Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Adventures in October

Busy, busy weekend. And I'm expecting L.K. Hamilton's Lick of Frost on my front porch any time now, and when it comes, I'm pretty much going to drop everything and read (hmm, isn't there a school program called that? DEAR?), so I thought I'd get a blog in while I could.

So, I went to a chapter writing retreat in Valley Mills this past week. As you can see, the little house where we all crowded in isn't much, but it gave us privacy, a place to all squeeze round the same table, and a place to sleep, so we camped out for the weekend and talked writing. I got positively inspired. I'm still working on the Irish/Navajo story, but I brainstormed a plot for a two-page excerpt I wrote who knows how long ago that I always liked and thought could make a good story... and now, I really want to get to work on that one too. (The other picture is the view from the porch at our retreat place.)

Then, I headed to DFW to see the daughter while she was down in our neck of the country at her 10-year-high school reunion. (Good grief--do I have a kid that old?)(Guess so.) Her brothers came from Waco and Dallas and we had a great family visit. I can't get any more pictures to upload, or I'd share some of the pics of the great big lugs riding on the kid's toy tractor. They're pretty hilarious. Oh, and the punkin my littlest grandboy painted for me. It's adorable. And now sitting on top of my TV. (Hopefully, it won't start leaking stuff before Halloween's over.)

Came on home Monday, after taking the girl to the airport to fly home. The fella had to go to Austin with his board members Sunday, and came home on Tuesday just as I was heading out for the post office. It's a lot farther away here than it was in Clarendon. Lot bigger, too. Anyway, last night, we had yet another thing to go to--at a Mexican restaurant this time (yum). Since there's a big biker rally on the island this weekend--they're expecting around 600,000 people to stop in--the "proper attire" for the dinner was Biker Gear. All I could find was a long-sleeved hoodie with a dragon on the front, which made it too hot to wear my leather jacket. Did my best, you know.

I'm told there's an average of one death-from-stupidity per every 100,000 people at this biker fest. Rally. Whatever. Last year, one guy rode straight down 61st Street and right off the seawall without stopping. The fall killed him. He must have missed the ramp down to the pier, and gone off the side with the rocks at the bottom of the wall. Hope they're smarter this year...

Beach report: Slower tides these days. Just one today, in fact--low tide at around 3 this afternoon. Lots of rocks on the beach, lots of gulls. Most of them were waking up for the day--except for one young bird who still had his/her head determinedly under his wing, sleeping late. Saw a one-legged gull again, and a cormorant, and a whole flock of the little skittery sand birds. Mostly I've seen them in ones and twos, but this was a flock. Saw a bunch of seagulls fishing, too. They were flying in a line, like brown pelicans do, but not as big, of course, and not flying nearly so high--maybe 3 feet off the water. Then they'd swoop down and fly along at less than a foot off the water for a stretch, then back up for another 10 or 20 feet, then back down. I think some of them dipped down to catch something every so often. Bigger waves--lots of guys in wetsuits with their surfboards. I even saw one coming out to surf as I was leaving.

While I have to wear actual shoes to walk, while it's colder, I'm going to have to walk on the seawall sidewalk. I get too much sand in my shoes and track in up the steps and into the house, and I hate having to deal with the sand. If I'm in the flipflops and barefoot, I can wash it off on the driveway. Still, it's going to hit 80 F (26C) most of the rest of this week. I could go later in the day and still walk barefoot...

Need to type things into the computer and see how many chapters of White Elk, Red Sword I have, and I can go work on the science fiction-y story... Need to come up with a title for that one.

Friday, October 26, 2007


I'm going to try to get a quick post up before I head to my writer's retreat this weekend. And I thought I'd toss in some general shots of the city on my island.

For instance, this is the church across 25th street from the post office. It's hosting the island's Oktoberfest this weekend (which I won't get to attend).

Got some writing done yesterday. I'm feeling pretty good about it--throwing two separate things at my heroine to be dealt with almost simultaneously--but I realized I forgot to explain the opening statement in her scene, so I have to find a place to squeeze that in, in an already overloaded scene. Today, I'm just packing, cutting up cantaloupe & watermelon to take along, moving plants inside, that sort of thing.

