I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Florida musings

Norma Jean and Rose
I'm halfway through my visit with my sister here in Florida, and the weather has been all over the place. When I first arrived, it was cold and breezy (although sunny), and yesterday the high temperature reached 81°F (27°C). Norma Jean has three snowbirds she plays golf with: Rose (above), Thecla, and Sylvia.

Both Rose and Thecla come from Canada, Sylvia from Missouri. While they're here during the winter months, they play together virtually every day. Thecla and her husband might not come back next year, since the older they get, the more their Canadian insurance costs. It goes up as they get older, and her husband is ninety. Thecla is 86. They sure don't look their ages, that's for sure. Must be the Florida sunshine they get during the winter months.

Norma Jean drives her golf cart to the clubhouse and then gets out the pushcart pictured above and walks the entire course. Sylvia (87) therefore had a spot in her golf cart for me to ride around with them and watch them play. Betmar Acres has three executive courses and boy, were they busy yesterday. The courses are short drives, nothing more than a par 4 (if you play, you know what I'm referring to), so they can play two of the nine-hole courses in around three hours. I was happy to watch, since I've never hit a golf ball in my life. Plus I got some good shots from around the area.

I've only been able to swim in the lane next to Norma Jean once since I got here, because they don't open the pool unless it's 41°F or warmer, and last Wednesday and Thursday it was colder than that. For some reason, it feels colder when the temperature drops, perhaps because of the humidity. But Friday, we swam, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, making me reconsider whether or not I should take up swimming laps again at home. The experience is completely different here, though, swimming in a lovely pool in the outdoors with much less chlorine needed than ours. Norma Jean said the sunshine helps to cut the amount of chlorine, and that in itself makes the experience much nicer. She doesn't swim on the weekends but goes on longer walks.

In any event, between swimming, walking, and golfing, my sister gets plenty of exercise. I am enjoying being with her, walking alongside and chatting about anything and everything. We are less than three years apart in age (I'm the older sister) and she has never known a world without me. I hardly remember what it was like not to have a younger sister. The other four siblings are farther from us in age. We have lost our younger sister PJ to heart disease and diabetes. She was not an exerciser, ever. Makes a big difference in one's health.

I grew up in a large family and we always had pets, especially dogs. So it's only when I visit Norma Jean that I get my fill of pets. She lost one dog last month to old age, and her remaining dog Icarus was miserable, howling in the window when she would leave.  Realizing that he needed canine companionship, she found a rescue dog on Craigslist, another Papillon (although not a purebred like Icarus), and was able to bring him home in a couple of days. He's just turned 3 to Icarus' 8 years, but the two of them seem very compatible. It took awhile for Charley to learn how to use the doggy doors, but once he got the hang of it, he has not had another accident inside the house. And he's smitten with me, which I don't mind a bit. I wonder if I remind him of his previous owner, an older woman with white hair who was unable to walk him or give him much exercise because of her own illness. She decided it wasn't fair to him. Norma Jean took him immediately to her vet's office to get him checked out and up to date with his shots. He's curled up at my feet as I write this.

I miss having a pet, but they are not allowed in my apartment complex. Plus, SG grew up in a home without pets, so he's not comfortable with them. I like to think of the tradeoff as being worth it, because I'd much rather be with my beloved than a pet, any day. But when I visit my sister, once again I am grateful to be surrounded by the love they exude. Icarus ignores me when Norma Jean is around, but curls up next to me when she's otherwise occupied. Charley is hard to keep out of my lap, and he's been sleeping in the bed with me, curled up close enough to feel the warmth of my body.
Because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor and love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. —Mary Oliver
I just read that Mary Oliver died this week. She was one of my favorite poets, and she won a Pulitzer Prize for her work. You can read the New York Times obituary to learn more about her life if you don't already know her work. It wasn't until I read it myself that I realized that not everybody finds her poetry uplifting. She was 83. At one time I would have considered that to be a normal time to die, but as I get closer to that age myself, my views have changed. I remember reading once that most of us consider old age to be ten years older than our own age, and I'm inclined to agree. I don't feel quite ready to check out, and I'm able to look at my sister's golf partners, who range from 71 to 87 and are active and healthy to bolster my spirits. Mary was taken from us, her admirers, too soon.

