Notes from a Condo Monday

Buck and I are home now, but these musings are from my morning notebook on Monday, October 14 at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra near Jacksonville, Florida:

Drone of an airplane, distant traffic sounds, four white egrets feeding on the pristine golf course, a squirrel ascends a nearby pine tree several times, each trip retrieving a small cone. I see one car crossing a road in the distance. A man shouts, once, “Oh,” as though in a declaratory stretch. Two heavy CAT machines are parked in a bed of pine needles just off the golf cart path. A breeze enters through the fine mesh screen.

Uh oh. It’s Monday here in paradise. Three guys just came roaring up on a motorized utility cart. Two of them are saddling up on the CAT machines. If I’m lucky, they’ll take them and go to work in another area. I hear them speaking Spanish to one another, the “beep beep” backing up sound, and there goes the Bobcat 227 followed by the bright orange utility truck/cart. The bigger CAT is idling. I see the driver banging on something with his fist, as though a gear is frozen. There goes #2, and now I hear #3 running, beeping and moving past our screened porch and out of sight. It’s the big one, basso profundo, with a shovel on the front.

Yep. Definitely Monday. Just now a guy in shorts, orange t-shirt and carrying a ladder walked by on the golf cart path. “Mornin’,” he says. Sounds like he’s cleaning gutters or sawing or something in the condo next door. Back and forth. Glad I have on workout clothes. Clearly not a day for décolletage on the porch.

Have to give it to the guy. He’s taken to going around the long way to get to the condo he’s working on. Still a little noise, but less disturbing.  Oops. Spoke too soon. He’s back. But at least he’s a quiet walker.

Late breakfast on the porch yesterday with Buck — very relaxing as always. Later, an expedition to Publix for the week’s groceries, and in the late afternoon a roughly three mile walk to the beach. Dogs on the beach are a welcome sight.

Love the sign on boardwalk before we crossed street to beach club area:  WARNING: SNAKES AND ALIGATORS HAVE BEEN SEEN HERE. I saw a thin, frightened-looking woman with scraggly reddish gray long hair clutching a thin, frightened-looking spaniel with scraggly, reddish gray long hair in her arms, both with eyes wide and, I’m sure, pounding hearts. We saw an old man and his old dog, testament to the canard that people and their dogs begin to look like one another. The dog was an ancient white bull dog, stocky and slow-moving with that adorable Winston Churchill mug. I heard his owner speak a word or two. His accent was German, or maybe Austrian. I immediately dubbed the dog “Otto.” The man wore brown clogs. You could see his heels through his thin brown socks.

When Bernhard (could be, why not?) and Otto walked down damp, sandy wood steps onto the beach, a dainty white miniature Poodle raised her ears, strained at her leash and began to bark at Otto. I thought: Fifi loves Otto! Fifi loves Otto!

Otto never looked at her, as though his master was the only object in his consciousness. But I swear, I could hear the deep tympani of his heart beat a little faster. “Fifi, my Fifi.”

Another worker, less polite, shows up. Instead of walking around the palmetto stand, he cuts through behind them within inches of our screened porch. Then the hammering starts. Just like so many “subs” we have known. The framers are a breed apart, their screw you and the horse you rode in on attitude legendary.

An older guy wearing an expensive-looking charcoal colored bicyclist shirts and shorts, his wavy silver hair well-coifed, walks by on the golf path. I thought at first he was using the park to walk or jog, but he stops next door to speak to the workers. No further hammering (yet), lots of one-sided talking. Something about the way he lifts his left foot as he walks makes me think he is annoyed, either at something in particular or as a general life attitude. His face looks a little sour, cold.

Even with noises and intrusions that we’re not accustomed to, it’s becoming clear to me that writing is enlivened by the checking out a wide swath of humanity in their habitat as they go about doing whatever it is they do. Brilliant deduction, huh? Sometimes I have “aha” moments, but more often they are the “well, duh” variety.

Yesterday, for example, I saw a fake-friendly guy in a yellow polo and tan Bermuda shorts in the Sawgrass Beach Club parking lot. (Definitely a sight I wouldn’t normally see in the pine woods of home.) Took me seeing him twice — once on the way to the beach as we walked on the interloper’s (non-member and dog access) boardwalk over to the beach, and then again on the way out when I heard his “Have a wonderful evening” greetings to members leaving the parking lot and watched his dead cop eyes on everyone exiting the non-members boardwalk, making sure we all moved along. Bouncer. This guy was the muscle, main job to keep the riffraff out of the club and away from its members.

Back to my perch on the porch. It’s Monday everywhere this morning. Now a guy is running a gasoline-powered weed-eater out on the golf green. I see two guys through the binoculars, one with a beige ball cap and a long curly strawberry blond ponytail, sporting a beard and a prominent beer gut under his tee shirt. I haven’t seen a single bandy-legged old coot golfer yet, but I have seen a mind-boggling variety of specialty equipment out there clipping, mowing, and primping the course.

