A Stroll On Estero: Encountering Sand Sculptures One Grain At A Time


We decided that we would give Sanibel Island a rest for a day.  Besides, we’d save $6.00 for not taking the Causeway Bridge.  No, it was time we crossed another bridge (free) from Fort Myers to Fort Myers Beach.  When we did, we found ourselves in another world.  This wasn’t Wal-Mart country.  This was the Gulf Coast version of Wildwood, New Jersey.  The young and the restless were here–strolling along the boulevard and taking up a blanket size spot on a very large beach.  We drove slowly.  We had to because of the frequent pedestrian crossings and road construction barriers.

If I wanted a burger of any kind or price, this was the place.  If I wanted a Marguerita, this was ground zero.  I was amazed at the number of open-air bars and vacation rentals.

I noticed that the Periwinkle Motel had hourly rates.  I wondered why someone would want to do that.  Aren’t motels for sleeping and resting from the rigors of long road trips?  I’m still thinking about this…

Slowly I drove, inch by inch, yard by yard.  This place was the stuff of my beach dreams that I forged in life.  Then we saw the sign: Sand Sculpture Competition,  we simply had to check this out.  It didn’t come as a total surprise to me that this event was happening.  I had seen a brief article about it in the local newspaper, the one I read while I enjoy my iced coffee at the Java Cafe in the Outlet Mall.

When I was a child, we used to go family camping in the Adirondacks of New York State.  Some summers we would spend a week or two at Golden Beach State Campground on Raquette Lake.  Now, I’m no stranger to building sand castles.  I did it all the time.  What kind of competition could this be, here in Florida?  How hard can it be?  All I ever needed was a Tupperware container, a little bucket and a Dixie cup.  I could build Camelot, Buckingham Palace or the Kremlin with those simple childs tools.

After no small amount of difficulty, we found a parking place.  It was at the Wyndham Hotel.  They sponsored the contest and it was their sand that was going to be used in making the little castles.  (It would require us to patronize the hotel bar after the beach, but we could manage that.)

As we approached the entry gate, a woman who was heading to the parking lot slipped Mariam a paper-like bracelet and said: “Here, save yourself $5.00.”  We accepted the freebie from her.  I decided I would struggle with the ethics and morality of this later.  I tried to calculate the number of years in Purgatory I would get for stiffing the Competition for five bucks.  Mariam doesn’t believe in Purgatory, so this whole thing would fall on me.

Later, I thought.  I’ll deal with this later.  I paid $5.00 for my bracelet and entered through the little tent-like entrance.

It had rained heavily during the night and there were large wet patches and pools in the sand.  I was a little put off by this.  I didn’t come to the beach to get my feet wet!  Then, I looked around me.  Wait a minute.  These weren’t sand castles at all.  This was the stuff of high art and imaginative skill that made my head spin.  I worried about the warnings I was getting on my iPhone about the approaching limit to my storage.  I wanted to take a hundred pictures.  Not that there were a hundred sculptures here, but I wanted to capture the objects on all sides.

And, here is where my brain began to overload.  I’ve taken a few art classes when I lived in New York City, but it was all 2-D, like water colors and chalk sketching.  This stuff was all 3-D and it was astounding.


I didn’t know what to photograph.  I was split between worrying about my iPhone storage and how they got the sand to stay put.  Everything I built on beaches as a child always collapsed.  Yet, these figures defied gravity.


Walking through this display was both amazing and enjoyable.  At the same time, I thought about when the day would come when rain or wind or people would cause these pieces of art to crumble–and turn into a beach again.  What is the lifetime of a sand figure?  I didn’t know, but I did know it was finite.

Someday, I might walk along the beach behind the Wyndham Hotel and find no trace of the dragon or the faces.


I stood looking at one that depicted a man being drawn into a gear wheel.  He seemed to be clutching a mound of something that was labelled SAND.


For some reason, I felt connected to him.  I think I understand what the artist was trying to say.  That’s more than I can do with a canvas by Picasso.

We drove back along Estero Boulevard.  We passed the bars and burger shacks.  There were a few tattoo parlors.  I made a mental note about the location of one.  I think I’ll come back here and get a Henna tat.  After all, it washes away in a few weeks.

It’s not like it’s permanent or anything.

[Photo credits are mine. Also, the Periwinkle Motel does not have hourly rates.  I don’t want that on my conscience too.]

