really making me feel incredibly ignorant. About so many things! Musical instruments at the moment, but birds, of course. Plant life. I have no idea what the above plants are, or the names of any of the wildflowers I’ve been admiring. The stars are an almost complete mystery, after I’ve found Orion’s Belt and hunted for the Little Dipper.

Then there’s geography. Having moved on from Brazos Bend (and back to Matagorda Bay), I’m currently sitting on the banks of the Colorado River. In Texas. This was completely mystifying to me until I finally googled and discovered that Texas’ Colorado River is not the same river as the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon. (And, random new fact, Colorado means “red” in Spanish. I had no idea.)

And the proper way to murder mice. At this point, I’ve captured and released one, killed another, and spent about $45 in anti-mice devices. I have ultrasonic repellers plugged into three different outlets, traps baited with “mouse attractor” in two locations, peppermint oil sprayed along the floor, dryer sheets in the drawers, and the whole van smells like Christmas from the FreshCab mouse repellent in the kitchen. Seriously, I feel like I should be putting up lights and baking cookies. Meanwhile, there were still little mouse droppings on the kitchen counter this morning, so my unwelcome guests have not been sufficiently repelled yet. I haven’t braced myself to do the glue traps yet. They seem so unkind. But that’s next, I guess.

I’m a carnivore, so I really shouldn’t feel guilty about killing mice. I eat cows and pigs and chickens and fish, the death of a mouse should be trivial. But I really hate this. It makes me simultaneously sad and jumpy, paranoid that every sound is a mouse getting near my bed and that every sniffle is the first symptom of a mouse-born virus.

And Bartleby is so allergic to springtime that he is chewing himself raw, which is frustrating both of us. Me, as I try to stop him from chewing, and him, as he tries to soothe his own itching. That reminds me, though, that I have anti-itch shampoo for him–new goal for today, give the dog a bath!

 

Palmetto State Park

wildflowers at sunrise

Wildflowers at sunrise

At the Onion River Campground in Vermont, I walked Zelda through fields of high, dry weeds with scattered faded flowers, surrounded by deep green grass and trees with leaves that were just starting to hint at autumn, and felt like we were in the essence of late summer. I think it’s why I remember that place with so much pleasure.

At Palmetto State Park in Texas, we are in the essence of spring. It is pure spring, all around us. Trees with soft green leaves unfurling, growing so fast that it feels like if you look away for an instant they will have changed when you look back. Wildflowers — yellow and white and purple and pink — some tiny, hiding in the grass, others standing tall and proud. A robin sitting on the branch outside my window as I write. White-tailed deer leaping through the trees at sunrise. Sweet olive trees covered in white flowers, their fragrance drifting on the breeze. One of the sweet olive trees — the biggest one I have ever seen — hummed as I approached it, mysterious until I realized it was the hum of a thousand happy bees. (I then cautiously moved away because, okay, humming tree, fascinating and cool; hundreds upon hundreds of bees, totally scary.)

My day here yesterday was… I want to say spectacular, but it was spectacular in a really quiet way. Zelda and I walked the San Marcos River Trail a little after sunrise. It was beautiful and lovely. We saw the site of the old mud boils, quiet now, but still noted with a sign. (Otherwise I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at). The trail was smooth, well-maintained, shockingly litter-free, and starts about twenty steps away from our campsite. It was a perfect morning walk, chilly enough to need a jacket, overcast, but not raining, a good length, interesting things to look at.

I did some work, including updating my work blog, texted with some friends, did some knitting, made myself a delicious lunch — scrambled eggs with chorizo, brown rice, goat Gouda, avocado, mushroom, and green onion (as posted on Instagram), and ate it sitting outside looking at the view. The sky was clearing, and the air was warming.

Then Z and I went for another walk, in a different direction. We crossed the river at a low point, which for her meant wading and for me meant hopping along the stones at the edges of the paved walkway, the rest of which had water flowing across it. I felt slightly ridiculous and yet also had that little kid thrill of knowing that if I fell, I would splash.

