Time and Past Time
Waking in St. Augustine, with that utterly gleeful conviction, "something wonderful is going to happen today!" The Casa opened to the public at 8:45. I wandered round, looking in all the rooms, absorbing the displays and the ambience . The cold, heavy smell of stone, and the warmer smell of overheated NPS personnel in period uniform, tourists covered in sunscreen, salt air, and history. There's something about old places...and an awareness that as much as I love them, I'm lucky to be living in this time. Balance, and being happy with what is. On the way back to the motel, I discovered one of those shops with really neat clothes. Recycled sari fabric that had been turned into simple wrap pieces that could be tied many different ways. I came away with a beautiful, many-tiered skirt and a bandeau top. "Because the skirt is so much" It's true, the skirt is many different complementary colors and patterns, and swishes beautifully around my legs, but me? In a bandeau top? It IS a stunning color--and it will never be warm enough to wear it where I'm living now... Clearly I'm taking this whole "moving south" thing seriously. I went back to the hotel to check out, and happened on one of the proprietors(they take the morning shift). We had a great conversation about happy coincidences, and I assured him I'd be back for a longer stay. I spent the morning wandering round the old town, falling in love, checking out the neat shops (the sheer volume of creativity made me feel a bit giddy), admiring the wildlife, large and small--there were lizards everywhere!, lunch in a patio garden with huge hibiscus, more lizards, and mockingbirds everywhere. It was wonderful, and time flew, and...on to Savannah, where I managed to get lost on my way to Ft. Pulaski, (I always get lost in Savannah)
Waking to sunshine in St Augustine...It really was a perfect morning for an adventure, and this, was why I was in St. Augustine--at least part of it.http://www.nps.gov/casa/I've been searching for something for awhile now in that back-of-the-brain way--the kind of "knowing" that I can't really articulate until I'm right in the middle of it, and then... "This is It". Its exactly how I ended up volunteering on an island 70 miles west of Key West...This One.http://www.nps.gov/drto/. I love the place, and the way of life. Intense socialization followed by equally intense isolation, suits me in a way no other place I've spent time does. I love waking up in the pre-dawn, knowing the only real constant is that I'm on an island, and the rest of the day is likely to bring some sort of adventure. When I'm not there, I miss the place, horribly. Not being financially independent, and having some few obligations I have to meet, a permanent transition to the island is unlikely. I've been trying to figure out just which need the island meets for me, and if there's a way to meet them elsewhere. I like the NPS personnel--at least the ones I know well, a lot. They're very cool people on the whole, and not terribly judgmental. They're creative, and outgoing, and at the same time, they respect my privacy. A number of them have "stories", and they're more than willing to wait and let me tell mine in my own time--or not. Historic places are good. I've been fascinated by history since I was very small--the people side of history, not so much battles and important dates though, as what made history. All the people, and their motivations. The stories they could tell, how they lived their lives, and the universal concerns through the ages. What goes into making up a civilization. I'm interested in communication. Its so much more than words, delivered with(or without) intent. Most communication is completely non-verbal. Body language. Appearance. Scent. One of my dearest friends told me that the main difference between "good looking" and "beautiful" was how much time the person was willing to spend in front of a mirror. He preferred hanging out with the good-looking ones, because the beautiful ones were by and large completely self-absorbed. Some degree of community awareness is good. Enough people that the chances of meeting ones of like mind, with self-respect and a genuine sense of humor goes up. The "like mind" part is very important. I like people, a lot. However, there's considerably more effort in "making a connection" with those NOT of like mind,--and consequently the effort needed to maintain that connection can be significant. There are days I'm just entirely too selfish and lazy to want to make that kind of effort. There are days I'm more than willing to let the majority of the world do its own thing, and not participate at all. I have my own myriad passions and hobbies, and it would be wonderful to share that atmosphere of creativity with other people who also feel compelled to create. The closest I've ever come to that was my stint working in the Boston Ballet costume shop. "I looked up one day from re-creating the Lilac Fairy's tiara and commented "I've spent most of my professional life working in an environment where I'm the ONLY one with these kinds of interests; here, EVERYONE does stuff like this. Its wonderful!" "One of the drapers looked up and commented, "and here you're EXPECTED to create!" So I also want to be part of an artist's community. I want someplace that enough unusual things happen that being one of "those women who talks to the creatures" isn't too remarkable. I love seeing wildlife everywhere, and I love that by and large, its completely unafraid of me. I love gardening for the peace that touching the earth, and making things grow brings to me. I love creating a space that's so welcoming the little people adopt it as their own. I'm looking for a place to call home, and St. Augustine is on the short list.