I'm going to leave a few plants outside, that don't seem to be suffering from the cooler weather. Some of them didn't seem to have a problem with the cold, maybe most of them, but the wind's been a problem. I have a lovely rex begonia that had its leaves so blown around that the stems broke (or bent too much and got pinched off), and the angel-wing begonia lost a few leaves that way too. So I just brought everything in, except for the ones that didn't seem to suffer any damage at all.

This picture is the bandstand across the street from the library. I think I took the picture from the library parking lot, or maybe the sidewalk. Anyway, this is where the Tuesday night band concerts take place during the summer. Where the cars are parked, they put up park benches for everybody to sit and enjoy the concerts--lots and lots of fun.

There's always a ton of stuff to do around here. We're missing a lot of things by being out of town this weekend, and of course, there are so many things going on, one person just can't get to it all.

Last night, the Chamber of Commerce hosted an awards banquet and presented awards to all three of the "institutions of higher learning" on the island--there's the fella's community college, a medical school and a branch campus of one of the major state universities. So we had to be there, because the fella had to accept the award. It was a nice dinner, with a very nice presentation. I thought it was a pretty good deal, to be in town just 3-1/2 months and get an award. :) Met a lot of nice people, and one of these days, I'm going to get to talk to some of them for longer than 3 minutes at a time. I'm hoping I can remember some names, next time I see them.

One more picture. I didn't take this one myself, because I completely forgot it was happening. I snitched it from the newspaper. Yesterday was the start of the Harvest Moon Regatta, a 150-mile sailboat race down the Texas coast, with over 200 ships taking part. The one on the front page of the paper showed the Elissa with all its square-rigged sails & multiple masts, but I couldn't find it on the paper's website. Oh well. I hate that I missed seeing the boats start off, but one just can't make everything.

Y'all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Summer Comes to A Screeching Halt

Let's start with The Beach Report.

Okay, so I mentioned briefly that a cold front blew in on Monday. BOY did it blow in! It got downright cold. And it blew all the water way out from the beach. WAY out. I haven't seen the water so far out since we moved here...almost to the end of the jetties.

If you'll look at last Thursday's blog entry, you'll see a shot of this same beach before the norther got here. Tuesday, when I went out, the water was far enough out, this guy (you can see him. The vertical dot that doesn't have a sign on top...) was walking over there.

This is a shot of the side of a concrete ramp that comes from the street down to beach level. I took the first one last week. This was at low tide, folks. (Don't know why low tide was so high that day. Wind, again, I guess.) And the second picture I took yesterday, from the water's edge.

The second shot was also taken at low tide, but the tide was a WHOLE lot farther out than it was last week. Yeah, the shot is from the opposite angle, but still. It gives you an idea of how different the weather was. Of course, you can't see the cold, or the sharp wind.

Everything looked washed very clean. I walked out close to the water, and saw so little stuff (except for seagulls, who'd found something to chow down on), that I decided to walk back at the high-tide mark, and found some cool stuff there. More pink barnacle shells, and several other cool shells. One was as long as my hand and almost as wide, very thin, and kinda irridescent, but it was sand-brown, so I didn't take its picture. Maybe now that I've washed it off... I did have to wash a whole lot of sand out of the barnacle holes.

The sand was cut into some really cool wave patterns. A lot of it was the usual washboard-looking stuff, with flat tops, but some of it was really different. Diamond-patterned, or... maybe like tucks in fabric. I thought it was cool looking, anyway.

So, there's the "First Blue Norther of the Season" beach report. A bunch of kids went to school in shorts on Monday, and froze. (They had pictures in the paper.) It was cold Tuesday morning, and this morning, but by this afternoon, it was gorgeous. Really nice for my trip to the library. My knees were hurting from walking so far two days in a row, so I skipped the beach this a.m. and walked from the library to the post office downtown, this afternoon. Clear sky, warm & not too hot, nice breeze...perfect. And it's not but 4 or 5 blocks between the two. Had my lunch out at a nice Mexican restaurant over near the medical school.

Got quite a bit written today. New stuff, not just re-treads from the first version (which now that I'm reading it again, I can see the suckage). It's moving along. I'm liking it better. Like the characters better, like the writing better. Wondering when I'll get some of this exposition in, but you know? If it doesn't make it, I don't think it will hurt anything...

