Spoonbills, White Pelicans & Seashells, o my!

I’ve wanted to return to Sanibel Island since I originally left it after a day visit in 1964. The island has been legendary as a mecca for masses of seashells on its shoreline deposited there because of its unusual placement in the Gulf of Mexico, close to Ft. Myers, FLA.

In the 60’s we took a small ferry to the island, as we noted with some sadness that a few large bridges were being built to connect the island to the mainland.  At that time, as I remember it, the island was largely undeveloped, the beaches knee deep in alluring seashells, largely untouched.  The shells were almost overwhelming in variety.

Sanibel takes some getting to, but when I learned there’s now a ferry from Key West, I became determined to check it out again after 60 years. Who knew what we would find or if, once the bridges were complete, we’d find the island we were initially drawn to now a fading image, something like our younger selves?

Ft. Myers Beach

It was easy to sense that Ft. Myers Beach, where we landed for our first night after the ferry ride, had a dark side, despite the bright citrus colors most buildings were painted as a colorful ploy to suggest upbeatness.   Seamy bars lived in each “resort” where one could disappear for a lifetime. Alfred Hitchcock could have used it brilliantly.as a movie set.  If I had been five years old, I might have thought it was beautiful.

Someone on the staff had a talent for making towel animals.  Poor bunny.

I woke up in the morning grateful for not having any bedbug bites and eager to get the hell out of there and on to Sanibel!

Sunrise, sunset. Updated.

sunset on Sanibel

No way I would have recognized Sanibel. I felt grateful that it obviously was being taken care of, despite the inevitable development after the bridges came on the scene.

There are no food chains, no billboards, all tasteful but uninspired building and lush landscaping, and groomed residents, you get the picture.  We drove through a beautiful  wildlife sanctuary where it was easy to spot oblivious roseate spoonbills and white pelicans luxuriating in the late afternoon sun. 

It’s a mid -western retiree’s heaven.  Bicycles abound on the long straight roads through the mangroves, but the real excitement takes place at the beach at the crack of dawn, as obsessed shellers greet the day by beach combing for special shells, still fairly abundant.

Nature’s Show

Nature is the show here in this natural paradise.  Humanity has  intruded in a respectful and fairly sterile mode of development. There are no inspirational flashes of creativity that are apparent to me.  They are setting aside large tracts of land and mangroves in a continuing effort to preserve.  I admire that.  But where is the artist’s input? Those in charge have played it very safe.  I understand that.  But a little EDGE would have been fun and stimulating and have really added to the mix.  It’s not too late. See Naoshima and Setouchi Triennale.

 

the White Pelican Gang
Roseate spoonbills!

Speaking of the beach, it’s gorgeous and uncrowded, walkable for miles, which I was too lazy to do. We watched sunrise and sunset from our motel room window and a full moon rise in the early evenings. Perfectly satisfying.

View from our motel room, The Shalimar.

When I casually asked my husband if he would like to return, he said, “been here, done that. ” Not the response I’d hoped to hear, but I understood.  His fishing attempts here yielded nothing, what did I expect?

I would still like to return, but realize it probably won’t happen.  It’s just that time of life.

Remembering Bess

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My Mom center, L daughter Lara  and R daughter Brett .

We’d always celebrated my Mother’s birthday on January 3, until she informed us one day that she learned upon  getting a copy of her birth certificate, that her birthday was really January 2!  We all shook our heads in disbelief, but there it was in black and white, Jan 2.  These days, since she is no longer living, I tend to think of either or both days as her birthday.  This time of year triggers memories of Bess.

I easily remember her coming into my bedroom before she went to sleep , to kiss me goodnight. I always pretended to be sleeping, but waited patiently most nights for her sweet kiss.  What a nice game. I never did ask her if she realized, I’d been awake, all those times.

I loved to watch her get dressed to go out with my Dad.  Her bedroom, next to the bathroom, a little misty from the shower she’d just taken.  The door to her closet which held the only full length mirror in the house, would be ajar as she checked her progress.  Those were the years when a woman’s undergarments set the foundation for a well dressed woman. For a young girl watching the armor  applied to tame the mature feminine body, it was nothing less than fascinating.undergarments 1950's

 

My mother never ever got dressed without pulling on her girdle first.  When I questioned her about the procedure, she told me in no uncertain terms that she felt undressed with out it. I took her word for it and stopped inquiring.

