At the Water’s Edge

There was a time when many people responded to every blog post that I published. I don’t know what happened to all those people. Not many come around anymore. I miss the interaction with friends, although I understand many aren’t even blogging anymore. I’m trying to teach my computer how to recognize my voice. It is not an easy thing to do. Editing seems even more difficult. Apparently, it understands short commands better than long sentences or single words. This post may be a little bit choppy.

Although my life has not changed dramatically since the Great Isolation began, thoughts and questions have come up from beneath the surface. What would my life be like without my husband? Could I approach the transition into deathlessness with the resolution required to go peacefully? How would my children and grandchildren remember me? Life is shorter than we can fathom in the greater scope of things. There is so much I want to accomplish and I’m uncertain if there is enough energy left in me or time left on this planet to get it all done. I suppose these thoughts have always been with me, but I’ve been less acutely aware. There’s really no fear, just quiet contemplation.

In this Great Isolation, I am learning so much about myself relative to my environment. For example, when the tide is going out, or when it is low, there is a sense of tension and a feeling of anxiety. When the tide is coming in, or high, there is a sense of calm and a feeling of ease. The high tide is brimming with sea life. Manatees, rays, dolphins, and all manner of fish coming into the canal bring it to life. There is a soul connection with these creatures who roam the waterways. Along with the emotional sensitivity to the action of the water and the life within it, I feel a strong sense of spiritual freedom in the vastness of the sky. The constantly evolving colors and clouds are like an artist’s canvas under the brush. There is a sacred connection to the world around me.

I haven’t been painting much this year, at least not on canvas. Here is one painting that I did for my stepson:

11X14 acrylic on gallery wrapped pro canvas “West Somerset Railway” original

This is a train that he rode in England when he was a child. The steam and tiny lettering on the plaque were the most challenging parts. It was supposed to be a Christmas present, but I did not have it ready. He returned from the Bahamas at the beginning of this pandemic and we haven’t been able to visit. I have some ideas for new paintings that I have not committed to. Below is a little painting that I gifted to our local diner. I hope they manage to reopen after the governor gives the green light. Most restaurants have continued with take-out and delivery, but The Perfect Cup was struggling under new management before this all went down. We’ll have to wait and see.

 

8X10 acrylic on student grade canvas (I framed this in a black floater frame) “The Perfect Cup” inspired by The Art Sherpa

 

Lately, I have been engaged in other artistic endeavors. I’m making draped flower pots out of fabrics that have been saturated in a concrete mixture and making art stones from molded Reddi-Set mortar. Mandalas and other designs are painted on the stones. After the stones are painted, I coat them with epoxy or resin to make them shiny and give them protection. These projects keep my hands and mind busy. The flower pots and stones are for my garden space. The edging for the garden border will be done with reclaimed, painted ceramic roofing tiles. We have not started the edging project yet, because the RS is re-wiring his brother’s boat.

I may get back to writing someday but, for now, I am content with visual and tangible art. Currently, I’m beta reading a book for an author friend. I’ll tell you more about that later.

Are you writing? Has this pandemic with its great isolation inspired your creativity, or have you been working? Or both?

Rights of Nature

Several years ago, we would come to fish on the west coast of Florida and the waters were clear with visibility to nearly 20 feet deep. Now, you can only find patches where visibility is four or five feet down. We fished the seagrass flats and caught sea trout in abundance. Now, the seagrasses, along with the many creatures who called them home, are gone, including most of the trout. A friend says when she came to Matlacha ten years ago, she could drop in a bucket and pull it out to find little crabs, tiny seahorses, and a multitude of small sea plants. Now, you’re lucky to get clear water to fill a five-gallon bucket, and certainly won’t year-round in many places around Ft. Myers.

Nestle is trying to bargain to pull billions of gallons of water from Ginnie Springs in north Florida. Nestle states, “At Nestlé Waters, our business depends on the quality and sustainability of the water we collect. It would make absolutely no sense to invest millions of dollars into our local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies. It would undermine the success of our business and go against every value we hold as a people, as Floridians, and as a company.” But their history begs to differ. From California to Michigan, to Maine, to Florida they have ruined or are in the process of ruining eco-systems and aquifers around the nation. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/29/the-fight-over-water-how-nestle-dries-up-us-creeks-to-sell-water-in-plastic-bottles.

Ginnie Springs crystal clear spring waters

Developers, like James Finch in Panama City, and others in SWFL, destroy acres of environmentally sensitive property, pay the fines as, “The cost of doing business,” with NO ACCEPTABLE RESTITUTION.

There is a new movement, Called Rights of Nature that I want all of my friends, particularly my Florida friends, to know about because it will ultimately affect you personally in some way. Back in the day, we so-called Flower Children and Hippies protested and fought hard to get clean water, clean air, and other anti-pollution protections in place. There are so many of us Boomers that are being disrespected nowadays, and if you look with consideration at how the environment was back in the late sixties and early seventies as compared to the eighties and nineties, you will see that we were highly successful. But things have gotten worse in recent years because these laws have been abused and quantitative limits on pollution were set which have been adjusted in favor of the polluting industries and corporations and their development.