Back at the camper, I wrote. Good words. On Grace! First time in a long while that I didn’t feel like I was trying to fix something broken, but just letting the characters be who they were. We went for another walk. I sat outside on my new camp chair ($6 at Walmart and so much more comfortable than the $50 backpacking chair that I started out with) in the sunshine, warm enough to not need my jacket, and tried to write some more. Then Z wanted to be on my lap, so instead I snuggled her and felt so grateful to be in that moment, in that chair, with my dog licking my face. At sunset, we went for another walk. We ate dinner. I wrote some more.

Then I heard a rustling and caught a mouse in my trash can. Yes! A mouse. Serenity has mice. I can’t even…* I realized Tuesday that I had a mouse problem and it really ruined that day for me. Yesterday I let it go–nothing to do about it until I get on the road again–until one of them fell into the trash can. I carried it outside and released it, telling it to watch out for owls. Unfortunately, it was either not the only mouse or it came right back inside, because there was one after my granola this morning. Gah. So today I will be buying traps and repellent while I’m on my way to my next park.

But I didn’t let the mice stress me out yesterday. Yesterday, I enjoyed a perfect spring day. And not just a perfect spring day. My day, the day that I wanted.

A year ago, I was just starting to think about this adventure. I hadn’t decided to do it yet. I could still look around my house and think, wait, this is the home that I worked so hard for, the place where I wanted to live forever, my fantasy house. The window seat with its cushion made from material my mom and I found at a garage sale, the French doors, the bougainvillea, the neighborhood with its ponds and birds, the kitchen that is exactly right… was I really going to let it all go?

Yesterday was the day for which I let it go.

sunset moon

This sunset is worth a mouse or two.

*”I can’t even…” feels like a complete statement to me, but it sure looks odd when written down. So, you know, envision it with the head shake and wince of pain and hands spread wide that it needs in order to make sense. 

Edited to add: OMG, the showers–so much water pressure, so hot! Not new and fancy, your basic rundown campground shower, but the best shower I’ve had in months.

Best of February 2017

sunset at Lake Medina

My site at Lake Medina at sunset

Unlike last month, the moment I’m in is not the best moment of the month. Purely practically, that’s because I’m doing laundry and let’s face it, laundry is not intrinsically a peak moment. Not that it won’t be very nice to have clean clothes and sheets — laundry nights are pretty much my favorite nights of the month, because I really do like having clean sheets — but still… it’s laundry. Not fascinating. shrug

So February included one lovely day in Alabama, several days in Mississippi, two different state parks in Louisiana, and five different locations in Texas — Galveston, Matagorda Bay, Goose Island, Choke Canyon, and Lake Medina.

Lake Medina, where I am right now, is, I think, the most unexpectedly nice spot. I came here out of expedience: it’s a Thousand Trails campground so an easy and inexpensive few days while I figured out my next few weeks. But the campground is big and empty. I had my choice of spots when I arrived, including some with full hookups, including sewer, conveniently close to the laundry room. Of course, I chose the one down by the water, no full hook-up, and not at all close to the laundry room, and it’s been lovely. People have been very friendly, as they often seem to be at the Thousand Trails campgrounds, but it’s also a beautiful place. I suspect I would like it much less if it were more crowded, but I have appreciated it very much like this.

I’ve liked everywhere else, too, though. Not so much my day flailing around Corpus Christi, I suppose, but Choke Canyon was lovely. Not the best place of the month, though. No, I think that was Matagorda Bay. Also somewhat unexpected! Matagorda was where I had to pull out my gloom ammunition (gluten-free brownies) because it was so rainy.

