"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Boats, ships, sailing vessels...

As I said in the previous post, Port Aransas is well known for great fishing, especially redfish. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt came here for Tarpon fishing.
The ship channel is one of only 3 natural passes in Texas and was used by Mexican merchants, smugglers and pirates as a highway from the sea.
With each storm, the pass would shift and choke with sandbars, making it the scene of many shipwrecks. To tame it, the Army Corps of Engineers tried 4 times over 60 years to build jetties and the ones there today were built in the 1930's. Fishermen spend many hours on the south jetty. It is one of my favorite places in Port A and I sit and watch the variety of ships sail by.

My knowledge of ships is minimal but I am fascinated by the detailed riggings and nets of the many kinds of fishing ships I see. There are many pleasure boats and yachts, of course, but I like to watch the working ships most of all.

I happened to be on the beach where the fishing pier separated me from the jetty when this big oil ship came in so part of the ship is obscured. We've seen oil ships from other countries but this one was called Great Eastern so I guess it's American. My nephew Nathan is a second mate in the Merchant Marines. He drives (is that the right word?) a big oil ship all over and has actually been assigned on one that came right through this channel. I wish I could coordinate a visit here at the same time he is coming in. I would love to get to see him.

A fishing boat heading out to sea while a cargo ship comes in. There are many oil rigs and platforms that need to be supplied by these cargo vessels.
Note the land in the background. This is San Jose Island, first inhabited by Karankawa Indians, then by conquering Spaniards and by the 1830's it was a haven for pirates. I just wonder what treasures of silver and gold lie beneath these waters.
Only the fish know where, and they're not talking...

Speaking of pirates, do you know what a pirate paid for his pierced earrings?
answer: A buckaneer!!!!

One of the oil platforms visible from the jetty. During the daylight many offshore oil rigs can be seen like this one. The shape next to it is a large oil ship probably filling up.
One morning we arrived early on the beach while it was yet dark as we wanted to watch the sunrise. We were surprised to see the dark horizon all lit up like a city on the distant shore. All the lights were from the oil wells just a few miles out at sea.

I wanted to get a picture of the pilot boat for I find that an interesting career. Nathan tells me it is also a lucrative career. Didn't happen to see one come through while sitting on the rocks, but we did see this boat. I never heard of a tractor tug before, have you?
Wonder what a tractor tug does---can't very well plow a field, can it?
A working channel like this one is a busy waterway with a whole world of distinct styles of boats designed for unique tasks. The US Coast Guard has been actively protecting boaters and shipping ever since 1878 in Port Aransas and its boats, planes and helicopters are always evident to keep things safe and legal. That's probably why St Joe's Island is now free of the pirate bandits--- Arrrrr, matey!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Measuring the hours by "Island Time"

We are most fortunate to have generous kids. Jonathan and Kelly own a very lovely beach house on Mustang Island, one of the barrier islands off the coast of southern Texas. The island is named for the wild horses brought in by the Spaniards in the 1500's. History says that their ship wrecked (the Spaniards', not the horses') and the native Indians captured the survivors. No sign of those horses nowadays, though.
The laid-back beach town is named Port Aransas.

We spent most of last week there. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

The channel of water that comes in off the Gulf of Mexico to Corpus Christi Bay must be crossed. In Port Aransas, Texas DOT provides ferry boats to transport cars back and forth from the mainland to the island. The width is narrow, but many large and tall ships (among other things, details to come later) need access to this waterway, so a bridge would not be feasible. Instead, these ferries slide back and forth all day and night. There are busy times when the wait could be an hour long for the 5 minute ride, believe it or not!

It is very exciting to finally get moving on that ferry--smelling the salt air, hearing the gulls cry and watching the dolphins that play in the water, racing the ferries back and forth. The pelicans are the official greeting committee. See the one sitting on the post?

And then we are on the island.

Port Aransas is famous for 2 things mainly: great birdwatching and great fishing.
We mainly go to RELAX and set our clocks by "Island Time".