Following her lead, when I became an adolescent, I decided I needed a girdle as well before going out on a date.  As a dancer, at this time of my life, I was very slender.  My Mom tried to tell me I didn’t need it, but I would have none of her reassurances.  The purchase of a girdle was a right of passage and I was hell bent on wearing one.

I got a stomachache midway through the date evening, excused myself, went to the bathroom and quickly pulled off the now loathsome girdle placing it in the trashcan, before returning to my date. Liberated!

Mom’s summer cologne in those years was usually Mary Chess, white lilac.  My love of the scent of lilacs equaled or surpassed hers and I too wore Mary Chess until it stopped being produced in the early ’60’s.

The choice of shoes completed her outfit and preparation.  She had about a dozen options, neatly displayed on her closet floor.  Years later, her oldest toddling granddaughter was attracted to that closet as if by a magnet.  She’d chose her (Mom’s)shoes to wear by some mysterious process and proceed to wear them around the second floor of my Mom’s house for several hours.  Mom never objected.

Today, I wonder how my Mom’s life might have been different if she’d been born a decade or two later.  She was one of the few working women I knew.  All of my friend’s moms were stay at home.

Mom put a lot of energy into making her home attractive and vibrant.  She boldly painted her kitchen ceiling red. She did not hesitate to go all white in her living room, reupholstering and recarpeting as needed.  The only caveat was it was not a room for children, only for company.  If kids tried to skirt the rule she’d quickly ask them to leave.  She cleverly converted New England antiques into working partners in achieving the look she sought.

She always needed and wanted a broader life, but my Dad insisted that if she was to work, it could only be for him, as a cashier in his grocery store.  I know she had bigger dreams, but never went after them.  She adored my father and stayed by his side, seldom complaining except when he spent most of Sunday golfing.  All through my childhood, she repeated to me, “Get out of Holyoke!”

I got the message along with the Mary Chess.

 

Moving Forward

The Holiday season brings mixed emotions each year.  I imagine the longer one lives, the more mixed it becomes, as losses accumulate. Such is life.

Many years ago my mother passed just before Thanksgiving. Many more years ago my infant son died of crib death at three months of age, just before Christmas. The season can be redolent for me with memories of being very outside the circle of celebration that the world surrounds us with at this time of year. The memories become less weighty as time goes on as does the realization that the season can be viewed as a construct or a launching pad. It too will pass, so I try to enjoy and celebrate what feels real and ditch the rest that becomes cloying.

The annual acknowledgement and assessment of Time passing is sobering as well, but this year, looking back at memories has brought me a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.  The relationships I’ve managed to sustain have brought distinct pleasure and meaning to life.

With that in mind, I want to share with you one of the most joyful moments of my last year.  Of course, it has to do with dance.  For our last and past season of DANCEworks,Doug Varone revived “Lux,”an astonishing work that touched me deeply,created during an earlier DANCEworks residency.

It left me spellbound when I first saw it and continues to work its magic. I felt privileged to be able to commission it and am so happy to continue to share it, even if on a small screen.  I think it’s a tribute to our shared humanity.

LUXURIANT. LUX IS ALL ABOUT FREEDOM. IT IS WHAT DANCING REALLY FEELS LIKE, THE KIND OF DANCING I MIGHT DREAM ABOUT: LOOSE AND SWEEPING IN A SPIRIT OF EXULTATION. VARONE PUTS THE BEATING HEART AT THE CENTER OF HIS WORK. BEGINNING WITH VARONE’S MEDITATIVE, RESILIENT EXPLORATION OF THE SPACE AROUND HIM, LUX SEEMS TO PROGRESS TOWARD OPTIMISM, AS A PROJECTED MOON SLOWLY RISES ON THE BACKDROP, AND THE PERFORMERS TAKE PLEASURE IN THEIR RICHLY CONVIVIAL CELEBRATION. LUX SATES YOU WITH DANCING, BUT YOU’RE STILL RELUCTANT TO LEAVE THE FEAST. -THE WASHINGTON POST

I look forward to living in a kinder, gentler world again soon where we can treasure the earth that’s been given us and give it and its inhabitants the respect and love so deserved!

https://vimeo.com/50294427

One Journey Ends, Another Begins

I awakened from my sleeping pill slumber as we were an hour out of LA.  Relief that the long flight was nearly over flooded my consciousness. Awareness dawned that I hadn’t eaten dinner or breakfast, falling asleep early in the flight and blessedly remaining asleep for most of it. Gratitude.  I’d eaten more than enough while in Japan to tide me over. I was returning to the land of my birth, the seemingly now crazy, angry and often chaotic place that I hardly recognize is my real home.  I am returning home to take the next steps in my new role as retiree.  I like it!