What if Nature, like Corporations, had the rights and protections of a person?

 

January 21, 2010, a United States Supreme Court case concerning campaign finance was decided. The ruling effectively freed corporations to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates (ie. Lobby). Citizens United basically gives corporate personhood. Corporate personhood is the legal notion that a corporation, separately from its associated human beings (like owners, managers, or employees), has at least some of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by natural persons. In a series of decisions over the past 40 years, the Supreme Court has radically expanded constitutional rights for corporations.

Corporate interests are often contrary to the interests of the general public, and studies find that elite interests are much more likely to be reflected in policy outcomes than those of the general public. We need to end Citizens United. While the name implies that it is a group of concerned citizens fighting united for citizen’s rights, it is anything but. Corporations are destroying our nature and our planet has little defense against corporate giants. It’s not nature vs corporations and developers. Nature is us. We are Nature.

Rights of Nature is the recognition and honoring that Nature has rights. It is the recognition that our ecosystems – including trees, oceans, animals, and mountains – have rights just as human beings have rights. … Nonetheless, for millennia legal systems around the world have treated land and nature as “property”.

Ecuador is the first country to recognize the Rights of Nature in its Constitution. Rights of Nature laws enable people, communities, and ecosystems themselves to defend and enforce such rights. Without the ability to do so, those ecosystems would be destroyed. Clean water is vital to life. All life, including ours.

On Saturday, the Florida Democratic Party approved a new party platform which includes the Rights of Nature. This is believed to be the first time such a provision has been included in a state political party platform in the United States.

The platform reads:

We resolve to adequately protect our waters, support communities’ rights in reclaiming home rule authority and recognizing and protecting the inherent rights of nature… 

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is working closely with communities across Florida to advance the rights of Nature and local communities.

Roseate Spoonbills in Big Cypress Conservation Area

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is spearheading the global advancement of the Rights of Nature through support for the increasing number of communities defending the rights of nature. You can read about their work in the USA and abroad here: https://celdf.org/advancing-community-rights/rights-of-nature/.

Laws recognizing the rights of nature thus change the status of natural communities and ecosystems to being recognized as rights-bearing entities with rights that can be enforced by people, governments, and communities. Just as corporations (and developers) have rights protected by Citizen’s United, Nature needs a right to defend itself.  Or we need Citizen’s United overthrown, and our environmental policies and regulations protected and enforced. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely in the foreseeable future.

Our lawmakers are already passing preemptive laws designed to prevent the Rights of Nature movement. These laws – including the United States’ Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and similar state laws – legalize environmental harms by regulating how much pollution or destruction of nature can occur under law. Rather than preventing pollution and environmental destruction, these laws, instead, allow and permit it. In addition, under commonly understood terms of preemption, once these activities are legalized by federal or state governments, local governments are prohibited from banning them.

Laws recognizing rights for nature begin with a different premise – that ecosystems and natural communities have the right to exist and flourish, and people, communities and governments have the authority to defend those rights on behalf of those ecosystems and communities.

The following is from a WINK News article here near Matlacha in Ft. Myers:

“There have been several efforts to give legal rights to nature in Southwest Florida. But now, some lawmakers are trying to block the movement before it appears on your ballot.

The calm Caloosahatchee River is one of the 15 Florida waterways that people are fighting to give legal rights. Karl Deigerts (Matlacha Civic Association President,is among these people.

“If an inanimate corporation can have rights,” Deigert said, “then why cannot a living ecosystem full of life not have individual inalienable rights?”

Now, Deigert’s effort to bring the Caloosahatchee Bill of Rights to Lee County is facing a big challenge.

“We have people out there in Tallahassee working to keep nutrients flowing into this river,” Deigert said, “to prevent us from creating these protective laws.”

Two Florida lawmakers want to stop any effort to give nature legal “rights.”

“I take that as a compliment,” Chuck O’Neal said, “because apparently, this is so dangerous the thought of actually giving people the right to clean water.”

“Why would any representative preempt things that protect us and our health and our environment?” Deigert said.

Sen. Ben Albritton, who filled one of the bills, said to WINK News it handcuffs local governments and invites litigation. His full statement:

Handcuffs Local Governments – These proposals would restrict a local government’s ability to pass ordinances, adopt regulations, and issue permits that may implicate these “new” rights. This could include development approvals, zoning, land use controls, or infrastructure projects. This is not in the best interest of local communities.

Invites Litigation – These proposals will likely result in a significant increase in litigation by creating a private cause of action whereby any person can sue another person, business, or government if they “feel” their “rights” are being violated. There is no requirement for actual injury or any direct connection to bring a lawsuit, and the burden of proof is on the one being sued.

The risk to Business – These proposals would have a detrimental effect on Florida’s economy in general.

In addition, I don’t believe that elevating nature to the status of a human being is good for society. Our Constitution is meant to protect the rights of people, with no mention of “rights of nature”. To elevate any natural feature to the level of human beings simply diminishes the value of human life. (Yet, we protect corporations as if they were individual people.)