I also got a chapter critiqued for the weekend retreat. Now I need to search through magazines for some interesting pictures to pull out for the workshop I'm presenting. One of the original presenters had to cancel. I also need to crit three more chapters. Eep! It always takes me so long to do critiquing. I will be present for the critting, though, so maybe I don't have to write so much stuff...

There's another fancy dress Thing tomorrow night--not as fancy a dress, I don't think. Ought to be able to wear my black lace skirt and pink beaded jacket. Maybe.

I'll try to blog before I drive out Friday, but if I don't...I'll see y'all when I get back.

I'll leave you with a final picture...the shrimp boats have come in close to shore, with the falling temps. I could have taken a picture of several together, except for the sun's glare off the water, and by the time I moved away from the glare, they'd separated. Oh well...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wild Weekend

The harbor cruise was fun. We took the motor-powered cruise. Big ol' boat that A&M uses for marine research of various kinds. Just six of us on the boat with "Captain Jim. " Basically, we went down the harbor to the ship channel and back, didn't go out in the bay at all. Lots of interesting stuff to look at. (This is the "other" boat, very much like the one we're on. Took the picture while we were pulling out.)

We saw lots of cool stuff. The local cruise ship, getting loaded up for another Caribbean cruise... We saw the "tall ship Elissa," from the water. Elissa is a museum herself, and also a working sailing merchant ship. Locals volunteer to sail her and keep her ship-shape.

There were also cargo ships unloading tractors and shipyards that didn't look like they had any ships to work on. I think one of the shipyard things was still under construction. Besides all the big ships (including Coast Guard cutters and ferries and barges), there were people out fishing. Apparently it's about time for the flounder run to begin and folks were everywhere, on the bank and in boats, catching fish while all these huge ships were pulled up to dock right across the water from them.

But the absolute coolest thing we saw while we were out cruising down the harbor was the bottle-nosed dolphins. A whole pod surfaced right in front of the boat--six or seven of them. I couldn't get but three in the same picture--they were pretty far ahead when the big bunch surfaced, and not all of them came back up close enough for me to take their picture. But they were right there in the harbor along with everything else, swimming around like there were no ships or fishermen. Cool, huh?

And then we went to see Elizabeth: The Golden Age, because I'd been wanting to see it, and it was totally worth going to see. Loved the clothes...

Sunday, we got tickets to the Grand Opera House to a concert, and decided to go to that, since Moody Gardens--which was having "Free Day for locals" will be there next year (or whenever) and the pianist won't be. The music was great, but Sunday afternoon is not a good concert time for this girl. Sunday afternoon is Nap Time, and I kept falling asleep in that dark theater, at least through the Brahms. I did stay awake for the Mussorgsky Pictures in an Exhibition--just because I like that music a lot.

There were a whole bunch of other things going on over the weekend...a bicycle "ride around the bay" benefit thing, I think a breast cancer walk, an art festival, I think there was also a jazz festival...and we just couldn't get to all of it. (A couple of the cyclists got hit crossing the causeway, even though they had two lanes blocked off just for the bicyclists...)

So now, it's Monday. Worked on White Elk this a.m., got the latest version of chapter 1 in the computer and sent off for critiquing. Hopefully I've added in enough emotion that it will work. Hopefully.

Beach Report: Went back out to walk this morning. They've been predicting a cold front for today since last week, but you couldn't tell it by my walk. It was 81F (27C) when I got to the seawall at 8:30 a.m. And there wasn't a lick of breeze anywhere. I have NEVER been on the beach when the air was so absolutely still. It was hot, walking this a.m.

Because it was Monday, and the beaches got groomed for the weekend, most of the seaweed was gone, unless it got washed up right next to the seawall. I saw a couple of chunks of floaty, crinkly kind. (Guess I ought to take a picture of that, too.) A few shells, more rocks, and a whole lot of rocks right next to the fishing pier.

But I saw something I'd never seen before, completely new for me, and totally cool. I guess it washed ashore because it had broken off something else. It was a chunk of hard, clear plastic pipe about 2 inches in diameter, with a metal plug on one end that had been completely covered three-quarters of the way around, and over the end with some kind of little mussels or clams. Each shell was about thumbnail sized, and attached to the pipe by some kind of...neck, or stem. Kind of an icky, fleshy, ribbed, dark brown stem. The shells looked thin, and they were triangular shaped, with rounded points, white with dark orange edges. Looked sorta like mouths with lipstick on, because the shells were all open, some with little critters sticking out.