But it’s the only place we’ve been where Z was allowed off-leash on the beach. At other places I’ve thought, “If I weren’t so rule abiding…” In Dauphin Island, we were alone on the beach most mornings. Would it have mattered if I let Zelda run? But rules are rules, and I tend to obey them, so she’s only gotten to roam at Matagorda Bay. She loved it and so did I. We walked for miles every morning and would have walked longer if I hadn’t felt guilty about poor B waiting for his breakfast back in the van.

Other highlights: Wading on the beach in Galveston, after getting my shoes covered in mud. The incredible sunrises in Mississippi–the sky there was so colorful, the water so still. And on Goose Island, a fishing boat came in with fish and with it, an entire flock of pelicans.

a flock of pelicans in flight

A flight of pelicans should have some special name, I think, but I don’t know what it would be. 

Lake Medina

deer at Lake MedinaI’m thinking of trying to find a telephoto lens for my phone. I seem to be taking a lot of pictures where the thing I wanted a picture of is just a dark blur in the distance, mostly of birds, of course. When I was at Dauphin Island, another visitor to the bird sanctuary pointed out a peregrine falcon to me. I have now learned enough to know how cool that was — they’re rare — but in my photo, the falcon is just a brown blur at the top of a tree, not discernible as a bird.

This morning, Zelda and I set off on our walk. We’re at Lake Medina, at a Thousand Trails campground, and I was headed up through the campground. There’s a nature trail that I was headed to, but I wasn’t sure how far away it was. But we were barely down our own block when I spotted a deer. I gasped, holding my breath with delight and surprise. And then I fumbled for my phone — fumbled, because Zelda was very interested and tugging at her leash — but before I could get it out, the deer bounded away.

I sighed with disappointment, but then shrugged, resigned. It’s not like the picture would have turned out, anyway. The deer would have been a brown blur against trees. Zooming just makes it blurry. I kept walking. And then gasped again. Two deer! So cool!! And then I opened my eyes a lot wider — way, way more than two deer. There were six. No, eight. No, ten.

I’d never seen so many deer in one place (outside of a zoo) in my life. So I took some pictures of blurry brown spots and we kept walking. More deer. More walking. More deer. More walking. More deer! At one point, I could see fifteen of them, all females of different sizes. At another point, I could see three males, all with small antlers. Zelda and I wandered for a couple of miles, up to the top of the campground and back down again. We never did go on the nature trail, but then, the nature was right there, so we didn’t really need it.

I’m parked by the side of the lake and the view in front of me is dusty ochre rocks and scrub for probably five hundred feet, then blue lake, then in the distance low dark green hills. The day is gray and cool, possibly going up to 68, pretty clearly so overcast that the sun is not going to shine. And my weather app just let me know that it’s raining within ten miles of me. Not a surprise. I have to say, Texas is really just a lot wetter than I ever imagined it would be. Of course, if I wanted sun and heat, I could have stayed home in Florida, so that’s not complaining, it’s just… noticing.

Yesterday I broke my fiction-writing streak. For 12 weeks, I managed to write 1000 words a day, six days a week. 74 days total of writing. But this week I missed two days. And on a third day, I really didn’t make 1000 — I was more like 850 when I finally gave up. There’s a part of me that wants to write 3000 words today and count them retroactively but I don’t know, it seems like lying to myself, and why bother? I’ve written 74,000 words in the past three months and I’d like to give myself credit for that, without making myself feel like a failure for not having written 76,000.

I can’t remember if I’ve written about goals vs systems here yet  — well, I know I have written about it, more than once, but I can’t remember if I’ve posted anything about it — but it feels like keeping a streak going is more of a goal than a system. In other words, a negative approach to life instead of a positive one. In my positive, system-based approach to life, the system is to write 1000 words a day and I can be successful today without caring about whether I met yesterday’s goal. That feels much healthier.