Unnecessary – These proposals are entirely unnecessary as Floridians already have ample opportunity under existing law to challenge activities or government actions they feel could or would result in harm to the environment.

This legislation that I have filed addressing these “rights of nature” proposals will preserve the ability of local governments to operate without the threat of overwhelming litigation, preserve the rights of Florida landowners (from large to homeowners) to rely on well-established permitting and environmental regulatory programs. These proposals will throw Florida’s current local government regulatory and permitting structure into turmoil, thus having a terribly negative impact on Florida’s economy.

“It’s not working,” Deigert said. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation today if our current system worked.”

 

Instead of trying to pass a nature bill of rights countywide, organizers in Lee County are focusing on getting it done municipality by municipality.”

 

This article is a prime example of politicians claiming to know the best interests of the people when clearly their interests lie with corporations and developers.

Doesn’t recognizing rights for nature just add an additional layer of regulation?

No. Current environmental regulatory structures are mostly about “permitting” certain harms to occur – acting more to legalize the activities of corporations and other business entities than to protect our natural and human communities. Laws recognizing the rights of nature empower communities to reject governmental actions that permit unwanted and damaging development to occur – by enabling communities to assert the rights of those ecosystems that would otherwise be destroyed. Although people have been talking about “sustainable development” for decades now, very little has been done to change the structure of law to actually achieve that goal. Laws recognizing the rights of nature finally codify the concept of sustainable development – disallowing those activities that would interfere with the functioning of those natural systems that support human and natural life.

The preemptive laws, like Florida SB1382- preempts and eliminates our Right to self-governance in the creation of a Bill of Rights for selected ecosystems that amend our local city and county charters elevating environmental legal protection to the highest level recognized in western law. This preemption is aimed at the entire State of Florida. According to Clean Water Act author Oliver Houck, “The Clean Water Act does not go far enough to protect us. We must add Rights of Nature law if we are to have true protections.” We can no longer afford to consider ourselves above nature but must recognize that we are a part of nature. Our water are in an emergency state of decline. From Florida’s first magnitude springs, to our estuaries, to our marine coastal waters, all Florida waters are now designated as “impacted”. Clean Waters are the backbone of Florida’s entire economy and must be at the forefront for consideration in every decision by our elected officials and every level. We can not delay remediation any longer and must seek a new paradigm for the most expedient and effective changes in our laws. Our current regulatory system has failed to protect us. We must break the fixed system. Rights of Nature laws are the path to change.

What can I do to support the Rights of Nature?

  1. Become better informed. A variety of booksarticlesvideos, podcasts, and other reference materials may be found on the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature website at  TheRightsOfNature.org including just released The Rights of Nature, The Case for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth and  Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice.
  2. Talk with friends and spread the word about the Rights of Nature. Share this site with others and visit our Rights of Nature Facebook group.
  3. Join a global signature and letter-writing campaign by signing our Value Rights of Nature petitionhttp://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/yes-to-rights-of-nature/or writing a letter to your President or other head of state requesting support for Rights of Nature. Gather friends for a letter huddle and write your letters together.  For more information, visit RightsofMotherEarth.com.
  4. Draft, endorse and support local initiatives that recognize rights for nature in your municipality. For advice and counsel, contact the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund CELDF.org.
  5. If you are an Awakening the Dreamer Symposium facilitator, include Rights of Nature in your symposium discussions.  Include our letter-writing campaign as a way to be in action.
  6. Support the work of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (GARN) financially.  Every dollar, euro, or other currency makes a difference in expanding the recognition of Rights of Nature around the world.  Thank you for your consideration and generosity! https://therightsofnature.org/

Art Space

When I was writing, we would often share our writing space online. I still have my desk in a corner under a window in my new place and I’ve also set up a makeshift studio for painting.

 

This is a guestroom. It has a Murphy bed that’s closed in this photograph. The futon usually sits along the left wall, but I had to move it for this large three-foot by four-foot canvas. Nothing sat level on the thick carpeting, so hubby went out and bought a smooth sheet of plywood to go on the floor. Even with sunlight coming in through the sliding glass doors, the light in this room was horrible and I was straining my eyes. We found a nice lightbox set-up on FB Marketplace and put that to good use.

The Murphy bed unit has shelves and cabinets where I keep art supplies. There are various painting mediums in there; gels, pastes, liquids, thinners, and such. Three hundred-plus paintbrushes live in Mason jars on a handy shelf.

I have no idea how many tubes of paint I have. Painting is done mostly with three primary colors, reds, blues, and yellows, which are mixed for various shades, along with whites, blacks, and umber. I keep some secondary colors and a few tertiary colors to speed up mixing certain shades and provide small amounts of quick color. Hanging shoe racks make a good place for keeping the colors organized where I can find what I need quickly.

I’m painting in acrylics and they dry extremely fast. This makes blending a challenge and I use goat hair mop brushes for large areas of blending. Glazing liquids help with blending smaller areas. I recently purchased a line of “open” hard-bodied Golden paints which have a slower drying time, the drawback is that they also have a longer tacky time, which is when your brush strokes can lift all of the layers off of your canvas, so there is a lot of time spent waiting for paint to dry, even when using a blow dryer to speed the process.