I thought about bringing it home to take a picture of here, but the critters were still alive, and when they died, they would sure stink. So I tossed them back into the water (they washed back out again) for the seagulls to eat, if they ever figured out they were edible. (Maybe they aren't. I don't know.) The seagulls weren't messing with them when I first saw it. It looked sort of like a rhythm-band instrument--a stick with little castanets stuck all over the outside to rattle together. It did rattle when I picked it up, as the shells clacked into each other...

So, anyway, that was the cool stuff I saw this morning.

Then, sometime later this morning, the wind swooped in out of the north, blew over the rubber tree and the purple ginger (I did pick them back up), and brought in the cold weather. By 2:30 p.m., it was 63F (17C), and blowing like crazy.

I may have to go out and check the beach at low tide tomorrow, see if anything cool can be found. We are told that this is the time to go beach-combing, because the wind pushes the water way out, and all sorts of things turn up on the sand...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fancy Dress Party

So we went to the party. This is me in one of my new fancy dresses. I like sparklies, and there are sparklies all the way down the front of this dress.

The invitation wasn't real specific about where the party was--the hotel and convention center is a pretty big place, and we had to hike through the hotel till we found the right ballroom. I actually remembered a few names of people I'd met before, and even recognized who went with who even when they weren't next to each other. I've met a dozen or more women named either Carol, Carolyn, Caroline or Karen... at least it seems that way. Makes it easier to remember names. I can just come out with a Kar--and mumble an ending, and they'll think I remember. I'm so bad at names, I don't mind at all being introduced as Grace.

Grace was actually my nickname in college, because I was so good at tripping over cracks in the sidewalk and getting run over by rampaging Weimeraners and losing my balance and falling into people and stuff. If somebody was going to mix my name up, that was probably a pretty good one to stick on me.

So, here's the fella in his brand new tux. Someone told us at the party that the island is actually a two-tux town. I suspect we're not rich enough for the two-tux level, but his position is a pretty political one, so we may get that many fancy-dress invitations. We'll just have to wait and see. The guys were mostly in tuxes, but the ladies were all over the board--some in cocktail dresses, some in fancy dress pants, some in long dresses. I'm just grateful I didn't drape my sleeves in the food...

And yes, I have to show y'all my shoes. I got really excited about finding a pair of shoes that would actually go onto my feet--and I found them at a Department Store! Usually, department stores don't carry anything that will fit me, (wide feet, high arches) but I could get my feet into these, they didn't hurt any more than any other shoe, and they didn't cost a bazillion bucks. They have sparklies on them too, but the sparkle doesn't seem to show up in the picture.

While we were at the fancy party, before dinner started (beef wellington and a really great red and yellow tomato salad), we got invited to go on a boat excursion this afternoon, and since we had no other commitments, and we like boats, we jumped on the invite. I'll try and get back to let y'all know how it went--and I will take the camera for more pictures. I really need to get back to my painting... (Pictures=stuff to paint, so when I think about pictures, I think about painting.)

It sounds like all I'm doing is running around and going to parties--and I'm doing a lot more of that, for sure. There's lots of stuff to do here. But I am still working on stories and writing. I got quite a bit done yesterday--finished character interviews and re-wrote the opening. Now I need to get it typed in and merged with the rest of chapter one, and ship it off for critique at next weekend's writers' retreat. Except I have to go on this boat ride. And tomorrow afternoon, we have tickets to a concert downtown at the Grand Opera House. (Need to try to take a picture of the inside there...) Anyway, this one is a contemporary urban fantasy romance with the various cultural mythologies merged and mixed together. Tentatively titled White Elk Red Sword, but I'm also considering something like The Shaman and the Warrior Princess... anyway.

Beach report: Went walking with the fella this a.m., and since he has no flip-flops and I like to walk IN the water, we drove down to see if Academy was open (wasn't), and walked from 45th street to about 27th and back, instead of from 61st to 53rd, like I usually do.