Rude guy and silver hair have moved nearly within earshot now. He’s a finger jabber. Big discussion about the roof and exterior of the condo next door, rotted wood on deck, etc. Silver hair is either an old owner who desperately wants to sell or a new owner who bought “as is” and is eager to put his shiny imprimatur on this down at heel 1984-vintage villa.

I leave my eavesdropping on the porch and go inside to hit the shower and prepare for our daily drive to the clinic. I met a woman there yesterday whose husband is being treated for pancreatic cancer. They are staying in a communal home with other patients, inexpensive but no privacy, much less a screened porch overlooking a golf course.

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Onions Travel Well

The kitchen remains from a three week stay in a house not my own are strangely dear to me, as if they somehow take on depth and meaning from the sojourn itself. I pack the three remaining onions, one partial head of garlic, one large Idaho baking potato and two smallish sweet potatoes into their own cloth bag, brought from home.

There’s so little left of a box of oatmeal, I put the dregs into a plastic sandwich bag. It will be enough for a breakfast, and I’ll think of these weeks in Jacksonville when I soak it in almond milk and add cinnamon, blueberries and walnuts. I’ll sit in the diner at home and look out at the tall blackjack oak shedding its leaves. I’ll watch the turkeys and deer troll for acorns under the spreading oak out back. I nearly cry for the longing of it sitting here at this pale wood dining table on another coast of Florida, typing and drinking coffee.

It’s only now, when we’re almost done with the regimen, that I begin to realize what a brave front we have maintained. Last night, standing in the kitchen after supper, as we were about to retire to the bedroom with our books and a tot of milk and some soft cookies, Buck suddenly looked as tired as he must be. He looked at me and sighed. “I guess I could have done another week, but I’m sure glad I don’t have to.”

In what seems to be yet another miracle in a string of them, we were able to realign tomorrow’s final appointments into the morning hours. And so we’ll drive home tomorrow afternoon rather than Saturday morning.

Sometimes just one more day means the whole world.

Sentence Them to A Nature-Filled Island


The birds, trees, and flowers are here every day whether I am or not. I like knowing that. Gives me a sense of balance, perspective and serenity. In this chaotic old world, where so many humans practice cruelty and barbarism, our world is still remarkably beautiful. I would like to “sentence” all the evil-doers to a nature-filled island, with prescribed walks with a camera and notebook every day.




Caring Canines and Generous Musicians

Just three days left.Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Then we’re essentially done until a PET scan six months from now. Buck and I walked a five mile loop yesterday. No one but me could have looked at him and known his left jaw feels numb, and his throat and the inside of his mouth have grown tender and sore. By the three mile mark, I realized this walk, which turned out to be mostly in the hot afternoon sun, hadn’t been one of our better ideas. He never complained, never slowed his step. I could only tell he was uncomfortable by a certain tension in his face and the fact that he turned quiet.

After a good night’s sleep, Buck was ready to go again. We both have a growing excitement that he is getting an A+ in lymphoma recovery. And that we’re going home Saturday morning.

A note about the radiation oncology waiting area. You never know what you’ll see. I’m not talking about the patients and their loved ones. I’m talking dogs (Caring Canines) and entertainers. And you wouldn’t believe how much I look forward to them.


Here’s “Sunday,” a Golden Doodle (cross between a Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle) therapy dog. And she’s not only photogenic as all get out, but intuitive, tender, and focused on each person in the room, one at a time. I remain dazzled by this beautiful sweetheart.


I’m sorry I don’t know their names, but this talented duo popped into the waiting room one afternoon and startled the heck out of me. I was just fine, tapping my toe and humming along while they sang their first number, “Sea Cruise.” But when they segued into “Stand By Me,” I lost it. Not totally, but right about then Buck emerged from the double doors of the radiation area, and I got up, tears streaming I admit it, and walked over to where he was leaning against a nearby wall, listening, and smiling at me. Man, it was a moment.

Tonight was one of those yummy breakfast-suppers: whole wheat pancakes with an Ambrosia apple chipped up in them and a mug of Tazo Organic Peachy Green Tea. We have an early morning, and are turning the lights out in a few minutes. Well, maybe not all the lights. I’m just finishing a fun suspense novel, “Boy In The Water,” by Stephen Dobyns. I love it when we rent a house and find a shelf or two of books left by others who have gone before us. “Boy In The Water” was published in 1999. Dobyns, a prolific poet and novelist, had not previously crossed my radar screen. I’m looking forward to other entertaining reads from his fertile imagination.

Thanks for your kind thoughts, Deanna, and Richard — appreciate you stopping by.

BBQ, Golfers, Women and Whisky

Our supper the first night Buck and I were in Ponte Vedra came from Barb and Wally’s Down South Barbecue. A funny pair, assuming the ugly ducklings were Barb and Wally. It was a hole in the wall storefront, and while the smells were authentic low and slow smoke, with sweet and vinegary sauce top notes, plus the granular aroma of velvety collard greens, it was clearly more a take-out spot than a dine-in venue.