 

I like painting in early mornings when the light is good through the sliders that allow me to gaze out onto the palm-lined canal whenever I feel the need.

Morning time is when I feel most alert and focused, unlike late evenings when I felt a deeper connection with my writing.

There is a lady, Lisa Timcak, who owns a local gallery and shop, Island Visions. She has expressed some interest in displaying some of my work in her place next door to the ice cream shop. Inside of her gallery, there are tables and chairs to sit and eat your ice cream, which everybody who visits Matlacha has to do, so this is good exposure. She will be coming back to the village in October, so we shall see how that pans out.

The sun is coming up and I will be back to painting soon. I have been working on this large canvas for a few weeks now. It’s a slow process from start to finish, but quicker than writing a novel. And once the sun starts to set, I’ll be off to take my evening walk.

Let me know how your creative endeavors are coming along. Besides Alejandro, is there anyone else who has tried their hand at painting? I just picked up the brushes for acrylic painting about a year ago. I find it most relaxing and the minor frustrations are relatively easy to cope with. Have you thought about giving it a try? You may be better at it than you ever imagined.

Settling into Matlacha Island Life

The new header is a drone shot of our new island home. We are on the southwestern end of the peninsula that joins the road. Most of the area south of the road is a public park, except for the main drag thru town, which is quite charming. The bridge to the island is a draw bridge used mostly by sailboats.

Now that we are finally settling into island life, I’m thinking about resuming my writing. I’m still passionate about my artwork and have no plans to limit my painting time. Also, I’m still practicing Kundalini yoga and have a 15-minute sadhana with several common kriyas and one or two different meditations I do every morning. Jai Dev Singh is a fantastic teacher and his words resonate with me even more than the exercises.  I attribute my explosion in creativity to the prana, or life force energy, that Kundalini brings forth. When I taper off my practice, for whatever reason, I feel the motivation and energy for all things creative waning. It only takes one class to bring it up again. That’s what I love about Kundalini. It’s fast and powerful as compared to other yogic practices.

Here are the paintings I have created in the month and a half that we have been on Matlacha This totals forty-one paintings in this first year. I will start showing again soon and really need to have a sale to clear some space for more.

11X14 acrylics on canvas board: Psychedelic Wave
16X21 Acrylics on student grade canvas: Shore Fisherman
24X24 Pro-grade canvas (my largest yet) Island Cottage. This one is going over our bed.

I completed a body study, also. I’m not so thrilled with the shading and have considered painting over it, but it was a good lesson in color mixing for flesh tones. FYI: When I am painting, all of my colors start out from red, blue, yellow and white. Sometimes I use a burnt umber brown or black to avoid wasting paint. All of the shades, tones, and hues are derived from color mixing. I don’t buy, for example, a tube of purple or turquoise.

24X18 Acrylics on student grade canvas. Body Study

We sized down to less than half the square footage that we had in our Orlando home. Gave away three-bedroom suites, a living room suite, and a dining room suite. The lanai here is under roof, and not including it, we are down to 1200 sq ft. and paid nearly twice as much for it. Ha! But, yes, we are on the water facing the gorgeous sunsets and life is grand. The house has a great room and our bedroom doubles as Greg’s office, while the guest room (with a Murphey bed) doubles as my studio. When my grandkids came to visit, I heard the four-year-old ask the nine-year-old, “Why is grandmother’s kitchen in the living room?” There is a nice island in the center, but I thought that was hilarious. The perception of kids.

It’s a double lot with 120 feet of seawall and dock and has mature fruit trees. I made my first key lime pie with homegrown (definitely organic) citrus. The angle of the picture makes the crust look really thick, but it wasn’t. It was thin and crispy. Key limes are about the size of a ping-pong ball. I won’t deny that there is likely some knuckle in that zest.

As I mentioned earlier, I have an urge to start writing again. The candy man on the corner, William Tidball, who makes the best Turtles in the world, also sells local author’s books in his shop. I gave him a copy of Naked Alliances. He is reading it now and then we’ll discuss whether he will add it to his shelves. Most of the books that sell well are the ones specifically about Matlacha and Pine Island, but he has had some luck with several Florida writers.

Greg thinks I should live on the island and get to know more people before I start writing stories located here. I disagree. You can drive through and see the Trump 2020 flags, read the local Progressives column in the newspaper, and walk down any street to get the flavor of the place. The only black man I have seen on this island of roughly 700 residents, is the guy who plays the steel drums at Bert’s Bar and Grille every day from noon till 3 pm. Not sure how Brandi will fit in if I continue that series. Snowbirds come in September/October. According to the US Census Bureau, there is a 0.3% black population here. Not nearly the diversity that is seen in Orlando. But I do know that the candy man is gay. So there’s that. I don’t really want any of my characters fashioned after specific people on the island. It’s not anonymous enough.

Skip Elliot Bowman, resident drummer. He plays about two dozen different instruments, has played in NYC and at Carnegie Hall.