I’m still going to continue using Streaks, because tracking my activity is helping me push to do more. When I started, one of my “tasks” was to walk 3000 steps a day. That’s not a lot of steps — about a mile and a half — and I often walked twice that. But sometimes I walked less, too. Since I started using Streaks, 83 days ago, I’ve walked at least 3000 steps every day, gradually upping the task to 4K, then 5K, and now 6K. This past week, I broke 10,000 (4.3 miles) three times. I’m pleased, of course, that my streak is 83 days strong, but I’m more pleased that I’m steadily going farther distances, and tracking lets me see that improvement. Of course, now that I’m considering this, it’s possible that my multiple long walks had something to do with the early bedtimes that interfered with my writing and that’s not a good trade-off. But whatever, I’m not giving up on Streaks. I’m just acknowledging that I broke my writing streak and I’m going to start a new one. Today.

Right now, in fact.

Choke Canyon State Park

Choke Canyon State Park

All the trees are gorgeously spring green.

On my day of no destination, I decided that it was time to get out of nature for a while. I looked up things to do in Corpus Christi and found a nice art museum, so after taking my time packing up and cleaning, I headed that way.

Nature had other plans.

It was 89 degrees by the time I got there. I parked the van and stared at the temperature display and thought bad words and the temperature display ticked over to 90.

90! In February! When the weather apps had promised temperatures in the 70s!

Obviously, Serenity has a generator that allows me to run the air-conditioning without being plugged into electricity, so I can keep the van cool(ish) when it’s hot. And I have a temperature monitor that uses wi-fi to send me a text message to let me know if the interior temp goes past 80. But that’s five things to rely on: the generator, the air-conditioner, the temperature monitor, the wi-fi router and my cell phone connection. If it’s hot enough that the dogs could die, I don’t rely on those things.

Which means I don’t go to art museums.

So I hung out in a parking lot for a while and thought about what to do. I’d been tentatively considering going down to Padre Island National Seashore, but I really didn’t want to go there on a February weekend. I like empty beaches, not crowded beaches. And even more, I didn’t want to go there on a really hot weekend. I would need to run the generator to keep the dogs cool, it would be loud and hot and sandy and sweaty… It just didn’t sound like fun.

So I drove around Corpus Christi for a while—some very pretty houses around the waterfront, some very run-down houses away from it—and ate some lunch and considered my options and finally I said, ugh, I hate how hot it is, I’m heading north.

North wound up being Choke Canyon State Park.

I’m in a tent site, not a camper site, so I’m basically in a parking spot, with a picnic table within hailing distance, but oh, it was so perfectly what I needed and wanted. Still hot, but spring-green everywhere, and lovely. I was the only person in the tent area when I arrived and the solitude was bliss. After dark, a bunch of other cars showed up, so it was noisier and less peaceful in the night. Lots of flashlights waving around outside which stressed Zelda out. She kept doing that low dog growl of warning and I kept telling her to go back to sleep.

But the sunrise this morning was beautiful. We had a peaceful solitary walk down a dirt path through trees. I wanted to call them woods, but honestly, the trees just feel too short to me to be woods or forest. Maybe a grove? And I definitely don’t want to call it wilderness — it’s doesn’t feel wild enough for that. Just nature, maybe. Lots of bird noises — nature really does sound like a video game, sometimes, or maybe that should be vice versa. I was seriously jolted awake when we startled some birds though — a whole flock of them shot forth from the brush right next to us, so loud that the whirr of their wings almost sounded like a motor starting up.

And I had my bird app out trying to identify the swooping predator birds. I was fairly sure they weren’t vultures — they weren’t flying together, the way vultures do, or circling, and they were a little on the small side, plus the coloring seemed wrong. The app offered northern harrier as an option, which seemed to fit best, but I’m honestly not sure. They were beautiful, though. And they flew really close to the treetops, which was cool. The trees are short, so that meant they were remarkably near to the ground for swooping predators.