Gorgeous weather--not a cloud in the sky, nice breeze, water pretty cool. More shells than rocks on the beach, but not many of either. After we crossed the 3rd jetty, there was a whole lot of seaweed of both kinds (crinkly-leaved floater and big-stemmed with roots). We're waiting for the first big norther to blow in and push all the water way out so we can really go shell-hunting. Seagulls, pigeons, little bitty sandpiper/pipits. Saw a big sandpiper/stilt (I have Really got to go get my bird book.) with only one leg hopping away from us. And just as we were about the climb the stairs back to the car, we saw an egret fishing. Going to have to break out the long-sleeved shirt and hat and sunscreen for the harbor tour this afternoon...

I really am appreciating all the "Book sighting" reports. I had a sighting! I went across the causeway into town for the RWA meeting last Tuesday (listened to Sharon Mignery do a great workshop on Conflict), and stopped off at the Barnes & Noble, and there they were! THREE copies of The Eternal Rose and one of The Barbed Rose. So I signed them. Didn't have any stickers...I'll take some next time I head into town--which might not be until the next meeting, but that's just the way it is. So. Thanks, y'all. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Insecurity Strikes

Thought I'd open with a view of "the seawall as it was"--how I remember it from when I was little, all rocks and no beach (the bit in the foreground's been brought in). This is to the west from where I usually go down to walk. I walk to the east, cause there's no beach this way...

So anyway, I pulled out this old story I'm wanting to re-write, and revised the opening pages, and I'm still not sure they flow. Or rather, I feel like they open too slowly. I do want to open with this particular scene, but it's a slow scene, a slow build, and I'm struck with insecurity that I'm doing it right, or that it's a story worth telling, or... anyway.

I stopped and have been doing characterizaton work. Because my heroine is a completely different person (except for her name, appearance and backstory), with a new personality, and I had to stop and think about a few things about her. What her personality is. Whether she likes change or hates it. Is she adventurous? (She is.) So I did a lot of that today and yesterday. And now I'm working on the hero's character stuff. I know him a lot better than I do her. And I'm still not sure that the opening works. I hope it does, but... Maybe I will e-mail my pages in for the Chocolate critiques my new RWA chapter is doing next month. And my pages for the critiques at the retreat I'm going to next weekend...

Tonight is the first Big Fancy Shindig in our new town. Because of the fella's job heading up the local junior college, we get invited to all sorts of dinners, fundraisers and other community stuff. But I have to tell you that the events here are of a whole other magnitude than where we moved from. You do not need a tux to go to the Saint's Roost Chuckwagon Cook-Off or the cancer society barbecue out at the Bar H. The Prevent Blindness Gala in our new town does. There are lots of people with lots of money on the island, plus the population--the Panhandle town had right at 2000 people. The island town has 60,000. What is that, you math people? a 300% increase? More, probably, right? Anyway, this calls for some serious primping.

The fella went out and bought a tux. He decided the beaded stuff I already had wasn't fancy enough, so we went out and bought me 4 more dresses. (Two are formals, two are cocktail length.) Plus shoes and underwear (yeah, the dresses need special underwear) (which cost more than the shoes, which totally freaked the fella out, because underwear aren't supposed to cost more than shoes)--and I still didn't spend as much as he did for the tuxedo. So I get to buy another dress later. :D I'll try to remember to make him take a picture tonight so I can share. It is a gorgeous dress, and fancy shoes, and all. We'll be classy. I want a nap, but if I go lie down, I'll mess up my hair, so I'm posting my blog instead.

Beach report: Mostly swept clean, but still lots of big rocks near the fishing pier. Not big as in boulders--those are always there, but big as in lots bigger than the shell scruff that was there last week. Saw a little bit of the sargasso-type stuff, but mostly the big seaweed. Some of the big stuff was new--still green. Just seagulls, except for one little pipit (or whatever the little bitty sandpiper-like birds are--I really need to get my bird book moved down here). No cormorants or egrets.

See those pink shells? That's what I picked up off the beach after Humberto. Cool, huh? Pink! I think they're some kind of barnacle... (There are two of them--the two in the back left? Those are separate from the big chunk. I put them in the back to sorta prop the other ones up...)

The tide was really high when I got out there today, though it was on its way out. It had been higher, almost all the way up to the seawall, undercutting some of the dunes. Haven't downloaded that picture yet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chugging along

So. I'm going to make myself show up here on the days I go out to walk--at least the days I walk on the beach. We will see how this goes.