I'm hoping the government shutdown will be over before I must travel home on Wednesday. I feel so bad for those TSA workers who are not getting paid, along with so many others. Although they will eventually get their wages, it's looking more and more like this shutdown will go on for awhile longer, and I'll just need to get to the airport hours earlier than I normally would. Until that time, however, I'll be enjoying the time spent with my sister, soaking up the sunshine, and petting the dogs.

Until we meet again next week, which, hopefully, will be in my own bed with my partner sleeping next to me, I wish you all good things. Be well.


gigi-hawaii said...

I can sympathize with your husband. I grew up with no dogs and cats in the house.

Tabor said...

Air travel will have to shut down as TSA cannot pay for gas, lunch, uniform washing. It is stupid and this president is stupid (not to mention evil and cruel). I predict spring will bring a nightmare of testimony on the hill. We loved our dogs but cannot have one because of the Lyme's disease which is extremely prevalent here and that may bring in even more ticks!

William Kendall said...

I don't have pets but often find myself saying hello to dogs I pass by outside stores.

Elephant's Child said...

It must have been so hard for Charley's previous owner to surrender him. I applaud her and am glad he found a new and caring home.
I am so glad you are enjoying your family time, and that you are also looking forward to being home again.

Gigi said...

I'm so glad you are having a good time! Enjoy your visit and safe travels home.

Linda Reeder said...

I enjoy watching other people with their dogs. I do not enjoy people who have to bring their dogs everywhere with them.
BTW, we found out who our borrowed cat belongs to. He is our neighbor on a cornering lot and our city councilman.
Soak up the sun and warmth. We don't have much of either here right now.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am glad you have a cuddly dog to spend time with! Sounds like you are having a good time! We finally have sunshine today but it is below zero and we have wind chill advisories. I will go out to feed the birds soon and then go for a short walk...not far...but I have the proper clothing so it is ok! :)

Marie Smith said...

The pet fix you get during your time with your family sounds wonderful. Those furry creatures are such wonderful friends. Once a dog lover, always a dog lover.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, while reading your post, I realized that I think of old age as 10 years older than myself and have for many years. On April 1, I'll turn 83 and I really do think that the 90s is when I'll be old!!! And yet daily, my body tells me that it needs more cherishing than I am giving it. The letting go as we age is a lesson in decluttering the past that we've brought along with us. What I'm doing right now is considering what is essential to keep with me as I age. Thanks for sharing your trip to Florida with us each year. What a blessing you and Norma Jean are to one another--and Icarus and Charley too. We have so much for which to be grateful as we age. Blessings pressed down into the deep center of ourselves where Love resides, pressed down and overflowing. Peace.

The Furry Gnome said...

DJan, you might like this post from 'saratoga woods and waterways' which also pays tribute to your poet. https://saratogawoodswaters.blogspot.com/2019/01/rest-in-peace-as-so-you-lived-mary.html

Red said...

I'd say you're having a very good time with weather, friendly dogs and young -old people.

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, sounds like you and Norma Jean are having such fun together like my sister and I do when we get together. I am spending this week with her at the beach. I am so happy to have forties and fifties and sunshine. I love my mountains but I don't like January and February there. I like that you have a friendly dog to spend time with. I miss my Lexie this week and look forward to seeing her when I go home. Have a safe flight home and stock up on good memories while with you sister.

Rita said...

I think you and Charley will miss each other. :)

You certainly can't please all of the people all of the time. Many "literary" folk do not like writings that are too simply worded or, heaven forbid, popular. Let them have their complex poetry whose meaning can be debated for eternity. They don't know what they are missing. Life is profoundly basic. ;)

Arkansas Patti said...

Glad you are getting a cuddly dog fix and sounds like Charley is going to miss you.
Swimming is such a great all body exercise and easy on the joints. If you have a place on your coast to go, it might be a nice idea---not that you need exercise:))
Hope the cold snap doesn't make it all the way down to you.

Galen Pearl said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip -- all of it! Except maybe the swimming. I grew up in the South, swimming during the hot summer when the water was sun-warmed. I tried swimming a few times here in the PNW, but even heated pools are too cold for me! You are made of hardier stuff than I! But all other aspects of your trip sound wonderful. Especially the fur love. I have always had dogs. I appreciate their companionship. Good to catch up with you and glad you are enjoying your trip.