"That's It! I'm so Outta Here!"
There I was, half an hour till I had to leave for work, throwing clothes in a bag, and talking with Judy on the phone.
"I'm leaving; I'll be back in time for work on Sunday."
"Where are you going?"
"Somewhere there's sea." I made it to work on time, the shift was reasonably uneventful, and midnight came round soon enough... The car looks like a bomb exploded in it. I was in a tearing hurry to leave, and gave up on packing--took too long. So I threw all the stuff I thought I'd need in the car, and decided as long as I had a towel and a toothbrush, I could buy the rest. I 95 southbound through Virginia has remarkably few well-lit rest areas. I drove longer than I wanted, listening to Diana Gabaldon's The Fiery Cross, and finally, just over the border into NC, found a rest stop. I woke at the first blush of dawn. Whee! Did it! Now what am I going to do? I did have a few goals; Get as far South as I can before I have to turn around and come back to work. Find a different pair of sandals. Do my toenails. See new places. Collect hugs from friends. Have an Adventure. See the wildlife. I started with the sandals. There was an outlet mega-mall nearby, which wasn't open yet, with several very large shoe stores. The first one I went into was good. The scent of new shoe leather, rows and rows of shoes, dance music from the 80's, and The Proprietress, who was fun, and funny, and a good saleswoman! I came away with two pairs of sandals, black, because I wear it a lot, and brown, because I've never gotten used to black-and-khaki as summerwear. From the Proprietress, "I'm glad you've got class!"--and directions to a nearby nail salon. The sandals were great, my toenails were appalling--and I just didn't want to wait till I stopped for the night to take care of them myself.
I opened the door, incurious faces glanced up, and a wave of solvent fumes nearly knocked me to the pavement. After three minutes breathing shallowly and waiting to get noticed, I decided to bolt. All my scientific training was rebelling "we'd be using fume hoods if this were the lab!" Good sense won out, but I was still on a mission. A couple of hours later, I saw another nail salon just off the highway in a strip mall and pulled over. Guys in the parking lot were doing business out of their trunks, "Nice bat!" "Yeh, its a beauty". I wondered if I should worry about my new CD player,...and decided he had much nicer stuff in his trunk. 30 minutes later, relatively un-fumigated, I'm on my way. Deep pink toenails, and a clear manicure. The young Vietnamese technician had very politely asked me if I wanted a manicure. I looked at my hands; they were bad. African Violet juice is darn near as permanent as mendhi. "They need to be bleached; this isn't going to come out without help."