For example, some people have made characters fashioned after 62 yo Leoma Lovegrove, a colorful local character in her own right. She has a super sweet, bubbly personality and appears by other names in people’s books here. Leoma’s husband is an author and they host Indie Author Day here yearly. There are many artists, tho not as popular, who live on the island. There are a half dozen galleries in Matlacha alone and Pine Island has more. I could see an art-related story developing, but I would not want my storyline drawn on any specific character. There are also stores here that sell artifacts, both native American and Pioneer.

If you have time to read on, I will share a brief history of the place.

Around 1925, Lee County began dredging shell fill from the oyster beds of Matlacha Pass for use in the construction of a road they were building to connect the mainland to Pine Island. The abundance of the shell fill they dredged created a mass of land heretofore not existing on any maps. A wooden swing bridge was put in place across Matlacha Pass in 1927. (Pine Island was once inhabited by the Calusa Indians and later the Seminoles.)

Shortly thereafter, the Great Depression began and a group of squatters moved onto the excess shell fill. They didn’t have much, but the excellent fishing provided food and made this small parcel of land an attractive option to homelessness. The squatters began in tents and cars, eventually building shacks, shanties, and stilt houses. Over time they developed a full-scale fishing industry on this unclaimed land. At one point there was a showdown with the local government and the squatters emerged victorious. The land was deeded to them by the government through homestead rights. Thus the legendary fishing village of Matlacha was born.

Elvis music and movie, “Follow That Dream”

This entire drama is documented in Richard Powell’s novel, “Pioneer, Go Home!” (1959). The novel then became an Elvis Presley movie called “Follow That Dream” (1962). We watched the comedy-musical a few nights ago. The wooden swing bridge over Matlacha Pass was replaced with the present-day concrete draw-bridge in 1969. Plans to replace the existing bridge with an identical one because of its age are purportedly underway.

Much of Matlacha was constructed during the ’20s and ’30s. One and two-room clapboard houses with tin roofs went up along Pine Island Rd. These informally built, casually constructed structures embody the essence of Florida as it was prior to the building booms following WWII, during the 1960s and thereon. Yes, we live on a spoil island, and it’s one of the few unspoiled places you will find in the state. Stacked on shell that has cemented over time, it’s not likely to wash away like the sandbar islands. I’ll take my chances with the hurricanes for these sunrise and sunset views.

OH, YEAH! I almost forgot. There’s a Kindle Countdown Deal going on and “Naked Alliances” is on sale for 99 cents.

Review: “Richard Noggin and his trusty sidekick expose the bare truth about a ten-year-old murder and get to the bottom of an ugly human trafficking scheme. With tight prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, Naked Alliances doesn’t let up until you’ve seen it all!” ~ Tim Baker, author of Eyewitness Blues.

 

Island Bound

Hi, all! May is upon us already and it’s hard to believe nearly half the year has passed already. Time surely speeds up as you grow older.

I have only been able to Paint a few pictures this year as we have been cleaning and packing up to move. We finally found the house of our dreams on Matlacha Island and we close in two weeks. Greg retires on May May 31st. We are Island bound very soon!

In the past few days, I have been writing since most everything except my laptop is packed away and in storage. So there is hope Book Two of the Naked Eye Series gets written after all.

Here are the few paintings I’ve completed this year:

 

Acrylics on 16X20- Monarchs on Paintbrush Flowers
Textured gel and acrylics with gold leaf on 16X20 hardboard- Japan Alps Spring Thaw with Cherry Blossoms
Hummingbird
Gel medium on music sheets with acrylics on hardboard 11X14- Song of Romance
And my favorite of all times: acrylics on 11X14 hardboard- Still life Turkish Coffee Pot with Tangerines

We are truly excited beyond belief to finally be moving to the island and getting out of the city and back to “Old World” Florida. Away from the traffic, the chaos, and the noise. Here’s a look at the back of our new home on the water. It is a double lot with 100 feet of backyard seawall facing west for premium sunset views. Ahhh…….Dreams really can come true.

In the Path

Most everyone who comes to this blog knows I live in Central Florida. Orlando, to be precise.  Hurricane Irma is supposed to hit Florida head on, but hurricanes are unpredictable and nobody really knows for sure what is going to happen. Currently the hurricane is directly over Cuba.

In 2004, we sighed with relief when Charley went into the Gulf of Mexico. However, at Charlotte Harbor, Charley turned eastbound up the Peace River. My husband and his former souse were sitting in Orlando watching on the television as the eye of the hurricane moved over their investment home on the Peace River and leveled it. His boat ended up in his neighbor’s living room. Then, Charley headed north, and hit Orlando wide open.

Charley was small, fast and furious, cutting a path across the state before heading back into the Atlantic on the other side of the state. When it hit the Gulf, all of Central Florida had let down their guard. Tornadoes were spawned in Charley’s wake. So there was much devastation across the state.

In 2004, I had never experienced a hurricane. That night, I was off work and sitting on my front porch talking to my dad on the phone while watching the huge oak trees across the street kiss the ground in the torrential rains. My little apartment was on the ground floor of a two-story cinder block building on the NW side of town and I felt safe.

