The Colors I Sea

Nautical Spirits

Nautical Spirits

Seamore Nautical Spirits began a very, very long time ago; way before the dock lines were untied or sails raised and trimmed. It began when assembled years of quiet reluctance gave way to raucous longing.  She was twenty-six years old looking down the barrel of a “good life.” But a mental image of the ocean, collected from a few trips to beaches in Florida, was like a painting that was half complete.  Collecting dust on life’s easel, did she dare complete the painting?

It would require her to select a brush, choose a color, and paint herself in. Without being an accomplished artist and all, could she really be so bold as to believe she could pull it off? Move from Missouri to the ocean? Yes. Yes, she would. Just like she did once the professor went on a royal rant about her still life painting: unimaginative, predictable, safe, boring. She took his message to heart, “Trees don’t have to be green; the sky doesn’t have to be blue. DO NOT paint what you see. Wake up to what your other four senses see… and paint that. “

Hands quivering, she pulled the piece of paper advertising travel nurse assignments, dialed a 1-800 number, and asked about assignments by the ocean (according to NOAA, there are 95,471 official miles of shoreline in the United States). By the end of the conversation, having blindly accepted the only beach town assignment available, she reached for a road atlas that could give her some artistic guidance – to Torrance, California…

 

 

 

…But, it wasn’t California that I drove to. It was Florida. In the midst of tying up loose ends in Missouri, I received a call from the placement agency, wondering if I had any interest in working in Homestead, Florida. Not exactly a beach town, but it was close to the Florida Keys. I’d never been there, but funny thing, my landlord talked incessantly about his annual fishing trip to the Keys. The deciding factor was what a co-worker said to me when I told him I was moving to Torrance. “That place is all wrong for you. You don’t want to go to Torrance.” He was from California.

An ordinary person imparts an extra-ordinary impression. It is how Seamore Nautical Spirits began – artless, unscripted, and spontaneous encounters culminating into hundreds of oddball stories with modest charm. Countless moments become extra-ordinary years…years of living and working in the Florida Keys. Celebrating being 50 years old, I wanted, needed, to run along the Overseas Highway.

Last month, starting at mile marker 50 at 6:30 am and calling it a day at mile marker 0, just before 11 pm, I journeyed the distance with a girl from Cali that I met in Mexi’. We were accompanied by her Harley-man, who at dark escorted us under a bridge and past some “trolls”; Captain Chameleon who waved a Pink Flamingo party sign and pickles in his role as Crew Chief; another running girlfriend that I admire for her snake squeal and campfire song repertoire; a doctor turned cage fighter; and a Gorilla in a bikini, lurking from the mangroves…yes, the mangroves just before Kickin’ Back Food Mart and Mangrove Mama’s down on Sugarloaf Key.
Do you now have a better understanding of my definition of “extra-ordinary impression?”  And, why trees don’t have to be painted green or the sky painted blue?

This post is dedicated to all of the ordinary people who helped me  to “sea” more of life’s colors (you may or may not know who you are), and to the beloved Florida Keys.

Seamore Nautical Spirits

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Racers

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Chilling

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Overseas Highway- Bahia Honda

 

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Flagler’s Railroad Bahia Honda

 


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Brave People

Brave People

Divine People

Divine People

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Ordinary People

Ordinary People

Spiritual People

Spiritual People

Nautical Spirits

Nautical Spirits

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Bird People

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Friendly People

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7 Mile Bridge

7 Mile Bridge

Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key

Boot Key Harbor

Boot Key Harbor

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Multi-tasking People

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Sea’s the Day

Seize The Day

Simple Times

 

“If I could turn back Time, if I could reach the stars.”
Cher

     The last few months passed by way too quickly. A sailing season that came and went so fast that there was hardly enough time to break out my Cher CDs, Lawrence Saunders paperbacks, or bikini – the one that I bought in 1993, at Bayshore Clothing just after moving to Marathon, Florida. No, the pink ruffled swimsuit doesn’t fit the same as she once did, and whether she is even age appropriate is a subject I’m woefully ignoring. But, she takes up so little space that it seems unreasonable and insensible to toss her out. Parting with her would be akin to relinquishing a piece of time – Key’s time. And I can’t do that. Because for every measure of time that was fraught with insecurity or distraction, there would emerge profound significance that very much matters to me today.