She very quietly let me come to the conclusion that A Manicure Was Necessary. Asian ladies believe in looking their best, and can't believe any woman in her right mind wouldn't want to. The last time I put myself in the hands of the Asian ladies, I came away with my eyebrows waxed. NEVER AGAIN! My face felt naked for weeks. After lots of soaking, scrubbing, debriding, trimming, buffing, etc., I had a very neat, clear manicure, and the pedicure I went for. Ah, New Woman! Many Thanks, Best Wishes all round, and Back on the Road. I passed signs for the Cape Hatteras seashore. Myrtle Beach. South of the Border... and kept going. Edisto Island went by on the left. Hilton Head. The turn-off for Savannah. Cumberland Island National Seashore. I started feeling like I was really headed in the right direction when I spotted the cattle egrets hunting in the long grasses. I do miss the Island... Jacksonville (not at rush hour, please!) And finally, St Augustine! I took the back way in, and stopped at a "Historic Inn" Beautiful place, but no vacancies. The proprietress directed me on to the Monterey Inn. On the way I passed numerous establishments with lit "Vacancy" signs. Scary, spring break, beach-motel kinds of places. While I was mentally questioning myself for not checking into one of them, I kept going till I found the Monterey. I cordially dislike motels. For the most part I find it impossible to really sleep in one. Thin walls, too many people, too close, strange-smelling rooms, plastic bedding, you name it. I object to them. With more forethought I'd have found a B & B. But, here I was, and the "Historic Inn" proprietress had sized me up rather sharply. It was all good! No bathtub, but a very nice tiled shower. No aggressively chemical cleanser smells. The room was a comfortable temperature, and the AC unit was quiet. A mini-fridge, coffee-maker, the usual amenities, and talented housekeeping staff. The towels and such were artfully folded , and there was a little animal made from rolled hand-towels on the foot of the bed. The bed was amazing! A new, firm, pillow-top mattress, lots of pillows, high thread count linens, and double-sheeting. I was almost tempted to go straight to bed. Instead, on the recommendation of a friend, I went off to the Mill Top restaurant for "an adult beverage", and something to eat. It was a nice walk. A number of people out enjoying the night, the odd "pirate's ghost tour", carriages, and a temperate salt breeze. And no pressure to be anyone, or be nice to anyone, or... All the tight places in my mind were unwinding. At the top of the landing, the door guy checked my ID, collected a cover charge, and sent me back to the bar. "The band is taking a break and will be back in 15" OK, fine, I wasn't really here for the music, but its all good. The bartender told me he wouldn't mind if I hung out with him at the bar, but it was likely to get loud. So I opted for a table on the railing, and settled in to wait for my roast-beef-and mozzarella sandwich with spicy dipping sauce(special of the night, highly recommended by the lively young waitress) I'm sipping a margarita, deciding that I have to widen my mixed drinks repertoire, looking round at the people, and the place, and, just then, Missy Palm Rat cruises by under my stool. She's not in a hurry. Between the dim lighting and her coat color, she blends in nicely with the woodwork. "Oh how cool!" The analytical part of my brain starts commenting, "many women would be standing ON their stool just about now, shrieking their heads off!" Instead, here I am, thinking Missy is a beautiful sleek little creature with a nice glossy coat, good manners...and she's obviously a regular. The band started up, the holidaying couples, older,some clearly on honeymoon, get up and start dancing to the music, and Missy Palm Rat takes her bit of the night's special off. I like the low-key ambience, the wall murals are kind of neat, and the music is starting to get a bit loud. So I wandered off down the esplanade after complimenting the staff on their Very Cool place. As I'm listening to the water lap, and thinking "this place feels a little like the Island", a guy comes along and starts chatting me up.
"A beautiful woman, with such a fine head of hair, all alone here? Its criminal!"
"No, its not. I'm having a wonderful time." Hair fanciers. I used to find them totally unnerving. Now? Well, the world is made up of all kinds of people, and most of them are harmless. I declined an invitation to dinner and a "little something", and wrote it off as an amusing encounter, until I saw him again on the second floor balcony of my hotel. That was just a touch creepy. I made sure my door was secure, concluded that anyone coming in the window was going to make a LOT of noise, and went to bed. Sheer Bliss! The only thing nicer than high thread count linens is.... waking at 4:30 AM, rolling over, and going back to sleep. It was quiet, peaceful, and utterly relaxing.