Little did I know that the SE side of town was ripped apart near the airport. I never lost power, so I had hot water and air-conditioning. But I was most fortunate, most were without power for nine days. Early the next morning I was called into work.

As an RN I was considered first responder during Charley and our employers made nurses stay at work 24/7….could not even go home to shower and had to sleep in patients rooms on the floor. I mean we chose that job…but that’s how it was. I lived five mins away and off the night of the hurricane, but was called into work that morning and had to show the police my “Disaster Preparedness Team” papers to be able to be on the interstate. I was in College Park and worked off Michigan. After 16 hours of work, they wanted me to sleep on the floor in a patient’s room because we received a huge amount of patients that had been evacuated from a facility in Lake Wales that had lost its roof. They let me go home for 8 hours, but I had to sign a paper agreeing to be back when I said I would….or risk termination.

We lost a lot of patients during that time. The Nursing Home was without power for nine days. The backup generator only supplied a few room’s outlets. The oxygen concentrators are electric, and once we ran out of O2 tanks, people started dying. We saved more than we lost, but people were literally dying in the hallways. A van of nurses came from Lake Wales to help take care of their patients every day. A couple of days after Charley went thru, the van was involved in a terrible accident in the torrential rain and two nurses were killed and one was paralyzed for life. I don’t think non-essential employees should be mandated to stay on their jobs during such a crises. But it’s crazy here and people can be fired for leaving a job at McDonald’s. Unless they live in a mandatory evacuation area, they are expected to stay.

Life is an adventure and then you die….seriously…we’ve been helping people board up homes and secure pets for those that need to leave. Some of our friends have relatives on the coast that can’t drive any distance (elderly people) so they are going to get them and bringing them to Orlando…I actually feel safer here in Central FL than anywhere else in FL at the moment.

In the aftermath of Charley all you could smell when you walked outside was Bar-B-Q. People were grilling meats that had thawed and was one big party from backyard to back yard…lol It was quite an experience. Free food everywhere….people helping cover rooftops with tarps. Chainsaw sounds were deafening.

But here is the real kicker: We just bought a house on Matlacha. The island is basically a sandbar between Pine Island and Cape Coral in the Gulf of Mexico, just behind Sanibel Island. Pine Island is a conservation island where no more development is allowed…no big condos, hotels or big box stores. Matlacha (pronounced Matt-la-shay) is that tiny red island.

The homes are three feet above sea level…the quaint bungalow we hope to retire to is on a lot that is built up by about 6 feet, and Irma’s storm surge is expected to be 6-10 feet. The Key Westy home is surrounded by coconut trees and sits on a deep water canal just a few yards from the channel that runs wide open to the Gulf. The home is waterfront with picturesque shuttered windows all around, opening views to the dock and the bay. Sanibel and the barrier Islands offer some shelter, but you just never know about these things.

So there is that. Sure hoping the 1964 house will still be standing when all is done, and the island property is not on the bottom of the bay. It’s been there for more than fifty years, so all we can do is hope it can at least last another fifty years.

 

At any rate, we have a generator for powering our a/c and fridge here in Orlando in case we lose power, and the family is gathering at our place to weather whatever part of the storm hits us here in Orlando Sunday night. There is still a sliver of hope that Irma will continue westward, but all hope of it turning north and heading up the eastern seaboard is gone at this point. It is currently bearing down on Cuba and when it hits the mountains it should weaken. The FL Keys are just starting to get hit with the outer bands, and they are warning them for Cat 3 with 105-125 winds with gusts to 145, and it’s not looking good for Matlacha. However, the house was built in 1964, has weathered many a storm, and we can hope to weather another half century.

Battening down the hatches and riding out the storm!

FREE Book for the weekend! Naked Alliances #RRBC

FREE

Digital downloads of Naked Alliances are available 08/26-08/29

Grab a copy, and a margarita, sit back, relax and enjoy your weekend.

S.K. Nicholls’ family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation in Central Florida, Cypress Cove. Her experience gives her a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination.

Crime, eco, and social issues are at the forefront of her writing.  As a former sexual assault nurse examiner she has an interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking.  She is also a member of the Florida Writer’s Association, Writers of Central Florida, Sisters in Crime, and reads frequently to the public at the local Short Attention Span Story Hour in Orlando.

Always accused of being the class clown and a daydreamer, the crimes are heinous but the humorous approach provides entertainment, creating a lighter, softcore crime read with the Naked Eye Series.

 

Florida Native Rhythms Festival

Last weekend, we took a little trip down to Melbourne, Florida for the Eighth Annual Native Rhythms Festival sponsored by the Indian River Flute Circle and Native Heritage Gathering, Inc. It was set in Wickham Park, a lovely little wooded park in the midst of an enchanted forest, or so it seemed with the trills of the flutists wafting along on the breezes.

There was something magical about hearing Native Americans playing their tunes that most learned from their forefathers, legendary music passed down through generations, while wandering between the ancient live oaks that flanked the tall pine forest. It set me back in time.

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While we were there we browsed the vendors and came across a very kind lady who hand makes drums with different animal skins stretched across the raw hide frames…buffalo hide, deer, and elk. Each drum has its own pitch and tone, depending upon the thickness of the animal skin. Drum circles are popular events around here, especially on the beaches. I wanted one, but I also wanted a new Keurig, and coffee won that battle.

