Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

In 1954 when I saw Elia Kazan's movie Streetcar Named Desire, I was scornful of the character Blanche DuBois, who drawled, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers," as she was being hauled off to the loony bin. With the arrogance of youth I thought she would have been better off to have practiced self-reliance.

Then, this past winter, I learned that sometimes a person must depend on the kindness of strangers. One morning after a heavy rain my car would not start. Thinking the battery was dead, I called AAA for a jump start. While I was waiting by the curb, a pickup truck stopped and a young man named Steve stopped to ask if I needed help. He determined that the battery was not my problem, and gave me his name and phone number, saying, "If you have any problems while you're here just call me."

The next stranger who appeared was Ken from A&A/D&P Wrecker Service. Ken managed to get the car started, but it died as he was leaving. He stopped, restarted the car, and followed me all the way to town to make sure I got there without stalling.

At Sand Dollar Honda, Chuck Hosek determined that the car's ignition system was at fault. He ordered the necessary parts, which would arrive that afternoon, and offered to get me a ride home, even though my house was miles beyond the limit.

Kent, the driver, drove me the fifteen miles to Sea Isle, where I discovered I had left the house key in my car. Cheerfully, he offered to drive me back to get the key and then bring me home again. On the way back to town I realized that Sand 'N Sea Properties would have an extra key, so I asked him to drop me there, reasoning that eventually I would be able to catch a ride back to Sea Isle.

When I explained my problem to the Heather at Sand 'N Sea, the owner immediately asked her to drive me home and open the house for me. Here's Heather.

That afternoon Kent returned to take me to my repaired car and we continued our conversation about food and restaurants.

This episode was typical of my experience in Galveston. Again and again I depended on the kindness of strangers and was never disappointed.

In particular, the people at Sand 'N Sea were unfailingly helpful and kind. Wendy, the property manager,  solved every problem at the house with dispatch, competence and grace. Here's Wendy.

Sand 'N Sea Properties is a woman-owned business that is a model of how a business should be run: efficient and client-centered. I would never rent a Galveston house from any other firm.

So, yes, Blanche, sometimes we must depend on the kindness of strangers, and Galveston Island is the place to find the right strangers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Was Waiting

Just as I'd hoped, spring was evident in the forsythia...

and daffodils that graced our return to Paradise.

Inside the cold frame, lettuce and spinach we planted late last fall were thriving and ready for harvest.

How did these plants survive the bitterly cold winter? I suppose they kept warm beneath a heavy blanket of snow, in spite of night temperatures as low as -15 F.

I'm so happy to be home again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Going Home

Years ago I saw a movie set in an insane asylum. One scene is etched in my mind: the inmates were gathered for some entertainment and a young woman inmate poignantly sang "Going home, going home. I am going home." She was not going home and probably never would, unless home was heaven, so my heart ached for her. 

After three months away my heart, like that young girl's, is longing for home.  Galveston has been lovely, especially during the past six weeks when the weather turned warm, but truly there is no place like home, the place I know deeply in all of its seasons. 

Tomorrow Dennis and I will set out on our journey to Kansas, where spring will be waiting.

These are pelicans, but they remind me of geese flying north, going home.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at The Beach

A couple of days ago when approaching my favorite beach, I noticed tiny wildflowers, a sure sign of spring. Four different kinds of plants are blooming in this photo.

Some are a little larger.

Under the boardwalk, gaillardia were about to blossom and yellow primrose were in full bloom.

Just as I reached the shoreline a light rain started, peppering my work shirt with polka-dots. Distant thunder warned that serious rain was approaching, but I decided to stay long enough to document an unusual phenomenon: a massive die-off of Portuguese Man 'O War babies. They are the iridescent blue ovals in this photo.

These tiny bodies were strewn along the waterline for as far as I could see in both directions. A few adults were beached, as well.

This peculiar life form, physalia physalis, travels by means of a bladder with a sail on top. It has no locomotive powers at all; it merely goes where the wind takes it. The creature trails tentacles as long as 30 feet through the water below it, prepared to inflict painful stings to any living thing it encounters. They are a great hazard to swimmers, since they travel in "navies" of several hundred.

The next morning all the Portuguese Man 'O War bodies were gone, but spring break celebrants were there in droves. The entire beach was covered with tire tracks from pickups, vans, SUVs and dune buggies. To my dismay the vehicles had obliterated all the sand art. What's worse, the celebrants, either uninformed or uncaring, were riding dune buggies on the dunes.

Dune ecology is fragile. The formations are held in place by various plants -- grasses, succulents, etc. -- that are slow to take hold. People should not even walk on dunes, much less drive vehicles over them.

For all of human history some people have shown no regard for their environment while others have lived in harmony with theirs. What, I wonder, causes us to go one way or the other?

Friday, March 11, 2011

All Show

Some manufacturers specialize in products that look cool, but function poorly. Case in point: Cuisinart.

On the left is a Cuisinart go-cup. Under the black lid is a yellow gizmo that is supposed to unscrew for cleaning. I can't get the yellow gizmo off. Between it and the black lid really yucky stuff has probably accumulated. When a person drinks from it liquid (usually coffee with cream) dribbles onto her shirt front. Out it goes.

On the right is a four-cup Cuisinart coffee maker. The stainless steel carafe had to be forcefully jammed in place under the pause valve, which has now broken. No one seems to be able to pour coffee from the carafe without dribbles falling all around the cup. The warming plate finish has bubbled up and charred and the warmer no longer functions. An inexpensive Mr. Coffee has this sleek-looking thing beat on all counts.

Maybe Cuisinart should have stuck with making food processors.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ladies' Day on The Beach

A north wind was blowing toward the Gulf water again yesterday. A north wind always creates interesting sand configurations.

Never before have I modified my subject in any way, but this formation was a strong reminder of the gourd masks I used to make and I couldn't resist adding shell eyes.

A bit farther on I came upon this sunbather.

I swear I did not add or move any of those shells or alter the scene in any way. Honest!

That's how things went on Ladies' Day.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The North Wind Doth Blow

Dick and Cynthia came on Friday to spend the weekend.

At 4:00 a.m. on Saturday a crashing thunderstorm struck, bringing heavy rain. By midmorning the rain had stopped, so Cynthia and I went to the beach. Shortly after we started walking the wind picked up and increased to at least 35 miles per hour. Sometimes we staggered in the face of sharp gusts.

The north wind blew sand away from the dunes and sent it flying toward the sea. Light-colored streaks in the photo below are streams of dry sand flying over the damp beach. Grains stung our cheeks and eyes.

Some of the sand flew into the water, but some fell on the beach like powdered sugar dusting a cake.

A sand ghost appeared, seeming to suggest that we leave.

We did.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Death Along The Gulf Shore

Thanks to water circulation patterns in the Gulf of Mexico, no oil from the Deepwater Horizon blow-out reached the east coast of Texas, but I believe that ramifications of BP's horrific oil spill now are showing up on Galveston Island beaches.

Baby dolphins are dying in the Gulf and scientists believe it is because they were conceived near the time of the oil spill. Dolphins are at the top of the food chain and the mothers, it is speculated, had a diet of contaminated fish during their pregnancies. Reports of dead babies are coming from other parts of the Gulf's arc, but I saw one on a Galveston beach last week. (I wasn't carrying my camera -- an oversight I won't repeat.)

We have seen an unusual number of large dead fish all winter, and yesterday I saw another one, over two feet long.

Further on I was shocked to see a dead sea turtle.

Attribution of these deaths to the oil spill may be wrong, but I suspect that we have not seen the last of the damage caused by BP's greed and its disregard for Mother Earth.