Because there weren’t any camper sites available and I’m technically not supposed to be in the tent sites, I’m headed north again this morning. This time with a reservation. As it turns out, while I like serendipity and while I approve of flexibility, I also don’t want to waste my days feeling uncertain and driving around aimlessly. I will miss some things if I only stick to places that take reservations (Padre Island doesn’t, for example, it’s first-come, first-served), and I definitely don’t want to make plans too far out into the future. But knowing where I’m going to spend the night is less stressful for me. Yesterday I seriously considered staying in a Walmart parking lot — I even asked if it was okay, and was told that it was fine — but I hated the thought of waking up there and having our morning walk be around cars and blacktop. I’m so glad this morning that I moved on!

Goose Island State Park

sunrise on Goose Island

Not a goose, but a pelican. And that tiny little sliver of white in the sky above its head is a crescent moon.

Very, very erratic internet here. I’m using my phone as a hotspot and even that is not so solid. So this may be a short post when my frustration level gets too high.

I’m at Goose Island State Park. It’s an interesting exercise in appreciation. I’m on the bayside loop and I have a beautiful view of water and boats outside my front window–but there’s a road and another line of campers between me and the water. If I had one of the sites on the other side of the road, there would be nothing in front of me but water.

Would anything in my life be different? Nope, I would still be camped in a beautiful place on a gorgeous day with dogs that I adore in a comfy little van… and yet I feel vaguely dissatisfied, wishing I was on the other side of the road.

I’ve been feeling very unsettled in general. Which is, of course, a perfect word, because although I mean it as a synonym for something like uncertain, I am literally not settled. Constant motion, constant change. It’s unsettling. My neighbor here has been on the road for four years and she used the word “rootless”–it’s a good word, too.

But I leave here tomorrow with no destination in mind, no campsite reserved. I may wind up spending the night in a Walmart parking lot, which will be good for me. It will remind me to appreciate campsites with water views, even when they have road views, too.

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

beach sunrise through clouds

I sang while walking Zelda yesterday morning.

Yep, singing in public. Loudly, too. Except it wasn’t really public. We were on a completely deserted beach, ocean pounding away, with the sun peeking out from behind clouds, with that sort of celestial rays of light thing happening. Singing felt totally appropriate. I should probably learn either a few more songs or the actual lyrics of “Joy to the World” if I intend to continue singing while walking the dog, though, because my singing involved a fair amount of “something, something, something,” lyrics.

When I first got to this campground, on Friday, I’d been driving in the rain for a while and I was feeling… well, tired of rain. After having lived in Florida and California for most of the past 25 years, I sort of forgot that in some places rain just goes on and on and on. Not that I would have expected Texas to be one of those places, but hey, live and learn.

And the campground is very much one of the rows of RVs’ places. Nice spaces, with plenty of room between sites, concrete picnic tables at every site, and smooth large driveways, but what I can see out of my windows–front, back, both sides–is another camper. It’s not cozy. Combine that with the rain and I was less than enthusiastic.

But this is absolutely another location, location, location place. Sure, it’s a (very nice) parking lot, but it borders the southern end of the Colorado River and miles and miles of true ocean beach. Sitting in the camper is not so interesting, but walking is amazing.

There’s an incredibly long jetty made of metal grating that goes out over the water. At the end, you can feel the spray, hear the crashing waves, and look down at the water, probably at least ten feet below. It’s exhilarating in the way the ocean can be, like you’re breathing pure freedom. (Zelda, however, hated it, so I won’t be going on it again. I’m not sure whether it was the feel of the metal under her paws or the distance to the ground that she could see below her, but she was walking very, very slowly.)

The beach has lots of shells, so there’s some fun beachcombing activity, but best of all, when I asked the campground host about letting dogs off leash, she shrugged, and said, “Sure, no one cares.” Yay! Zelda had no interest in chasing sticks or running around madly, which didn’t surprise me although it made me a little sad, but she’s enjoyed the freedom to roam and I’ve enjoyed watching her.