The Albatross And The Vulture


What’s it like to float upon misty air?

Way up there upon winds of turbulence,

where your wings tame them, 

as a cowboy does the wild Stallion.

–Dara Reidyr from “On Flying

Four hours ago, I was finishing my iced coffee at the Java Cafe in the Outlet Mall.  Even with the AC, the plastic cup was dripping on the article in the local Fort Myers newspaper.  I was totally absorbed in a breaking story about an 18-year old guy who was arrested for roughing up his girl friend because she refused to go out and buy him some “clean” urine.  He was on probation and he apparently needed to pass a random drug test.  The water drops from my coffee obliterated some of the story, but not the part where he pushed her head and then threw bananas and a metal comb at her.  More wet newsprint.  Then the story ended with his breaking down in the kitchen, crying, and grabbing a carving knife, threatened to kill himself.  It seems that a friend captured the whole thing on a cell phone.

It’s good to have friends.

Now, I was in the pool at the RV Resort where we are staying.  I was leaning back with my head against the rim.  I was intent on getting some exercise one way or another, and since its way too hot to go bicycling, the decision to go to the pool wasn’t hard.  I was doing a peddling motion with my legs and practicing the scissors kick.  Nearby, at the shallow end, there were a dozen seniors doing water exercises.  A woman’s voice was telling them what to do.

“Now, turn around and lift your left leg–that’s right, just like that.”

“Okay, now run in place–do the best you can.”

I looked at each person in the group trying to identify the speaker with the tiny headset microphone.  I couldn’t find her.  She seemed to be joking with someone in the group.  I looked again and still couldn’t find her.  Then I spotted a cable from an outlet.  It led to a small boom-box that was placed on a pool chair.  Everyone was listening to a tape.  But, how could she banter with the group?

I was puzzling over this when I looked directly across the water and noticed that a man was staring at me.  He had on sunglasses, so I couldn’t be sure it was me he was watching.  He looked exactly like Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC.  Same hat.  Same white goatee.  I would have bet my last fiver that it was the Colonel himself.  I didn’t place any bet– there was no one to place it with and besides I remember that Colonel Harland D. Sanders died of leukemia in 1980.

The clouds were slowly thickening.  The forecast called for late afternoon showers.

I looked up.  There, in the pale blue of the sky was a soaring bird.  I looked at its wings.  It wasn’t an eagle–it was a turkey vulture.   Both are built for soaring.  Both are symbols–metaphors to us.  So is the Albatross.TurkeyVulture

I looked over at the seniors who were busy treading water and then back to the turkey vulture, making slow circles above my head.

You do not want to know what goes through my head at times like these.

I’ve always found the Albatross very interesting and enigmatic.  I’ve never seen one in the wild but from photos, they have an outstanding appearance.  But, the poor bird is cursed by being a symbol of  “a burden”.

“Oh, he has to carry that Albatross around his neck–too bad for him”.

We have Samuel Taylor Coleridge to thank for that.  One of my favorite poems is “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.  In case you don’t remember your 10th grade English class, a sailor shoots an arrow into the sky and kills an Albatross.  This brings really bad luck to him and his crew.  He is condemned to carrying the dead bird around his neck while the voyage of his ship wanders the seas.


He is the ancient mariner who stoppeth one of three…

Sometimes, I feel like I am like the pitiful sailor–condemned forever to carry the wrongs and sins of my youth around my neck.  It can depress a recovered good Catholic altar boy like me.


However, there are many times in my life that I’ve felt more like the Albatross and not the archer/sailor who killed without thinking.  These great birds (some with a wing span of twelve feet) are designed to soar–to ride the thermals–for unbelievable lengths of time.  Some say that these birds can go weeks (or longer) without landing.  They eat by swooping and catching the unfortunate fish who came too close to the surface.  They don’t need much food because they don’t expend much energy.  Their wings are engineered by nature to lock in place.  When you watch a skein of migrating geese, they flap their way from horizon to horizon.  The Albatross hardly ever uses its wings, except to stay aloft.

It has also been said that they only land to rest briefly, on a calm portion of ocean.  And, more importantly, they need to alight on a solid surface to find a mate and procreate.  The Albatross generally mates for life.