I got my revised partial of Thunder in a Cloudless Sky off in the mail yesterday afternoon. And as a reward, I went to the Hastings store on the island and bought the new Karen Chance book, Claimed by Shadow (the title in in dark red on a dark charcoal gray cover, and it's really hard to read--but the author's name is in white, so it's easily visible. The cover is gorgeous, otherwise.) and read it. Good book. I may have to read it again to be sure I followed everything, but I liked it real well.

Today, I pulled out an old book I want to rewrite, and it's really going to be hard going. I think I'm going to have to back off and start from scratch, instead of trying to keep the good stuff from what I had before. My opening scene with my heroine sucks--at least what I have so far, because it's all blithering about the scenery. I need to just jump into the action. I have to open with the hero getting his talisman and having a vision--I think. Yeah. That's really where I want to start. Then I want to jump right into the action...and I've got my heroine strolling across campus thinking about concrete. ACK!!!

So maybe tomorrow I can get my head on straight and write a decent chapter 1. Because I think the vision thing will be a prologue. Even though I will probably call it chapter 1. It's the day that everything changes. But it's not really where the action begins. It's the hero's call to adventure.

Today's the local RWA chapter meeting, so it's my chance to head into town and shop the "big" bookstores. (The Barnes & Noble and the Borders are practically right across the street from each other.) And I'll probably hit the mall too. I want some throw rugs. Then I have to figure out how to get to the restaurant where they're meeting with the speaker for dinner before.

Beach report: Big Rocks are back on the beach, at least between the 61st Street pier and the jetty opposite the grocery store, and some new pieces of the big rooted seaweed. Last time, there were only tiny little shells and rocks, but today, big ones. Surf was up some, sky was gray, but light right at the horizon, where you could see those streamers that mean it's raining.
Cool morning. Didn't really want to get my feet wet. If it gets much cooler, I'll either walk later in the day, or wear shoes. (It's not letting me upload pictures, so I guess I'll show you my cool pink shells and where I walk at the beach next time...)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Not Goofing Off

At least, not entirely. I didn't make it in last week to blog--partly because my internet service was down for two days (no clue why, just couldn't get anything) which threw everything off, and partly because I was working hard to get some pages written, which kinda distracted me from--well, pretty much everything. I didn't even get out to the beach but twice. (There was lightning on Monday, so I didn't go out.) (Here's a picture of the beach where I usually walk, looking past one of the jetties toward the fishing pier--the blurry spots are due to water spots on the lens--sigh.)

I did get a pretty good set of pages written, though I didn't make 30 because I blew it off on Friday. The boy and his dog and his girlfriend were coming down for a visit and I wanted to finish the cleaning I usually do in the afternoons after I write. Since our visitors were arriving around noon, I wanted to have a clean bathroom before they got here. (I generally clean only when I can't stand it any more (and I have a much higher tolerance for dirt/clutter than the fella) or when company's expected.)

They arrived, we got my car out of the gate, locked the dog in the yard, and went out for shrimp po'boys, and then to buy the boy shoes and sandals. He'd worn out/ripped apart the old ones (the dog did not eat them--I saw them. No tooth marks). Then we came home and ate boiled shrimp (I got unsorted medium to large ones right off the boat--they'd had enough time to de-head them (I hate de-heading shrimp--I always get stabbed) and sort out all the little gumbo-sized shrimps, but not sort the great big ones from the not-so-big ones, so I got some really huge shrimp in my mix for a good price.) and learned that the girlfriend had never in her life peeled a shrimp. This was shocking, because she lives not too very far from us, and the good seafood is very available... So we taught her how to peel the suckers. They were very good. And I made my mushroom/onion/parmesan risotto casserole (you don't have to stand over the stove stirring, but stick it in the oven to bake) to go with, and it was wonderful. :) (The picture is of the house from the yard--which is actually on the side of the house--so you can get an idea of how big the yard is. And my big fabulous deck.) We had ice cream on the deck, and didn't get too many mosquitos.

I have some more pictures of my island I was going to share, but I have to go iron my shirt and put on makeup, so I'll go ahead and post this. I'll try to get back in the next day or so and put up those other pictures. :)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Beach Watching

Before I start: Big hey to Lindi, and tell your mom to send me your address!

