Monday, January 31, 2011

Sea Isle

Not every house on the West end of Galveston Island is large and ostentatious. I know of two enclaves of modest homes where people actually live. One is Palm Beach and the other is Sea Isle, where my rented house is located.

Here are two examples of lived-in houses in Sea Isle:

Four or five businesses are located here, including the marina "bait camp" and store,

A nice restaurant next to them,

And the Sea Isle Supermarket, where I do not shop.

Finally, here's my little Sea Isle house, where I feel right at home.

Sorry to say, houses like this aren't built here any more. All the new houses are MacMansions and there are far too many of them.

Rainy Sundays

Almost every Sunday since I arrived at Galveston rain has poured down. I had intended to join in the Unitarian fellowship on Sunday mornings, but have attended only once. When rain is dimpling the canal and pelting the windows I try to find my spiritual connection in my head.

Yesterday was such a day, but toward evening the skies cleared and I took a short walk to stand by the bay, where I found a stunning sight.

It felt like church to me as I joined the egret and the loon in fellowship.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Yesterday everything appeared gray -- sky, water, houses, my mood.

I longed to see instead the Kansas winter landscape, soft and mellow with russet and blue tones even on gray days.

My eye longed to see black bare branches against the sky.

I longed especially to see the old hedge row that leads to home.

Living in Kansas for 45 years has revealed to me the subtle beauty of its landscapes. My eyes feast on that beauty every day back home, even on gray days, and it nourishes my soul.

Today everything here looks brighter: the sun is shining on Galveston Island, a gentle breeze rustles palm leaves, birds have returned to the bay, and I'm headed for a long walk on the beach. Even so, Kansas, I love you best, and I always will.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Galveston Wildlife

The island has 41 places for public access to the beach with parking areas. My favorite, number 40 is near the west end of the island where there are no houses, the beach is wide, and the shelling is best. I've been there often, but only last week did I notice this sign posted by the stairs to the boardwalk.

The sign refers to the area under the boardwalk, not the boardwalk itself, of course.

Normally boardwalks are meant to protect the dunes from destructive foot traffic, but this one has quite a different purpose. Thankfully, it is long and high, passes over the rattlesnakes' domain and ends right on the beach.

Rattlesnakes aren't the only wildlife here. A pack of coyotes lives near my house but they are dangerous only to household pets. A raccoon visited our deck one night, stole a bag of kitchen scraps intended for feeding gulls, ripped it open, ate the best parts, and left the vegetable scraps scattered down the stairs.

I feel much more at home on the island knowing that critters are here, just like the ones who share Paradise with us in Kansas.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seashell Silliness

One day while Grant and Blair were surf fishing,  I gathered some thin, translucent shells that I call "fingernails." I've always wanted to see them on a hand, and Blair happily obliged. Grant snapped the picture with his phone.

Once when I was visiting the Reinking family in Colorado, a little girlfriend of Cleo's spent the night. She was an adorable child with big glasses and pigtails. She came from a pretty serious family with strict behavior standards. At the dinner table that evening, when some goofiness got going, the little girl exclaimed, "I just love to be silly!" Me, too. A little silliness is good for the child in each of us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cooking Bacon

Years ago I read a book by John Steinbeck in which someone was cooking bacon over a campfire. The secret, he said, was to cook it slowly over low heat and turn it often. I've been cooking bacon that way ever since. Essentially, the object is to render out the fat, which makes the fatty part like cracklings -- crisp -- but doesn't overcook the lean parts. The cook has to stay focused on cooking bacon -- no wandering off to take a peek at the Weather Channel.

When the bacon is crisp, I lay it on a paper towel to soak up the surface fat.

If I'm cooking a lot of bacon, I bake it instead of frying. This entails laying the bacon strips on a rack set in a flat baking pan and putting it in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the slices. This method has the advantage of freeing the cook to prepare other food or set the table while the bacon cooks. Its disadvantage is that scrubbing the rack is much harder than washing a skillet.