But, to soar above it all–only coming to the ground when necessary–seems like an amazing way to spend a life.  I feel the need to wander, sometimes far from home (like Florida), but I’m held by gravity to the surface of the earth.  Yes, I can take American Airlines to Puerto Rico, if I choose, but you get my point.

To soar above the aches and pains and heartbreak of life–to dream with your eyes open–of faraway lands and people who fill this world.  To soar and day-dream about the minute life below me and the sky, so blue and intense, above me, is enviable.  I would make an extra circle high above that red-haired woman who is crying on the empty beach.  I would make two extra circles around the Eiffel Tower and hear the cries of the Parisians.  I would soar above the lonely man, broken by war, meandering a boardwalk and thinking of ending his life.

But, I would make sure that I soared low enough so that the dim eyes of an old person could see me.  I would soar slow enough so the children, playing in the fields, would stop and point at me.

All this I would do, If I had the wings of an Albatross.  I wonder if that is what death is like–we can soar around the heads of the loved ones left behind?

All this I would do, even knowing that I would never be totally unencumbered and without the dreams that live in the living.

Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?

–Bob Dylan

[Images: Google search]

Holiday Time In Fort Myers/Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?*

“I don’t know Doc, I just seem a little disoriented lately.  Maybe it’s the time of year?  Maybe I should stay away from the egg nog…”

–Notation in the files of Dr. Hugh Roebottom, Psychiatrist, on the recent session with Patrick Egan.


It’s a pretty Christmas wreath.  I’m looking a one of the prettiest plastic Christmas wreaths I’ve ever seen.  I snap a photo of it to include in my “How I Spent The Winter” slideshow on my website.  There is an iced coffee in my free hand.  The condensation from the plastic cup of iced coffee has covered my iPhone with drops of water.  It’s not easy taking pictures with an iPhone and a dripping plastic cup at the same time.

I turn around and snap another photo.

mall lot

The PA system at the Outlet Mall is playing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”.  I’m supposed to be seeing snow on the ground and happy shoppers with bundled children walking through the falling flakes.  Where are bundled children, the red scarves, the woolen caps and the bright blue mittens?  Where do the children make “snow angels”?


It’s not happening.

Then I remember.  I’m not in my hometown of Owego, NY, or shopping in Binghamton in a snow storm.  I even remember that I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a senior citizen.  Here, I’m surrounded by senior citizens, and golf carts and adult tricycles.  No, I’m in Fort Myers, FL trying to escape the cold and snow.  Thanksgiving is next week.  Soon it will be December.  Soon, it will be Christmastime.

I go up the steps to the boardwalk at the Outlet Mall to think things over.  This is a little surreal to me–being here this time of year.  Even just being in Florida, for me, is a bit out-of-character.  I have Celtic blood in my veins.  It’s thick and doesn’t do well in sub-tropical climates.

Sipping on my iced coffee gives me a chance to digest the last seventeen days since we parked and unhooked our r-Pod. In the shopping centers I’ve seen Salvation Army Santas in teal colored shorts and Hawaiian shirts ringing the little hand-bell.  At least they have a red fleece Santa cap on their heads.  (They must be sweating under that cap.)

This place called Florida, this place where the Bush/Gore drama played out years ago, this place where Disney and Spanish culture collide like a bad I-95 accident, is a study in contrasts.  There is profound beauty in the Mangrove swamps and mind-bending varieties of shells on Sanibel Island.  The mosquitoes bite and the sunsets amaze.  The ants crawl on the cement and the storks take wing alongside the herons and egrets.


At the same time, the RV resorts and hotels and private marinas have taken the rawness out of the landscape.  I did a Google search on local beaches–I found a list under the link of au natural.  Thinking this was a place where I could walk naked, without shame, along the shore, communing with nature like Adam.  I checked one particular beach on Sanibel.

“Are you joking?” said the guy who was tying up the trash from a can in the parking lot.

I found that au natural basically meant that attendants didn’t pick up the litter and the driftwood stayed where the falling tide left it.

Yes, it’s a different world here for a small town Yank like me.  I’m going to miss the bleak grey skies of Thanksgiving and the snow of Christmas.  Most of my friends from high school are retired now and many have moved to the Carolina’s or here, to Florida.  I can’t speak for them, but I suspect that leaving behind the snows of yesterday with all the attendant activities, was a little hard.  Maybe not.