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Artists and craftsmen/women had their works displayed throughout the park and the vendors were very friendly, taking the time to teach people about their crafts. I tried to learn how to play a flute. I need a lot of work, but it was fun trying. No trading with beads and shells here, but they take VISA and MasterCard.

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But, by far, the coolest exhibit was a real teepee.

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The teepee was fashioned from dyed and painted animal hides braced on poles. We hesitated to go inside the tiny doorway, but the gentleman standing by the door told us it was not something we wanted to miss, so we went inside.

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He was right. It was stunning, and much larger inside than it appeared from the outside. There were two cots, one on either side, and a large living space adorned with trophy furs and blankets.

The costumes were beautiful and colorful with leather, seed beads and bone. Don’t see too many feathered headdresses with the Florida native attire.

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There is a short clip of some of the sort of flute and drum music we heard playing. The weather was perfect and it was a nice day out. omanyteBTW, the park is an Omanyte nest right now for all you Pokemon Go players. That’s a very rare and ancient fossilized snail.

Book Two in the Naked Eye Series: Vegas, Florida Cowboys and Indians

Most of my writing these past few weeks has been marketing related. I’m jonesing to get back to creative fiction writing. I’ve been toying with the title of the next book. I was going to call it Naked Malice. But Naked Odds seems to suit the characters and gambling component that is expanded on.

We’ll be at SleuthFest in February, and then Vegas in April. There are a couple of scenes that take place in Vegas and I have never been. I’d like to get a feel for both the layout of the Strip and the people. (Being able to take in the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show is an added bonus.)

The Seminole Indians, (Native Americans to be more politically correct), here in Florida have a colorful recent history that is also finding its way into Book Two. Another fascinating tid-bit that I’m working in has to do with the “real” American cowboys. There were even Seminole Cowboys.

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Let’s start with the horse. Horses were not native to North America. Or were they?

Should the wild horses that roam North America be considered native wildlife? They may have been “introduced” by man, but scientific evidence suggests that they are genetically the same as the horses that became extinct on the continent between 11,000 and 13,000 years. In fact, the genus Equus could have been wiped out entirely had it not crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into Eurasia. 

Had it not been for previous westward migration, over the land bridge, into northwestern Russia (Siberia) and Asia, the horse would have faced complete extinction. However, Equus survived and spread to all continents of the globe, except Australia and Antarctica.

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Native status for wild horses would place these animals, under law, within a new category for management considerations. As a form of wildlife, embedded with wildness, ancient behavioral patterns, and the morphology and biology of a sensitive prey species, they may finally be released from the “livestock-gone-loose” appellation.

Those of us who have been here a while equate wild horses with cowboys and Indians. Anyone who grew up in the sixties (with, at most, three TV channels) has seen the Wild, Wild West movies and TV shows, which showcased and romanticized the life of both cowboys and Native Americans. So, where did the cowboy originate? Out west? Most would think so.

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In 1493, on Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas, Spanish horses, representing E. caballus, were brought back to North America, first in the Virgin Islands, and, in 1519, they were reintroduced on the continent, in modern-day Mexico, from where they radiated throughout the American Great Plains, after escape from their owners.

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Wild Horse Herd stampeding

The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend.

However, out west in the 1880s, one loosely organized band was dubbed “The Cowboys,” and profited from smuggling cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the U.S./Mexico border. It became an insult in the area to call someone a “cowboy,” as it suggested he was a horse thief, robber, or outlaw. Cattlemen were generally called herders or ranchers. They were gentlemen and rarely carried weapons (unlike the the cowboys of the wild west shows).

There is regional history of Cowboys; the Texas Cowboy, the California Cowboy, and others. They developed climate suitable regional attire. Florida has its own history of “Cowboys” and they are a proud bunch.

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The Florida “cowhunter” or “cracker cowboy” of the 19th and early 20th centuries was distinct from the Texas and California traditions. Florida cowboys did not use lassos to herd or capture cattle. Their primary tools were bullwhips and dogs. Since the Florida cowhunter did not need a saddle horn for anchoring a lariat, many did not use Western saddles, instead using a McClellan saddle. While some individuals wore boots that reached above the knees for protection from snakes, others wore brogans. They usually wore inexpensive wool or straw hats, and used ponchos for protection from rain.

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Cattle and horses were introduced into Florida in the 16th century . In the 18th century, CreekSeminole, and other Indian people moved into the depopulated areas of Florida and started herding the cattle left from the Spanish ranches. In the 19th century, most tribes in the area were dispossessed of their land and cattle and pushed south or west by white settlers and the United States government. By the middle of the 19th century white ranchers were running large herds of cattle on the extensive open range of central and southern Florida.