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Back in Texas, y'all

I have returned to Texas for some R & R, reconnections with friends and family,
and the filling of my love tank by my sweet grandbabies.
(We won't mention the shock of passing 3 time zones in 13 hours and starting the day at 40 degrees and ending it at 90. Those are just common adjustments we make for the advantage of air travel.)

Found my dear husband tanned and fit. He handled his months of bachelorhood without any problems. He feels confident enough to wear his Apple shirt that reads, "Ask me anything" but smiles to admit he may not have all the right answers. But he sure looks good to me!
So does my precious Shoeless Joe who, upon seeing me at the Austin Airport, jumped up and gave me the biggest and tightest hug ever. But then, in his excitement, ran over to give an enthusiastic greeting to some random strangers waiting at arrivals, as well.
As Hillary reminds us, Shoeless is "made of love".
(And he's not bothered by whether or not he knows the recipient of his affections,
this fickle little dog.)

Made it home just in time to celebrate my little grandson's 3rd birthday.
Jack and I picked him up from preschool and I was blessed by his happy surprise at seeing "Grandma!" Then we had such fun taking him to the dollar store to pick out ANYTHING he wanted. Cash deliberated quite a serious while before selecting a little multi-pack of matchbox car wannebes. It was wonderful to watch him think and delight in his choice.

Boy, I wish they'd had those stores when my children were young. I would have loved to seem so generous by not checking pricetags on their chosen things. Just wave an arm and offer to buy any one thing. Wow, they'd have been thrilled!

I joined Kelly, my daughter-in-law, to pick Gigi up from her kindergarten class and her bubbly excitement was just as thrilling to this Grandma's heart.
What can compare to these sweet hugs and kisses? (Particularly when clean and sweet-smelling right from the bath!)

Here's the birthday boy in a sugar coma after eating the frosting off of several cupcakes.

And big sister sparkling with the excitement of the party.
I'm thankful for phone calls and ichats, but man, it's great to be a present Grandma again!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Feast for the Eyes

The last blog was of the marvelous way the city planted its abundant gardens,
but private shops and businesses also join in the generous spread of brightness and joy that comes from flowers.
Perhaps it is due to the barrenness of dark, cold winter days that the people of the north take such pleasure in the warmth of summertime. That is translated into a perfusion of reds, yellows, whites, oranges and violets of these amazing flowers. Like a wondrous throwing off of dark winter coats and walking into fields of color!


One fine Friday evening after work, my friend Tammy and I walked into town. We were equipped with cameras and the goal was to photograph all the flowers we admired each day from our cars as we drive to and from work.

I really like this neat mural on the side of a building.
The flowers are planted in such a way that they seem to part of the scene.

Here they are closer up. (You can click on this picture to enlarge it and see the delicate colors and petals of this beauties, if you'd like.)

I admired Kathleen's dentist's office every day.

He even planted petunias at the hidden side of the building.

A unique clipper ship made of flowers at the Tanana Valley Fair but I didn't do a very good job of getting the shot. That's the trouble with taking pictures, you have to choose to get the big picture or the details and can't do both. By showing you the whole ship and its cheerful captain, the beauty of the individual flowers was lost. Oh, well.
We focused on a different beauty instead.

These 2 pics were actually taken in Homer but I thought the plate and shells in the planter were such a cute touch for this coffee house/bakery near the marina.

Kathleen is talking to these bright flowers and the snapdragons always talk back.
Did you already know that? I'll bet you did.

Back in Fairbanks, the vibrant colors of these snapdragons looked touched up by some photographer. Absolutely not! They line a drive-in teller at a local bank and are look exactly like this. Anyway, I don't know how to change or tamper with colors.

A special gift shop downtown hangs a long row of these splendid baskets.
In between the hanging pots are planters with many colors of foxgloves.

Just a sample. How lovely!