I remember being in New York City years ago.  They had just finished filming a scene from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on 5th Ave. and 59th street.  The set was made to look like Christmas in New York, and the Hollywood magic worked.  When I saw the film later, I was totally convinced Macaulay Culkin was indeed in the city in the heart of winter.  In truth, the scene was filmed in July or August.  An entire corner of Central Park and the plaza in front of the Plaza Hotel was covered in fake snow.

On my drive back from the Outlet Mall to our RV resort, I turn on the clearest FM station I can find.  I expect something, some song, that speaks to me in mid-November.  Instead, I hear the song: “Have You Left The One You Left Me For?”, it was quickly followed by “I’m Old Enough To Know Better But Young Enough Not To Care.”

They were kind of catchy.

There will be no family gathering for dinner next Thursday.  There will be no Christmas parties for us.  We are going to exchange presents, but there will be no tree to decorate.  It’s hard to hang lights on a palm tree.

New Year’s Eve?  No noise makers or funny hats or those things you blow into and they unravel.  (I never knew what they were called).  We’ll be going to bed early with everything packed and road-ready for our departure from Siesta Bay Resort on New Year’s Day.

On Christmas Eve, when I wrap the gift I already bought for Mariam, I will be singing a song inside my head–to myself–to the memories of my childhood.  I’ll probably have a CD in our player of Bing Crosby holiday music, but it’s the music in my head that I’ll be listening to.

I don’t know about the PA system at the Outlet Mall, but I’ll be quietly singing: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

palm sunset

Happy Thanksgiving!

[* “Where are the snows of yesteryear?”]







Listless In Fort Myers: The Harsh Realities Of Wintering In Paradise


I’m sitting on the wooden walkway, on a green metal bench, sipping an iced coffee.  I’m watching a Cessna single-engine plane pull an advertising banner across the slightly blue hazy sky.  The banner is telling us to shop at the Tanger Outlet Mall.  I look around and realize that this is the mall I’m in right now.  Wow!  Is that a coincidence or what?  I’m grateful for this bench, because it’s located in front of the main entrance to the Polo/Ralph Lauren store.  Every time someone enters or leaves, I get a free blast of cold air.

It’s one of the few free things you can enjoy when you’re this close to Sanibel Island.

As I watch the Cessna fade into the humid air, I wonder why I’m spending my valuable time sitting alone at an outlet mall in Florida.  People flock here this time of year (we did) to escape the winters of the north.  How was I to know that we were arriving in the middle of one of the more memorable heat waves in recent years.

“This is very unusual for early November,” everyone says.  “Just wait, it’ll get better.”

I am very reluctant to cross the parking lot, get into my car, and drive back to our RV.  I know when I step off this deck and into the sun, I’ll pay dearly.  Yesterday, I looked at my indoor/outdoor thermometer that I mounted with Velcro on the wall just above my head where I sleep…if I sleep.  It displayed triple digits.  I began to worry about the propane canister that is attached to our L.L. Bean grill.  There was a warning on the label about exposing the little tank to…..degrees.  That part of the label was torn.

Was my cooking propane tank going to explode while I was at the Outlet Mall?

I thought about that for a minute.  There would be a fairly large explosion that would likely affect the trailers nearby–and that wouldn’t be hard because the distance between lots is quite small.  (I can sit in our attached tent structure and watch CNN in the RV next door.)  I pondered the damage of such a fire storm–the cylinder is new and full of propane.  The mushroom cloud alone would attract people in the pool or the Shuffleboard courts.  The fire truck that would arrive would block the narrow street we lived on and the people in the golf carts would have to make an extra block.

I hope our propane doesn’t explode.  I don’t even know if we’re covered by AAA for something like that.

After I dumped the watery iced coffee into a bright green trash can, I drove home.  I switched on our AC and immediately began to worry about how much electricity it would cost to get cool me off for ten minutes.  Mariam was working today–she does everything by phone and computer–so she’s over in the “library” taking advantage of one of the two “hot spots” for the WiFi in our resort.  I tried going to the “library” to do some writing and thinking but I found it very distracting.  Every few minutes someone would come in and borrow a Nora Roberts or John Saul book.  My concentration would be broken.  I’m trying to work on a novel, but a “real” writer needs time alone.  Even amateurs like me need a place to think things through in peace.