Horses first arrived on the southeast North American mainland in 1521, brought by Ponce de Leon on his second trip to the region, where they were used by officers, scouts and livestock herders. Later expeditions brought more horses and cattle to Spanish Florida. By the late 16th century, horses were used extensively in the local cattle business and by the late 17th century the industry was flourishing, especially in what is now northern Florida and southern Georgia. The horses brought to North America by the Spanish and subsequently bred there included Barbs, Garranos, Spanish Jennets, Sorraias, Andalusians and other Iberian breeds. Overall, they were relatively small and had physical traits distinctive of Spanish breeds, including short backs, sloping shoulders, low set tails and wide foreheads.

The vaquero tradition has had little influence in Florida.

The early cattle drivers, nicknamed Florida Crackers and Georgia Crackers, used the Spanish horses to drive cattle. The cowboys received their nickname from the distinctive cracking of their whips, and the name was transferred to both the horses they rode and the cattle they herded. Through their primary use as stock horses, the type developed into the Florida Cracker horse, known for its speed, endurance and agility. From the mid-16th century to the 1930s, this type was the predominant horse in the southeastern United States.These were replaced mostly by thoroughbreds after introduction of “screw worms” from imported cattle, and the Spanish breeds nearly went extinct.

Long before Mickey Mouse came to town, the major attractions in the Kissimmee/Orlando area were the local rodeos. You can still experience the traditional culture of Kissimmee’s cowboys through the Kissimmee Sports Arena Rodeo. The rodeo runs at least twice a month on Friday nights at 8 pm. The Florida cowboy, or Cracker Cowboy became a branding symbol in the 1930s-50s.

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There was a local watering hole called the Big Bamboo on highway #192 for decades. It was a bamboo structure that sat in the midst of a pasture when I was a child. All the cowboys came by to wet their whistles after a long day of herding and told their stories. A wrecked plane and rusted out ambulance graced the front yard, the owner keeping them there as conversation pieces. He was a funny old man and refused to sell the Big Bamboo when all of the million dollar hotels were going up around him. It wasn’t until he died at the turn of the 21st Century that his grandchildren sold off the property and the Big Bamboo was no more. It’s where I had my first taste of alcohol while visiting my Uncle Jim, who started Cypress Cove nudist resort.

But I digress.

Several documentaries have been made about the Cracker Cowboys as they fight to defend their ranch land from encroaching development. Here’s a short clip from one of them.

More than one of these Florida Cracker Cowboys makes his way into Book Two of the Naked Eye Series.

Naked Malice, or Naked Odds? ….the story focuses on some gambling and other issues surrounding gambling in Florida and how the Seminoles are dealing with getting rich quick.

End of Summer and Getting Ready for the New Year

In August I wrote a little post about how Pokemon Go was helping me with grief therapy after a series of tragic events involving family, friends, and community. The story was picked up on Twitter and the editor of Fanreads, Keith McArthur sent me a request to use the story in an anthology of The Greatest Pokemon Go Stories Ever Told. Fanreads puts together books on sports, music and gaming. The cover was created by “Inspired Cover Designs.” See, that’s my name on the cover. 🙂

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You can go to their page and download a few of the stories for free by subscribing to their site, or you can purchase a copy from Amazon, Kobo, or Apple.

I completed my pokedex, finding all 142 available U.S. pokemon, thanks to a lovely park here that spawns all the rare pokemon and has always been a magical, mystical place, Kissimmee Lakefront Park. It’s a gorgeous park on Lake Toho where I once owned a waterfront home. I would walk to the park daily and attend the Renaissance Fair events. The Medieval Times characters practiced their fighting moves for their shows there.  Sometimes the Disney and Universal characters practiced skits there, also.

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They’ve spent thirty million dollars on renovating the park since I lived there and it is a stunning, grassy waterfront park with cobbled walking paths, a fishing pier, picnic pavilions, a splash pad & two shaded playgrounds. A very nice place for me to take a break from my writing and step aside from my grandmotherly duties and just relax a while, watch the wildlife, and soak up sunshine in the daytime and enjoy cool breezes in the evening.

There is a blog tour for Naked Alliances scheduled to begin on October 24th. It’s a big crunch to get all of the documents prepared by the deadline, but we’re well on our way. I’m still feeling like this work should have been done months ago, not AFTER the release of the book. I’ve never worked with a publicist before, but some of her advice conflicts with what I have learned about successful marketing and promotions. We’ll see how this all turns out.

Sales started out very well and I have sold more books in the first month than I did in the first year of Red Clay and Roses.

Things have slowed down a bit, but my blog audience and author platform only reach so far. There are radio interviews scheduled for October and book tours coming up. I’ll post those as they are scheduled.

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I’ll be attending Sleuthfest again next year and invite all crime/mystery writers and readers to join me. I had a blast there this year and gained a tremendous amount of confidence in reading the first chapter of my manuscript aloud. I won’t have a finished manuscript to work with next year, but I do have a new book on the market. Hopefully, Naked Alliances will be available at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, owned and operated by co-chair Joanne Sinchuk.

We also have a trip to Vegas lined up for next year. This is research for the next book in the Naked Eye Series. More about that later.

If you’re not going to make the Sleuthfest event, but would like a copy of the book, you can get a downloadable or paperback copy from Amazon. As the weather turns, it will make a nice addition to your morning weekend coffee.

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