With our sailboat battened down in Mexico for the summer, Captain Chameleon has agreed to take me back to the Florida Keys so that I may retrace, reclaim, and relive…the very first time I climbed aboard a sailboat, maneuvered through a tack, took the helm for a spell, scrubbed barnacles from a keel, and learned that as far as material possessions, less is more. It is also where I completely and unexpectedly fell in love with seeing patients in their home rather than the confines of a hospital. At first it was almost too much to take in: commingling death and hope; courage with honesty; tears on laughter; and in many instances, complete acceptance garnished with tepid forgiveness for “what might have been if only things had been different.” Oh yes, running – the old 7 mile bridge is where I became a runner.

With a new Walkman cassette player, a Guns N’ Rose’s cassette, and a pep talk that sweating is not a terminal condition, my first run was the distance between two utility poles; about 250 feet. It was horribly awkward and I’m sure alarming to the tourist driving by. Consumed by the effort required to lift and extend my legs, I couldn’t begin to think about what to do with my hands, except use them to keep the sweat from drowning my eyes. The more my lungs burned, the wider my arms flailed to bring in precious air. With Slash playing guitar in one ear, and Axl Rose singing in the other ear, I gasped, sweated, and flailed myself across the imaginary finish line of the utility pole. We didn’t know that a runner had just been born or just how crazy far I would eventually be able to run. Fumbling with self-discipline, I depended on the musical artistry of those two to provide distraction and get me through a lot more newbie runs. Aside from my initial investment in the Walkman and cassette, it was a work out that didn’t cost me any money. Staying the course, eventually it happened, where the legs, arms, breathing, and mind started working together in happy fashion and I could run a mile.

I had complete contentment with running a mile. Not a thought in the world or a desire to run further than that…until one day I got stuck in traffic because the 7 Mile Bridge was closed for the Annual 7 Mile Bridge Run.
“What did that person just say?” One thousand, five hundred runners are racing across the bridge today. It’ll be an hour before it’s opened back up to traffic.
“You have GOT to be kidding me?” You heard it right. Somewhat of a cult-following, they come from every nook and cranny of the world to run this race. Thousands more want to participate, but are turned away each year. Crazy fools.

Hmmm. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. It didn’t seem crazy, but it didn’t seem like anything I’d ever want to do, or could do, even if I wanted too. “Obviously those guys are real runners,” I thought to myself.
To be continued…

Seamore Nautical Spirits is returning to the Keys to run 50 miles.  A celebration of turning 50, it’s something of a pilgrimage back to where it all began. With the sun rising over the 7 mile bridge to greet her and the sun setting long before she is finished, she will find company with friends and memories along the way.  A few will be at her side…but the majority are residing in her heart.

Final pictures from San Carlos 2016:

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La Manga

La Manga

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Mamma Mia Pizza Maker

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Home when home is being put away for the summer.

Home when home is being put away for the summer.

Seize a Mango

Seize a Mango

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Hotel Clothes Line…where the sheets and towels are dried.

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Sweet Baby

Sweet Baby

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XX Men

XX Men

Out walking

Out walking

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Monkey Sea, Monkey Do

DSCN0607I cut off my eyebrows when I was four years old.  Asked for a Dorothy Hamill haircut when I was eleven.  And purchased vienna sausages, a gallon of water, and a flashlight because Hurricane Andrew was coming to town; I was twenty-six.  Agree, none were wildly successful moments, but in hindsight they became my stepping-stones to the sea, where half the year Captain Chameleon and I live aboard s/v Seamore Pacific in Mexico, and the other half of the year we live in a house in Phoenix, go to work, buy food, and consider whether our hair is too long.

Some people do well in life by setting 5-10-15 year goals.  They have my complete respect, but I tried that approach once and it felt awkward.  Awkward as in walking on the beach in high heels or sailing a skiff up river.  The Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do approach is natural feeling. An alternative to goal setting and it takes little courage to execute.  One minute there are eyebrows and the next it’s, “look at me mom.”

So how does Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do work?  Well, one day I saw my mom cutting hair and perhaps tweezing her eyebrows and it made sense to combine the two.  It had a long-lasting effect.  My brows didn’t fully grow back until my late teens.  By that time I was years past copying Dorothy’s spins on our kitchen linoleum floor.  Whether it was the drag of sock feet on linoleum or the limp texture of my hair, I never succeeded in getting my hair to lift to the heavens in a spin like Dorothy could on the ice.  Sadly first one, and then two strikes against the monkey.