RV flower

I guess I’m just listless in Fort Myers.  The humidity would tire anyone out, even perky people like Rachel Ray would begin to stir more slowly than usual.  I feel like a hostage to the weather.  Starbucks?  Too far away?  McDonald’s?  They won’t give me skim milk for my iced coffee unless I buy a half-pint container.  I don’t even have the energy to attend the Grand Opening of the new Walmart just a mile away.

My mind begins to wander as I lay back on our bed.  One possibility, you might suggest, is to go to one of the famous beaches and just sit under the umbrella and read or write while the ocean breeze comforts me.  But, they want $4.00/hour to park at these beaches.  And, besides, I’ve tried this approach but neither of us could get our umbrella into the sand deep enough.  The answer: I had to go to the nearest Publix store (they’re everywhere) and buy an auger so that we can drill a hole deep enough to support our shade-providing umbrella.  We’ll have to wait until our next beach visit to see if that works.

The other issue on my mind is that unlike most other places, we’re paying more for ice than for gas.  That doesn’t make sense to me.  Water isn’t shipped from the Persian Gulf and refined in New Jersey!  Crude oil is.  This is just water.  Ice runs around $2.50/bag (and lasts about a day).  Gas is about $2.09/gallon.  I did some mental math and came up with the fact that if we use a bag of ice a day, the cost will be $75.00/month.  You could rent a small room in a nice home in a tiny town somewhere in Ohio for that kind of money.

I’d like to look forward to our quiet little dinners in our tent attachment, but that presents yet another issue.  We sit at a little table that we bought at an RV store.  It has a surface texture that is very slippery.  When we used our new Corelle plates, and tried to cut a slice of fish, the plate slides around the table-top, nearly knocking over our plastic wine glasses.  I consider putting two adhesive Velcro patches on the table and on the bottom of the plates.  They would stay in place for sure.  But, if we both picked up our plates at the same time, we’d pick up the table as well.  Then the plastic wine glasses would surely fly–as well as the pepper mill and citronella candle–possibly burning a hole in our polyester rug.  Or worse…

I’m still laying back on the bed.  I’m still a little lethargic, a little listless and more than a little discouraged.

The reason I’m so down is that I recently checked my stats on my WordPress blog site.  My readership is falling.  I get three or four “likes” on the site.  I’ve looked at other bloggers and they get forty or fifty “likes” for writing six sentences on the shoes they’ve chosen for next Friday night.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 3.39.36 PM

Soon, I’ll have to turn off the AC ($!) and when I do the temperature will start to climb in nanoseconds.  I guess I’ll go out and sit inside our tent.  I’d like to put an ice pack on my head to keep cool, but ice is too expensive.  And, besides, it would slip off my hair when it begins to melt–which would be immediately.

Maybe if I used Velcro on the ice pack…





Farther Along The Beach, Among The Periwinkles, There Are Things Unseen


I’ve finally arrived at the island that is known around the world for its seashells.  I’m unloading the car in the parking lot of Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island.  The sun is beating against my back and seems intense enough to melt the polyester fibers in my shoulder seams.  I enter the Men’s restroom to change into my swim suit.  The address of the Men’s room is 133 Periwinkle Way, in case you want to see its roof on Google Maps.  After washing my hands, I hold them under a hot air dryer.  Why?  By the time I get back to the car, my hands will be wet with sweat.

I search the mess on the back seat and mutter something only slightly obscene because I have forgotten my velcro water shoes.  I’ll have to cross the parking lot in shoes with socks or go barefoot.  I opt to leave my socks and shoes in the car.  Shoes and socks and sand are well-known to not play well together.  The asphalt isn’t bad as it looked, but just before I reach the boardwalk to the main beach, I am faced with a six-foot border of broken periwinkle shells.  I take a step.  It hurts my tender soles–the soles that have spent the better part of four years cushioned by thick hiking socks.  I walk like a baby.  It’s painful.  I must look like a Hindu from Aruppukkottai, India, who has failed Introduction to Fire-Walking.  Walking on burning coals can’t be as bad as the periwinkle shells.

Fire-walking is not on my bucket list.

I’ve been in Florida a week.  I’m learning to carry some kind of footwear everywhere.  Did I mention that I had tender soles?