Funnily enough, I’ve been more worried about traffic on the beach than other dogs. Cars and trucks drive on the beach here! It’s so strange to me–I have literally never been to a beach where anyone other than a ranger or lifeguard was allowed in a vehicle on the sand. Seeing people drive onto the beach with their pickup trucks and then set up for the day with chairs and blankets and fishing poles has been novel. Yesterday, one truck got really, truly stuck, however, so I’m not sure I’m going to be driving Serenity on the beach anytime soon.

Lots of people are fishing. I haven’t chatted with anyone who’s caught anything, but apparently steelhead trout, whiting, and redfish are all possibilities. And, of course, there are loads of birds. Lots of terns. The campground host gave me a nifty brochure of local birds and there are several different types of terns. I could maybe differentiate between them if I had binoculars, but I think figuring out the difference between a tern and a gull is probably sufficient for me. At least until I get binoculars or a telephoto lens for my phone.

The nature center is nice, too. It’s small, very focused on this specific area, but some fun displays for kids. Lots of hands-on stuff.

It continues to rain, though. This morning I haven’t even walked Zelda, because the rain has been so steady. But I turned the heater on in the van and I’m trying to pretend that I’m in a cozy nest, instead of feeling like I’m camping in the rain. I have/am discovering, though, the dilemma of accumulating wet things when you’re camping in the rain. There’s no way for anything to get dry, short of me finding a laundromat. And everything is starting to feel damp. I need some sunshine!

Of course, tomorrow’s weather report says sun, but I leave here tomorrow. And the campground I’m headed to, while an island, does not apparently have good beaches. So this might be my last sandy day for a while. I like sand, but wet sand is really not my favorite thing. And I feel like I’m starting to whine, so I’ll stop. Overall, though, I would come back to this campground, but I’m not actually planning on doing so. Next winter, maybe?

Surprised by beauty

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I woke up this morning and thought, okay, it’s time to move. It’s my 6th day here, making this just about my longest stay in a state park. I’ve visited the little beach around the corner a few times every day, and I’ve walked along the road toward the front of the park every morning. I was getting tired of it. Yesterday was cold and grey and I turned back when I started to feel raindrops, so I was decidedly unenthusiastic about doing the same walk one more time.

An hour later, I was in love with Galveston again.

It’s sunny.

And it’s so beautiful.

This morning instead of walking all the way toward the front of the park, we turned off on a road that we’d been on once before. But after we hit our normal walk length, the point where I would usually decide it was time to turn around, we kept going. I found a trail that led into the park and we took it and walked out into the grasses.

It was a half mile loop, so nothing too long, but it included a stand to climb up, so you could look out over the expanse and a bridge over one of the shallow inlets. I feel like inlet is the wrong word, but I don’t think it was a river. This area of the park (the bay side) is the coastal wetlands, so I think the water ebbs and flows through all of the land, and the shallower areas stay wet. But maybe it was a river. It was water. With lots of white birds stalking around and floating in it.

I didn’t take any pictures that remotely do it justice—the sun was too bright, the birds too far away. Plus, of course, photos can’t capture the air, the smells, the sounds. But the picture at the top is the closest I could come. Pretty sure those are snowy egrets. Absolutely sure that they were beautiful. On the other side of the bridge, there were dozens of birds, but they all turned into dark spots against the rising sun. They were beautiful, too.

Right now I’m sitting in Serenity with the screen door open. B is on the floor, in the sunny patch by the door. A little while ago, a starling was sitting on the picnic table squawking at him. Starlings definitely squawk. There’s a little tree—maybe even a tall shrub—outside my window, and a bird that I’m going to guess is a common yellowthroat (why, yes, I did download a bird ID app, why do you ask?) is flitting back and forth around it. Not building a nest, but it’s got a branch that it keeps revisiting. And I am pretty sure that a hawk of some sort, probably red-tailed, just glided by.