Of course, most homeowners love to celebrate summer and fill barrels, pots, and window boxes with as many flowers as can possible fit. They spill over in gay perfusion, growing larger, brighter and fuller every day. And our hearts rejoice to see them!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Color tucked in every corner of the city

The city of Fairbanks takes great care to tuck flowers in every nook and cranny. Each morning, very early, I drove by the man in his watering cart fussing over the flower boxes that hang off the Cushman Street Bridge, the main street into downtown lined with many flags.

As with most cities, the parks are filled with flowers.

But here they are almost all annuals, meaning that they must be totally replanted anew every June. Earlier than that could mean fatal freezing of the tiny, delicate new plantings.

The growing season is only from June-sometime in September so a good deal of effort is put into planting so many flowers for all to enjoy. The long days of sunlight and moderate temperatures combine to create such stunning bright colors and sizes.

This pedestrian bridge gets its own planters. The city's colors are purple and yellow (or gold) as Fairbanks is known as the Golden Heart City of Alaska, mostly for the gold mining here and that it is located in the center of the state.

This well known sculpture is of "the first family" and shows a native father, mother, child and baby along with their dog. The area surrounding this statue hosts concerts every week and I went to several. My favorite is the steel drum band called "Cold Steel" and the musicians are all ages. They wear bright shirts and play music with the island flair specific to the steel drums. They move happily to the rhythms. I wish I could join them--

Street light planters each have a large stone pot at the base also overflowing
with coordinated plantings.

A closer shot to try and show you the bright and vivid colors of these flowers.
I have never seen colors like these anywhere else.

All along the Chena River are clusters of flowers with wrought iron designs on the fences. These artistic ironworks depict local images such as pine trees, mining and wildlife.

The library grounds are covered with flowers such as these...

and these. The city really loves its flowers and knows Fairbanksans do, too.
Do they realize that transients like myself are crazy about them, as well?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The land of the giant cabbage

Alaska has a legend about the giant cabbages. Wedegwood plants some every summer and Mum is standing nearby to give you some perspective. She was wondering if you can eat them...

The local Tanana Valley Fair gives out awards for the biggest and often they weigh over 60 pounds and yes, they are very edible! You just have to figure out how to get them from the garden bed to the kitchen!

Even the fern grow to 4 feet tall. Watch out, they are ready to bury me if they get much taller than this.

My favorite of the super-sized is this. Called "dinner-plate dahlia", these beauties are vivid and glorious. We used a hand so you could see how really large they are.

Isn't this grand?

And here is that same cabbage only 2 weeks later. Don't think I could hardly reach around it at this point. So, my question is this: how much corned beef would the cook need to go with this cabbage? And what size pot?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wedgewood's abundant flowers

The next few blog posts will be some of my favorite pictures, but definitely the most challenging to post. The flowers of Fairbanks are so outstanding that my little camera seems to fly into my hands of its own will.

Thought I'd begin with the grounds where I live. This complex is a combination of long-term rentals like travel nurses and short-term for people on the land portion of cruises that come on the large tour busses. It is called Wedgewood.

The lawns and gardens are maintained beautifully. Weddings and special events are often held in the conference area on weekends. There are several lovely gazebos tucked around the buildings. My mother and I spent a sweet morning just roaming around, admiring it all.

Planters near the buildings were overflowing with color and variety.
How nice to sit on this bench and take it all in.

As the summer weeks progressed, these hanging pots grew so large that I wondered if they may come crashing down with the weight. Kathleen didn't seem to worry.

It's not the types of flower, but the colors and sizes that amaze me.
Some of them seem to just glow with their own inner light.

The snapdragons grow to 3 feet tall.

Begonia grew larger than softballs.

Just the simple walkway that I take daily.
The beauty of the foliage forces me to pause and reflect,
forgetting any worries that may have dragged me down and lifting my spirit.

Out by the lobby entrance once again. So full and pretty.
If I was a poet I could be inspired to write a good one right here!