The third time was a charm though.  On August 22, 1992 I received a frantic call from mom to say;  “There is a hurricane headed your way!  You better leave Miami now. Now, little missy.”  There was actually more to the conversation that I’ve edit out to make this a G-rated blog.  But essentially it came down to my not having any experience with hurricanes. Having moved to Florida from Missouri a few months prior, my interests were in soaking up the afternoon sun, pool side; working the evening shift at Homestead Hospital; and exploring area beaches and dating Captain Chameleon on weekends.  Life was good and it was about to get more exciting.  After hanging up the phone with mom, I headed over to K-Mart to see what others were doing to prepare for Hurricane What’s His Name.

Hurricane Andrew made landfall August 24th.  Just as my mother predicted, I took a direct hit.  Fortunately I wasn’t alone.  On hurricane lockdown at Homestead Hospital, my co-workers and I faired well and I am proud of the work and commaradery we displayed in caring for our patients in the ICU.  Once the eye of the storm passed the National Guard moved in and secured the area so that we could air-evac the patients out.  36 hours after reporting for work, I left tired, befuzzled, and grateful that I was merely a traveler and didn’t stand much to lose. My landmarks were gone.  A new kid in town, I wasn’t sure where I needed to drive to get home. I headed my hurricane ravaged truck north and followed the leader.  Monkey See-Monkey-Do wasn’t so bad after all.  I eventually made it home to find Captain Chameleon.  He had left the Florida Keys to avoid Hurricane Andrew and ironically met him face to face.   Despite the complex being in shambles, under guard, and without power we slept soundly that night.  The next morning I called my travel recruiter to discuss options.  He suggested I head north to Deerfield Beach.  No jobs in the Florida Keys, he said.  Hmmm.  Hmmmm.  Hmmm.  Going north didn’t feel right.  It felt awkward, as in walking on the beach in high heels or sailing a skiff up river.  But, just then I saw a monkey sailing south to the Florida Keys.  My life took a U-turn to paradise and it didn’t take any courage, goal setting, or big bank account.  It was the Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do.  If others can move to paradise, why can’t I?  So I did!  With Captain Chameleon.

That’s my story of how I ended up in the Florida Keys.  I believe with all my heart that I was destined to be in the Keys and eventually I would have made it there on my own (I watched a 60 minutes program on Key West when in high school and felt a connection) but to get there fast, I followed someone and took their lead.

The Captain and I are 4 months and a few days away from heading back out to the boat.  Landlocked, this weekend we reminisced about Hurricane Andrew, pulled out our provisioning list for Seamore Pacific, and briefly chuckled about our long hair adventure.  Captain Chameleon let his hair go long 18 months ago and it looks super great.  Pepper and a bit of salt, his hair is gnarly and appealing.  My hair is also long.  Longer than most women my age.  The Captain likes it.  I like it.  But is it “age appropriate?”  Do I continue with long hair, knowing that many say it’s a sign I’m chasing my youth?  So many silly questions….  All I need to do is what I’ve done so far; Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do. Here is to long healthy hair at any age!

I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher

 

 

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Look & Sea. Photo by S. Baker/ Retirement Legs

When Does a Story Begin?

DSC02768I believe stories are remembered and shared because they hold meaning for someone. Sometimes the plot of the story is so significant that it starts the clock on when to celebrate an anniversary. April 24th is the day that Captain Chameleon and I met and it is when our story begins. We met on a dock in the Florida Keys.  He was chilling with a friend. I was tired from being a tourist with a fellow nurse traveler. A little bit like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, the Captain and I stumbled into one another, and low and behold it was a perfect mix. But for the purposes of this discussion, what if I were to start our story the day before Captain Chameleon and I met? When chocolate was a bar and peanut butter was in a jar?
I haven’t a clue what I was doing on the day before I met Captain Chameleon and yet, just thinking about it is thrilling. So many times in life a moment jumps up and takes our attention, stealing all the thunder from the previous day. If I focus real hard, I can remember the weeks that ensued before I met Captain Chameleon. As I recall it, I heard the name Jimmy Buffet for the first time. I discovered Key West, spent a night in the youth hostel on South Street, was invited to dinner on Smather’s beach by friends that I didn’t bother to ask their name, and was just beginning to realize the ocean could be my address.