Standing on the beach, I eye a thunderstorm, a majestic Cumulonimbus, building off shore.  Meanwhile, the sun continues to kill superficial skin cells on my shoulders.  After applying a bit of SPF 45, I test the waters.  Thank God it’s not like the water off the shore of Maine.  It’s nearly warm.  In fact, it’s an immense relief to wade out to my waist.  I kneel on the hard sand and pose for a Facebook photo.  Mariam goes back to the new beach chairs ($10.99 + tax each) and settles in to read a book on her iPad.  I’m alone with only a few shell divers and a family near me.  I’m surprised so few people are here on such a hot day–a hot Saturday–a really hot Saturday.

I watch two young women bring three long poles and a shovel to a place a short distance from Mariam.  What are they going to do?  Twenty minutes later, there is a tripod with waving silken curtains of mauve and salmon and blue.  Out comes the white chairs.  There’s going to be a wedding on the beach.  A young woman and young man (?) are going to pledge their lives to each other on white sand and periwinkle shells.  I wish them luck with a quiet whisper.  Bitterly, I wonder if they’re marrying for love or money.  It’s hard to tell out here on Sanibel Island.  It’s the Fairfield County of the south.  I’m sure places are even more affluent around Miami, but its hard to imagine.

I see three people heading to the water’s edge.  It’s a middle age couple.  Between them is an old woman with a foam floating tube beneath her arms.  They are holding her up.  They take her out to the deeper water.  The old woman laughs.  She shrieks with delight.  She is giddy with the feeling of sea water on her wrinkled skin.  I wonder how long it has been since she has felt the ocean surround her.  Maybe this is a weekly ritual, but I don’t think so.  There is something in her eyes that speaks of a certain tiny fear coupled with her pleasure.  The couple who support her–I admire them.  I hope someone, my son, my daughter, my wife is around to hold me tightly when I reach that age–and they will carry me out to the sea.


My fingers tips are getting dimpled.  My skin must look like those bodies they find in the East River, after a mob hit.  The “floaters” they say on CSI.  I call to Mariam to come out with my iPhone.  I pose my hand.  She takes a few images but I can’t see them with all the glare.  Later, when I’m choosing the photo that works the best, I begin to wonder about inserting it into a post like this.  My hand looks like some mocking and inane version of the Lady of the Lake who threw King Arthur his sword, Excalibur.  Then I realize it looks like a New York Post front page photo of a drowning victim off Coney Island.  I decide to insert it anyway.  I trust my faithful readers to understand what I was trying to convey.



It’s time I took a walk along the beach, along where the waves wash the sand, where the walking is easy.  I set out.  The sea gulls part when I pass them.  A great philosopher once said that if you want to write something bad or evil about someone, write it in the sand.  That’s not great philosophy–that’s just common sense.  Chisel nothing in rock but write in the sand.  Write a sexy novel, an anarchistic diatribe, a love poem of heartbreaking intensity and full of Romantic images, a bad joke, a brutal confession or a boring essay on palm oil extraction.  But write it in sand.  Draw an obscene image, draw a heart and arrow with a pair of initials.  Pierce the heart with an arrow of Cupid.

But draw it in sand.


Time to go back to Mariam and begin packing up.  We only paid for two hours parking.

As I returned along the same shore, I noticed that my foot prints were gone.  The traces of my being on this beach, on this day, will be gone in an hour.  By then, the wedding will probably be over.

Is this the destiny of my life and accomplishments?  My writings, my photos are interesting for a few moments, and then lost forever.

I begin to envy the humble Periwinkle.  It’s not the showy conch and no one yells when they pick up one of these little shells.


I envy it, because those shells will be there in five hundred years.

And, they will still be on the beach, but this time, alongside someone elses footprints.



Every Grain Of Sand

“There lived a singer in France of old

By the tideless dolorous midland sea.

In a land of sand and ruin and gold

There shone one woman and none but she.”

–Algernon Swinburne

“I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea

Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me.

I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man

Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.”

–Bob Dylan “Every Grain of Sand”


Once upon a time–it seems like long ages ago–I taught in an independent school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  My job was to introduce wealthy kids to the amazing world of science.  It wasn’t a hard job.  If you lit a candle, the 5th grade boys would “ooh and ahh”, so much so that I would tell them to get out more often and see a show once in a while.