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After stumbling in and out of bed for two days, waking to help celebrate my granddaughter’ s 7th birthday, and then losing myself in slumber again, today I seem to have my wits about me. Small blessing!  Life can resume.

The Basquiat Show at the Mori Art Museum

Kyoto has truly become a second home to me.  Familiarity has bred comfort in this case.  I no longer walk around like other tourists I see, looking as if I’d landed on the moon unprepared. In fact, I generally now know where I’m going, secure in the fact that I’m not going to fall off the edge of the earth. Secure in the fact that people are kind in Kyoto and if a problem occurs, they’re only too happy to help me.  musing:  I wonder if Kyotoites identify me as simply “other” or as “other” with a quality of belonging somehow to their culture rather than just a passing tourist.

The Fun Loving Cats of Japan

Not as much seems surprising anymore. When I first came to Japan I couldn’t take more than three steps without stopping to gape at something that I’d never see at home. No longer.  I’ve upped the ante I guess and become more discriminating. The cutsey stuff has become cliché.  The bakeries and food quality remain at the top rung of the ladder. As do the temples and nature. The fear of being rejected when making a dinner reservation  has dimmed.  Of course the fact that my husband does this, is quite helpful.  Nothing much from fear of the unknown deters me anymore, except large crowds.

The Splendid Gardens of Kyoto

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We have a marital division of labor that works pretty well.  I run the washing machine and my husband does the scheduling, which I’ve not done well at (to put it mildly).  I find the intriguing places and events to track down, he finds the way to get us there. Generally good-naturedly.

The Spiritual Edge

So now I’m back, newly retired.  I’m loving the new found freedom to make it up as I go along.  I’m also loving that it’s a sure thing I’ll be back in Japan come Spring!

Japanese Landscape Dreams

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a sure sign of fall, berries demanding attention.
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After he rains, water is flowing in the run off ditches alongside the temple walls.

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osmanthus
osmanthus, should be scratch n sniff!

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fungi on downed tree

In review, I’m posting a few of my favorite things from this trip.  Thanks for coming along for the ride with me.

 

 

 

 

Dipping a To(e) into Tokyo

Tokyo is huge.  It’s exciting  and exhausting! The motherland of sushi?  The boldest of buildings?  The best of art collections?  A shopper’s paradise?  A non -shopper’s idea of hell?  A business man’s playground?  Definitely a city with an underbelly, often visible, of pimps and prostitutes and the mob. A pamperedpoodle’s place to live an overly indulgent life? For sure all of the above.

I spent a few days there investigating small areas of the city and having a fine time before meeting one of my daughters and heading back to Kyoto.

Must Be Seen to be Believed

I’d read about a book store complex that when visited, astounded me. Definitely in the category of Must Be Seen to be Believed. The Japanese seem to have the amazing ability of bringing big dream projects to life. I don’t know the history of this project, but I think  Tatsuya Books, in Daikanyama (Tokyo neighborhood) must have been some powerful and influential person’s dream.

Not to be missed is the Tsutaya Books bookstore itself, a literary enclave that features elaborate interior design. The modern complex includes a lounge, café, upscale convenience store and one of the busiest Starbucks joints. Comprised of three interconnected buildings, the bookstore has a seemingly endless offering of books, periodicals, English-language titles, DVDs, stationery, and movies. I can spend hours perusing their vintage magazines from the 60’s and 70’s on their 60-yard long “Magazine Street.” savvyTokyo.com, Nanno Betts

 

Don’t expect to spend less than half a day in this book complex. There is sooo much to investigate. Here are more examples of what caught my restless eyes!

Art works intertwine with books and books and books!

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My daughter Joined me as we joined the long lines visiting the new Basquiat exhibition at the Mori Art Museum.  Short on context, but deep on his vivid, quixotic paintings.  It’s an intense show and a lot to take in.  I did my best.  So fortunate to see it here.

Finally to round to round out the day, it was time for a cocktail.