Tonight, Captain Chameleon and I celebrate our anniversary of the day we met.  We celebrate a day early because it’s exhilarating to think that neither one of us had a clue, a remote clue, that the day before we met our world was about to change.  I would learn how to sail and he would learn about cats.  For this special occasion we selected Styrofoam cups, over our Waterford crystal flutes, to raise a champagne toast to “the day before.”  Ok, so we didn’t actually think, “Waterford? Styrofoam?”  It came down to a long day of work, a desire to celebrate, and no energy to pull out the Waterford and rinse off the dust.
I guess the point to this is that one’s personal story begins even before the first sentence is spoken.  I love listening to  stories and reminiscing over my own stories.  But if I were to compare a story to a Reese’s Cup, I’d say it’s the chocolate bar and peanut butter in the jar that I enjoy the most.

Lost in the moment

Lost in the moment

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In Full Bloom

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Contrast with Yellow

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Missed the Boat

 

S/V Seamore.  Boot key harbor, Florida Keys.

S/V Seamore. Boot key harbor, Florida Keys. ~1999

“I miss the smell of teak,” said Captain Chameleon.

It was 2006.  I should have known that Captain Chameleon was missing our boat from the Florida Keys when he brought home 4 teak benches, 2 teak steamer lounge chairs, 3 teak chairs, and a teak table. Our Phoenix home is just shy of 1500 Square feet.  Where were we going to fit 10 pieces of teak furniture?  Without doing the math, I knew we were headed for heeby-jeebby-vill.  Seriously, how many pieces of teak can fit into an urban desert dwelling?  Not ten.  In hindsight, Captain Chameleon was missing his boat, Seamore.

14 years earlier, I almost missed the boat, so to speak. 1992, it was a blustery February day in Missouri when I accepted a job in Homestead, Florida.  Finalizing the details went something like this…

“When can you start?

“Hmm.  Well.  When is a good time?”

“Yesterday.”

Not the answer I was counting on.  Smack dab in the middle of the semester, I had imagined the phone-hiring process for a nurse (traveler) position would take another few weeks.  Torn between a job in Florida or obtaining a degree in art/design, I opted to withdraw at mid-term and not tarry getting to Florida.  This was my chance to live by the ocean and nothing else mattered.  Certainly not a still life painting of stacked boxes placed a top a velvet cloth. The timing wasn’t great, but it was ok.  It was time to leave behind my studies of light, dark, form, function, and perspective.  Else, I’d miss the boat.

Now, the Captain and I are pretty much back into a routine of balancing work and play.  When people ask about why we took 6 months off from our jobs to go sailing, the question invariably comes up;  “Do you miss the boat?”  Certainly.

It will be several dozen weeks before we return to Seamore Pacific and sail to the eastern shore of the Baja. Until then, I don’t want to miss the boat on urban composting (new experiment), beach glass art, sewing linen halter dresses, family, friends, and work.  Regret would be to return to the boat, untie the dock lines- then realize that we had not spent our time on land wisely; instead of being mindful about the present, we were stuck thinking about the past and the future.

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Beach Glass from Sea of Cortez

 

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Pleasure Boat

 

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Work Boat

 

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Sunset/Full Moon

The Wino & I Know…

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There is nothing quite like it, when a song instantly takes me somewhere.  Somewhere can be anywhere.  Somewhere might be a memory, a distraction, a ‘gee wouldn’t that be neat’ feeling, a catalyst for change, or clarity about something or someone.  10 years of private piano lessons and 7 years of playing a clarinet in the school band did little to move the needle on my musical talent.  But, pop culture music sent me packing.  It was Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills, and Nash that actually got the needle to move.  The needle moved me to Miami and in the path of Captain Chameleon (and Hurricane Andrew!).  Captain Chameleon has a similar story- private violin lessons did little for him other than maybe entertain the notion of cutting off his own fingers so that he could be released from practice.  But Jimmy Buffet songs are relevant and hold meaning for Captain Chameleon.  Like the ice cream man who’s a hillbilly fan, a wino, and a farmer that knows the pain of his pick-up truck rusting- Capt. Chameleon knows the joys of the ocean.  The Wino and I know remind me of Capt. Chameleon’s story of enjoying the ocean; on a 26 foot Columbia he set sail from Houston.  Taking his time along the Gulf coast, he eventually sailed to the Bahamas and then back to the Florida Keys, where we met.

The Wino and I Know


007The water maker for Seamore Pacific just arrived.  A song isn’t coming to mind that offers any real inspiration for Monday’s project of installing our little oasis.  On second thought, having ample amounts of clean water aboard and not dying of thirst does wonders to inspire me.  I can do it.  I can face our next romantic boat project without a song.  Uh, oh.  A song just came to mind…Boat Drinks by my hero Jimmy Buffet.