What does one say to A Nice Person whose use of scent practically amounts to chemical warfare? Yeh, those of you who know and love me have had occasion to laugh about my insistence that if someone doesn't "smell right" I'm not going to have anything to do with them--usually in the context of why I wouldn't consider dating a particular person. I'm finding, unfortunately, that its also true of people I interact with in other situations. Being assaulted by their scent leads me to speciously avoid people, even though I might otherwise consider them to be good company. While I love flowers, and choose plants for my garden as much for their scent as for their appearance, I find that certain ones are too concentrated, and are best enjoyed upwind in a strong breeze. Lillies, for instance. One of the less enjoyable tasks in the garden department was sorting through the lillies. I'd do it as quickly as possible, and still wind up feeling a bit dizzy and vaguely nauseated. Certain perfumes have that effect, straight out of the bottle, wafting along on a cloud of steam. Ironically enough, that very same perfume, hours later after its had a chance to blend with the person's own body chemistry, makes hugging them quite a pleasant experience. Go Figure.Marketing through the centuries has made such an issue of the "signature scent", and there's lots of mystique around having a master perfumer blend one especially for oneself. That "expression of the inner essence", etc.,--and then there's all the hype about scented products for our daily lives. Ever wonder about advertising's use of the description "Fresh, Clean Scent"? Just what is it? One of the more illuminating conversations I had with a veterinarian I dated once was about personal scent. He told me everyone has one, and the only reason I hadn't figured out my own was that I bathed so frequently. "Go a couple of days without a bath, EVERYONE has a scent!"Given my own admittedly primitive appreciation of a good scent (a comprehensive hug from someone who "smells right" puts my better judgment on hold), I hate to deny anyone that most essential means of self-expression.So how does one say, "Could you do that OUTSIDE please", without giving offense?
It was the dawn of the world...mist-filled river valleys, low hills stretching away into the distance, colored in every shade from deepest indigo to pale, silvery, almost-green. An expectant hush, and the sun. Spreading fingers of coral light, rising in hot crimson glory...
So I turned in my letter of resignation. It wasn't about the sleeves, or lack thereof, not really, though that was a major priority check. It was about the appalling waste of time, and the uncomfortable realization that I wasn't being very smart with my own use of time. Being Sent Home To Change during the peak hours in the garden center when we were already understaffed and inundated with people was an egregious waste of competent staff. A "please don't wear anything sleeveless again", and a comment at the next staff meeting would have made the point very handily--especially as it was a first offense. I cried all the way home, took a shower to cool off and calm down(heat exhaustion and 80-hour work weeks have an unfortunate effect on my equanimity), and realized that I was most upset over the waste of my time. If I'm going to have my time wasted, I prefer that to be my decision. So after I got dressed again in "something with sleeves", I wrote out my letter, and turned it in when I went back to finish my shift. For the next two days, there was a steady parade of staff, coming by to quietly thank me for "putting on sleeves so I didn't test their self-control", tell me what a raw deal I got, congratulate me on having legs and arms( I normally stay quite covered up to avoid sunburn and scrapes), and tell me they thought my outfit had been pretty and tasteful. It turns out there's been a good bit of unhappiness at HR decisions(which I was blissfully unaware of since I spend my time playing with the plants and customers)--so I heard a lot of other anecdotes. I stopped in to say goodbye to the store manager and got talked into taking a leave of absence instead of resigning. He'd been told it was over "wearing a tank top." For the record, it was a tailored, sleeveless blouse. I have yet to see a tank top with darts. I explained that it was over the usage of my time. I desperately need to paint the porches and accomplish numerous other tasks, and although I love the time I spend in the garden shop, it wasn't getting any of them done. AND, I need some sleep. 4 hours a night just wasn't cutting it--especially when the next-door neighbors are sorting out their family issues at the top of their lungs while I'm trying to sleep. So I'm working out the posted schedules, and counting the days... Soon, yeh, soon. I Must ask my dear friend Fashionista Lite to expound on the fine distinctions of sleeveless blouses, shell blouses, and that mainstay of modern casual wear, the tank top (which those of us who are desperately conservative consider "unquestionably fast" in a professional setting) , on to the current fashion trend among the young and extremely visible set to turn lingerie into outerwear.