In the back of my classroom, in an oak cabinet with a glass door, I had a row of small bottles with black caps.  Each container had a label.  I think I had about twenty.  The bottles were half the size of a typical test tube.  This was my collection of sand.  Yes, I collected sand.  It makes more sense than a ball of string, rubber bands or empty beer cans from brewers that no longer exist.  I had an advantage that most sand collectors would envy.  Most of my students went to the warm places during the holiday vacations.  Some went skiing in the Alps or Aspen, but it’s hard to collect snow.  I would give my south-bound students a zip-lock bag and ask them to bring me some sand from wherever they went.  I had black sand from Hawaii, pink sand from Bermuda–I had sand from the shores of the Dead Sea and sand from Ipanema Beach in Rio.

Needless to say my sand collection was quite impressive–if you’re impressed by such things.

I think sand is as beautiful and thought-provoking to look upon as a crystal of Rhodochrosite, Halite, Calcite, Serpentine and even Garnet.  Notice I didn’t say Diamond.  I do have some sense of value.

Sand is the stuff of poets and philosophers.

“To see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower.  Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.”

–William Blake

These poets and philosophers have a fair grasp of the sublime nature of sand, as a physical substance that you can hold, and as a metaphor for human existence.

The ancient hour-glass is impossible to look at without thinking of the ticking of life’s clock.  How many poets have reminded us of this?  How many images are there of The Grim Reaper who carries a scythe and an hour-glass?  The message is simple, when your final grain of sand had fallen through the narrow glass, the flow of time needs to stop for you.


I am in Florida.  Sand is what keeps this state from sinking into a chasm between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  [That isn’t quite the entire scientific story, but I have time restraints.]

We saw the small sign indicating a beach.  Turning right off the main road, we arrived at a tiny parking lot.  Even with sunglasses, the sun reflected from the white sand with a glaring intensity, it made you squint, it made your eyes water and it made you want to run naked along the narrow beach while singing an aria from Puccini.

That probably would have resulted in an arrest and a fine that I had no wish to pay.

Some say that if you see one beach, you see them all.  There is some truth in that.  The elements of sand, or pebbles, or  shells, the washing of the waves, the palm trees, the pine trees, or the coconut trees are present along many beaches.  Some, like those in Maine, add a rocky aspect to the mix.  But the beach I stood on just outside Fort Myers, in Florida, was almost pure white.  It made me blink.  It made me reach for my tube of SPF 45.  The sun’s intensity was turning my forearms brown as I stood and watched.

This was the Florida I came to see.  This was just one of the beaches I intended to visit.

And, beaches never fail to set my mind to wandering and wondering and thinking, about life, death, endless motion and the ultimate victory of the sea over the land.


Yes, sand is one of the most powerful metaphors for life and change.  I’m hard pressed to think of any natural substance, so common, so varied and so beautiful that speaks to so many souls and poets and painters, about the transitory life we lead.

Every grain of sand, whether its common quartz, feldspar, weathered basalt or bits of sea shells, owns its own particular intricate shape and luster.

It’s just like what’s been said of the individuality of snowflakes.  But, snow is not on my mind these days.


My Three Palms


It’s the second morning, the second sunrise, of our third day–at our winter home.  I just got out of bed, it’s 8:56 am and the thermometer on the wall over my head reads 85.6 F.  Mmmmmm.  Should I read something into this?

The sun set yesterday on our first full day at the Siesta Bay Resort in Fort Myers.  My tan line is getting defined, my sweat glands are getting an exercise in functionality and I’m feeling my age.

After arriving on Sunday afternoon and were led to our site (I actually backed the Rpod in myself, thank you) we began the ritual of unhitching, balancing, adjusting the supports (that’s RV talk for those of you who fly to a resort), hooking up the water line and plugging into the 30 amp box, we were overheated and as sweaty as those pro basketball players you see on ESPN.  Two hours later, as we sought out a Barnes & Noble, a Starbucks and an RV Camper Store to make a few necessary purchases, we were even more sweaty and hot.  We both took a quick shower and I tuned into the World Series on my TuneIn app.  The game was great (and interesting to listen to rather than watch), until the late innings.  My heart didn’t bleed real blood, I’m a Yankee fan, but I felt sorry for the Mets fans out in the boroughs, in places like Queens and Kips Bay.

But, first we had to get the interior cooled off just a little.  I would have settled for about fifteen degrees cooler and 35% less humidity, but you work with what you have.  What we had was a small fan.  Actually, it’s a really small fan.  It’s about the size of a compact box of Kleenex tissues.  If you put a candle three inches in front of said fan, the flame might wiggle a little–maybe not.