In a lot of ways, I’m still getting used to living in Serenity. I’m still finding ways to make life easier, things to change. I bought $20 of tupperware a few weeks ago and threw out all the random pieces of tupperware I had, so that now my tupperware all stacks. It felt so wasteful and it sounds so trivial, but wow, what a lovely difference to not have leftover dishes falling on my head when I open the cupboard. On the same extravagant day, I bought liquid soap and threw away my bar soap and its holder. Bar soap is just not worth the effort; it gets too messy. I’ve finally figured out where it’s best to keep my toothbrush, at least for now. (Inside a cup, in the medicine cabinet.) I think I’m even finally getting the hang of washing dishes in a single sink while using the least possible amount of water.

But one of the trickiest things to figure out is how long to spend in any one place. Traveling too fast is so disruptive that I get no writing done. Traveling too slow and the van starts to feel like a trap. But I think I may have mixed up traveling too slow with staying in the wrong places. Two weeks in a campground where my view is other people’s sewer lines and our morning walks are along rows of trailers may be very, very different from two weeks in a place where six days in I can still be surprised by beauty.

Galveston Island State Park

Possibly all I need to say about Galveston Island State Park is that yesterday I went online to figure out when I could get another reservation, preferably for the beach side campsites. (I’m currently on the bay side.) March 5-10th. So I’m going to wander around Texas for a couple of weeks and then come back here. This will not be the first park that I’ve returned to, but it’s the first one that I’ve returned to that didn’t have relatives living nearby.

The park has vast expanses of blackened land, presumably recovering from a controlled burn, with wild grasses growing and not much else. It’s flat and muddy and dark. And by some standard, the weather has been terrible. I haven’t seen a sunrise since I got here because it’s been so foggy. But the fog isn’t cold, it just has a hint of ocean chill and it smells like ocean. It’s lovely. Zelda and I have gotten muddy and sandy and wet and salty. (B, not so much, because he does the finicky dog thing of, “What? You want me to walk there? On THAT? No, thank you.”) And I love it.

I could live without the tornado warnings, though. Today has been pretty much a non-stop stream of the national weather service letting me know that I’m going to die soon. Any minute now! It’s actually really impressive to be watching the ocean while a thunderstorm is going on — the waves are great, but the rumbles of thunder and lightning make them all the better. But, of course, I am hoping to avoid any actual tornados. I did unplug Serenity and move from the campsite to a parking lot, out of some notion of being ready to move should it be necessary, but I’m not sure how I would know that it was actually necessary short of seeing a forming tornado.

Back to the park: there are birds I’ve never seen before, tall and short and in-between. One was a reddish egret, which I wouldn’t know, except that I found a sign telling me so. Two yesterday were tall and pink and mysterious. I am fairly sure–after abandoning all hope of conserving my internet data to research the question–that they were not flamingos, but roseate spoonbills. If you had told me six months ago that I was going to be so interested in birds that I would be looking for an app to help me identify them, I would have looked at you sidewise, but there you go. One never knows what travel will offer.

Lunch yesterday was diced apple, celery, red onion, chopped dates, chopped pecans, finely chopped fresh cilantro, and a tablespoon of mayo, mixed up and rolled in turkey. And then wrapped in a gluten-free tortilla because the turkey wasn’t thick enough to roll properly. The tortilla was not good, but the relish-turkey combo was delicious.

And I mention it partially because I want to remember it for some future day when I need food inspiration but also because there’s a correlation for me between making weird foods & happiness, but I’m not sure which way it flows. Was I happy because I was making up a recipe or was I making up a recipe because I was happy? It’s possible that it’s one of those circular things, where feeling cheerful made me feel creative which inspired me to create something weird that was tasty and delicious which then made me happy to eat and so on.

I was also very happy with the words created yesterday. They were maybe not the greatest words ever written, but they were actual forward movement in Grace, not just revising and tweaking and being generally dissatisfied with the shape of Grace. (The book, not the character.) And since I’m hoping for some more of those today, I’d best get to it.

Happy Pan-Universal Be Who You Are Day!