I don't head over to the beach every day, not even every other day, but I try to get there at least once a week. It's my reward for living here. :) And for working, and for getting out and exercising. And every time I go to the beach, there's something new to see.

Some days, it's the cool patterns the waves make as they pull back from the shore when there are little shells and stones in the sand. Some days, it's all the open-but-complete scallop-type shells scattered in just one spot on the beach. Last week, the beach was pretty much swept clean. All the seaweed that had been littering the sand was gone, no shells, no rocks, just sand.

This week, the seaweed was back, except it was a different kind of seaweed. The other stuff I think was sargasso--no roots, crinkly leaves, and tiny grape-looking...grape things. The stuff this week had roots and thick fleshy stems. I think the stems had arrow-head-shaped leaves on the ends--some of the stems still had leaves on them. But mostly, there were just roots and stems and some places where the stems thickened into bulby-looking things. A few of the stems were still green, but mostly, they were brown.

And there were rocks on the beach. Very few shells, but lots and lots of rocks of all sorts, including some concrete chunks. There's a concrete driveway/ramp I walk by between a couple of the jetties that's been undermined a pretty good distance beneath, so maybe the concrete came from there, but who knows? (these jetties are built about every 100 yards, made of huge chunks of pink granite, to break up the waves) Not me. This just seems to be rock week. I haven't seen any more of those pink barnacle shells since Humberto roared by, but we're not even getting many mussel/scallop shells now.

And of course, there are the birds. It's amazing what some of these poor birds survive. Last week, there was a sandpiper (at least I think that's what they were--they were as tall as stilts, or maybe a little taller, and speckled brown with a brown beak instead of being black and white with orange beaks--I left my bird ID book back in the panhandle...) that walked with a funny, kicking-out gait on one side. It had a little trouble keeping up with the other sandpipers, and flew a lot more when trying to get away from me as I walked down the beach. (They always seem to run ahead of me down the beach, instead of going to one side or the other.) I finally decided that it had broken that left leg some time or other, and it hadn't healed right, so he had an odd kick in its gait.

Earlier this week, I saw a couple of one-legged seagulls. Actually, they had two legs, but their feet were messed up. One was missing a foot completely. I know it didn't just have one leg tucked up under it, but was actually missing a foot because it was standing there with two legs dangling down. One leg just stopped before it got to the foot part. And when it walked, it would put its poor little stump down on the sand. (Mostly, it flew, but apparently I didn't disturb it that much.) The other handicapped seagull had both legs too, but one of its feet had been mangled someway. Or maybe it had the seagull version of a club foot. Instead of the webbed triangle shape of its other foot, the bad foot was a kind of wad of web at the end of its leg. Poor baby. But they both looked fat and sassy. They still had their wings, after all.

Today, the footless seagulls were apparently out shopping for breakfast elsewhere, because all the seagulls I saw had both feet. Today, I saw a snowy egret fishing on the beach. The egrets usually fish over on the bayside of the island, because the water's quieter there, and further inland, it's shallower. I thought at first that this one was a bit nervous of the waves, but as I watched, it stood right at the edge of the water, intent on the incoming wave, until it pounced. I wasn't sure it caught anything until I saw it swallow the tiny fish. So apparently egrets will fish in the surf too. It was so cool to watch.

(The picture is of an egret I saw over at Pier 21, near the "pirate ship". It was fishing off the chain--I didn't get a picture after it spread its wings for balance...but that was cool too.)

I have noticed that the younger gulls will fly away from me before the older ones will. Most of the mature gulls just saunter off while the youngsters are flapping out to sea. How can I tell they're young, you ask? (I know you're not asking, but I'm going to tell you anyway.) Because young laughing gulls have brownish feathers and adults have gray ones. The adults lose their black courting caps in the winter when their heads all go more-or-less white, but they'll grow their black heads again in the spring when they have to look spiffy for the opposite sex. Yeah, I'm a geek. My sister got me into bird-watching, and I'm still stuck.

So, back into the writing. Gonna get my 25 pages done on Thunder and start working on...something else. Not sure what yet. Read my first book this month--a Roberta Gellis I'd been looking for, Enchanted Fire, about Orpheus and Eurydice. I have all her other Greek god myth books, but this one... Have it now. Enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks so much for keeping me updated about where you find my books. Y'all are the best.