We had to bring out the “big guns”.  It was time to turn on our AC.  The last time we used it was in October, 2013 when we were in Death Valley.  It does a fine job in cooling off the limited living space in our RV.  In reality, this AC unit could easily chill the interior of a Greyhound bus.  Soon, I could see my breath.  An hour later, my core body temperature was down enough to consider turning the thing off.  We did and were stunned at how we had been shouting at each other over the noise from the fan.  There is no Low/Medium/High setting.  It was ON or OFF.  The neighbors probably thought the Yanks were having a tiff.  It would have been a logical guess–scenic traveling can be stressful.

I looked up at my indoor/outdoor thermometer (digital) that I mounted with velcro to the wall above my head. It was late at night–the temperature was supposed to go down after the sun set. But, I noticed the indoor temperature was 1.6 degrees warmer than the outdoor temperature. It must need new batteries.

Then the real heartbreak. I had been staring at a blank wall when I would lay down to read or play Scrabble. It’s an empty space above the window where my feet are during the night. I had plans to make that wall my (our) Postcard Wall Of Memories. I was going to put up a typical postcard from all the interesting places we visiting on this road trip. It would be a visual reminder of favorite places, fond memories. My first card was a sepia toned photo of the Chrysler Building at night. It’s a famous photograph. I put a long strip of double-sided tape on the back. I found it two days out of New York City–sitting at the foot of the bed. It fell off. The second card what called “Rainbow Row”. It was a beautiful color picture of the amazing houses in Charleston, SC.  It stayed on the wall.


We were both up early so we could enjoy the cool morning air.  After that twenty-five minutes was over, Mariam had to find a shady place to use her laptop (she works three days a week and all her business can be done with emails and phone calls).  She had a nice shady spot in front of the camper.  The mid-morning sun was getting serious so I had to seek out some shade so I could write in my journal and read a few chapters of a very thick book.

I found a place of shade provided by the middle tree of trio of palms in “our” yard.  Or, someone’s yard.  I put my chair in place and settled in.  Then, seven minutes later, I had to shift my chair.  The sun moves across the sky just like at home–in the North Country.

Later, in the afternoon, Mariam had moved her “office” to the breezeway, which is a common room open to the breezes.  So, if the air ever did move, there would be a breeze.   I came prepared to use the pool.  I went into the gate and was confronted by about twenty elderly people taking half the pool to play volleyball.  I looked around and counted the number of people in the water, those playing the game those just treading away in the deep end.  There were twenty-seven.  I made a fair estimate of their average ages and decided that 71 was an appropriate assumption.  Not counting me (I was about to be the twenty-eight), the aggregate age of the pool population was 1,917 years.  Calendar-wise, that goes back to the beginnings of the major religions. That made me take a step back.  I prayed that I would skew that number by a few months.  This pool needed it.

Pool Volleyball

After a few laps, I retired to my lounging chair to watch my sand dry in the sun.  Don’t ask.  It’s a long story and another blog.  If you must know why I have a zip-lock bag of damp sand, send me a message or email and I will tell you the whole truth).

Back at our site, which is #143, in case you were starting your holiday shopping early, I noticed a tree about thirty feet from the front of the R-pod.  It’s too perfect.  I have strong suspicions that it’s a cell phone tower like the kind they use when local populations force Verizon to make things look “natural”.  I think this helps to explain the constant vertigo I’ve been feeling since we left Rainbow Lake.  Maybe I should do a Google search for a local Pilates Class for Seniors.

So, what have I learned in my first day and a half at the place where we will celebrate New Years Eve ’15?

I was quick to notice how ubiquitous the golf cart is to the folks who stay here year after year.  They are everywhere.  And, I think that is very understandable and hip in a way.  They are quiet, non-polluting, and can get you to the pool in just a few minutes.


Then there was the warning we were given about the picturesque pond just beyond the tennis courts.  The woman who checked us in said that we can’t swim there.

I asked why.

She said something about alligators, two of them, who live in the pond.  At least that’s what I think she said.

We’ve been in Florida now for four days.  I’m pretty sure I heard correctly.  After all, the northern end of the Everglades are a mere one hour drive away.

While I’m here, I fully intend to obey all signs say: No Swimming.





The crickets are chirping in the foliage and the cars speed by on the highway to and from Sanibel Island.