I'm sorry I don't know which book I got this from. I used to read a lot of Steinbeck, and concluded that he must have loved bacon because bacon appears in scenes in most of his books. He even named a character Mr. Bacon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Alone, Almost

Friday morning Grant and Blair drove away, headed back to law school in Tucson. They were delightful, helpful house guests who even left some nice fish fillets in the freezer. Grant caught a whiting; Blair caught a speckled trout.

While their last load of laundry finished drying, 
Blair and Grant relaxed in the swing by the canal.

The next morning Dennis drove away in a rental car, headed to cold, snowy Kansas and his job, his chickens, and Annie. Suddenly my companions were gone and I was on my own. 

This seemed a good time to check out Galveston's new bakery, Patty Cakes. Every winter I come here I search for a good loaf of bread. I've tried every grocery store and bakery, but could never find a loaf of real bread. Finally, I found it here.

 Patty Cakes makes a wonderful whole wheat loaf made 
with blackstrap molasses. They call it Squaw bread.

The good bread was a boost, but I still face the challenge of having only myself for company on this mostly uninhabited end of the island. Oh, there are people and small businesses, but the hundreds if not thousands of big, uninhabited houses loom large.

The houses have owners, but most of the owners don't live in them except for an occasional weekend. Developments have eaten up acres and acres of the West End, destroying much of the sandhill crane's winter habitat. I grieve for those big, elegant birds, but also for a society in which so many people have too much and many, many more have too little, not even a roof over their heads.

Now it's time to turn my mind to creative projects. I started with chickens.

It's time, also, to watch real birds, like this egret in the bay down my street.

And the beach is always calling me to see the latest ephemeral sand sculptures created by water, wind, and submerged creatures.

The flame still burns.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Island Life

Dennis and I have been on Galveston Island for more than two weeks, and I've just now brought my computer to the Sand 'N Sea office for a test. Yes, the computer performs just fine connected to a DSL line!

That it has taken me this long is a characteristic of island life. Everything slows down to a crawl. After a few days, just taking care of personal hygiene and food takes all day. One can barely squeeze in a beach walk.

The weather has been variable. A heavy rain, fog, light mist, sunshine, wind, calm, and just about everything except ice, sleet and snow.

Today has been overcast after an early morning shower. Now rain is threatening again.

We love the wide deck on two sides of the house, both facing canals.

Here's Dennis on the west side, where we take shelter and enjoy sunshine when a north wind blows. I took this photo the first week we were here. The temperature was 73 F.

Every winter the beach brings different things. The first year I came, probably ten years ago, shells were plentiful and varied. The sea also delivered lemons, peppers, fluorescent light bulbs, and neon green and pink flip-flops to which were attached neon-colored shellfish. In 2007 we found mostly fishermen's nets and oyster bags. Dennis treasures the oyster bags still -- he uses them to hold recycling. Last year I found lots of baby's ears and the ones I call fingernails.

This year few shells have presented themselves. This is my first week's collection of beach finds. The white pieces framing the arrangement are scales from a very large fish we found well-decomposed. At the top are two sand dollars, so new that they are still green. In the center are bones from the crucifix catfish, whose breastbone so resembles a religious icon. On their right are a tiny slipper shell and two baby's ears -- the larger one the largest I've ever found here. Finally, the bird-like piece is an oyster shell fragment.

Sand 'N Sea is ready to close for the day, and so am I.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Out of Touch in Galveston

There's a gremlin in my new MacBook Pro. Internet connection is erratic and navigation is impossible. I'm using Dennis' Dell right now, and it works just fine. The two computers are sitting on the same table.

My machine has had serious problems since Dennis gave it to me in September. Apple replaced the battery and two other major parts. It still didn't work. Here in Galveston the nearest Apple Store is 40 miles away in a Texas-size, cacophenous mall. The Genius Bar guy, who was very nice, reset some Internet settings, ran diagnostics, and found no other problems.

I don't know where to turn next. I fantisize about pitching the MacBook Pro in the canal below our deck.

I'd like to do a post with photos, but can't figure out how to load them on this machine. When Dennis gets back from his beach walk he will help.

In the meantime, the sun is shining, the palm trees are waving in the breeze, and all really is well on this first day of 2011.