We ordered a whole smoked chicken, a pint of BBQ beans and a pint of collard greens. Barb’s brunette hair, thick and frizzy, was piled on her head in a haphazard do. She wore thick glasses and was pleasant, though somewhat vacant, and the semi-dazed “why am I here?” expression looked like her default face. Wally was a male match for Barb with his dark messy hair, beard, and a growly look. “I’m the pitmaster. I don’t need to make no stinkin’ conversation.”

The phone rings. It’s on the counter where the register sits by the front door. Barb calls out. “It’s for you.”

I catch his eye movement, a furtive, ducking look. “Who is it?”

Barb shrugs. Classic. Wally looks like he might take a flyer out the back door. His eyes shift for a millisecond to me. He decides. “Tell them I’ll call back,” he says to Barb, his tone a tad bombastic, like a scared small man. Wally goes back to deep-frying garlic corn on the cob and dipping up cheesy potatoes and baby back rib racks for a take-out order phoned  in before we arrived. He mutters to the food. “The question is, why are they calling me here?”

Two guys come in. Barb: “You here for a pickup?”

“Yeah. Mike.” They look like golfers. The one who spoke, Mike, slides me a look. Lascivious bastard. Men can’t resist women who eat barbecue. If he knew I drink scotch, too, often at the same time I’m eating grilled meat, he would have swooned right there.

By the way, if you’re ever in Ponte Vedra, stop by the joint. The cue’s damn good.

Touch of Red


Every room needs a touch of red — even the Great Outdoors.

I arrived at the beach this morning in time to see a grand dog parade, from stylish black Standard Poodles, to Golden Doodles, Labs, a dancing Jack Russell, lovely spaniels, spunky Heinz 57s, whippets, French bull dogs, and others I couldn’t begin to identify — including ubiquitous itsy bitsy fancy fluffy white dogs. Marvelous.


Alligators May Be Present


There must be a lot of snakes and alligators on this picturesque boardwalk if Sawgrass felt the need for a sign.


Well, I haven’t seen any snakes yet . . . but you can bet I’ll be on the lookout!

P1000264This fellow had his eye on the fishing line a young boy had cast from the boardwalk. The boy’s dad was nearby. Even so, I felt my busybody gene itching.


Dreaming the Future

Screened porch, bird sounds, light noise of construction, every now and then a child’s voice. The sun is at an angle where the shadow of my moving hand nearly obscures my words. Probably time for a late afternoon walk. I walked to the beach this morning. Love being close enough to do that. I’m not at all tired from this morning’s walk — quite the contrary. Full to the gills and brimming with energy. Physical energy, not so much a focused mental energy.

Buck saw Dr. Peterson today plus had radiation session number six. That leaves nine to go. So far, not bad. I hope the minimal side effects don’t increase. Can’t wait ’til he’s done and safe (cured) out the other side. I know once he’s finished on October 31 he would be glad to never see Mayo Clinic again. Me too, for that matter. Except for this small deal of them keeping us alive and high-steppin’. I hope we get the house sold quickly and can feel comfortable moving to the mountains next spring.

Next spring. Wow. What an incredible gift that would be — to see the mountain sunrise and sunsets, go to the farmer’s markets and just sit on a deck and/or porch and talk a blue streak.


Random Spontaneous Gorgeous on a Sunday Stroll in Ponte Vedra, Florida



Buck and I have been in Ponte Vedra on Florida’s east coast, just outside of Jacksonville, for two weeks. That’s two down and one week to go for our radiation vacation at Mayo Clinic.

We’re staying in a quiet condo neighborhood in the huge Sawgrass development. The condo has a screened porch right on a lesser-used portion of one of the golf courses, and blessedly no golfers in sight, only  birds and the myriad, arcane parade of specialized equipment designed to keep the golf course in pristine condition in the event a bandy-legged old coot (my term for golfers) should happen along.


The weather has been ethereally lovely in the way of October in Florida. Our quarters are roughly a mile and a half from the Atlantic Ocean. I know this because my feet tell me so. Early each morning, I make the glorious walk to greet the sun rising there.






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It has been a joy to see the incredible variety of shore  birds and nice folk being walked by their dogs. We are so glad to be eight miles from the clinic — close enough to make our once or twice daily trip there, and far enough away from the campus to escape the feeling that one is in a pervasive illness bubble. We both breathe easier here, with our beloved longleaf pines just outside the back door, mingling with palmettos and palms, doves and squirrels everywhere.

Buck’s prognosis continues to be for a complete recovery. This last week of treatment is shaping up to be a bit rough, because the radiation side effects have just begun to kick in, with reddened skin, dry mouth, and sore throat, but it is only five days. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Saturday morning we’ll drive home. No more targeted poisoning to get well.

Note: These pictures were from last Sunday. I wasn’t sure I could sustain blogging, and was directing all my energies toward the events of each day. I think I’ll be able to catch up this weekend, and share some thoughts and pictures from my walks. Hope all is well in your worlds.






Dark Into Light

The big man in the “club car” truck moves in lazy circles over the golf green, his head down as if considering something vast. I think he is checking the condition of the greens after yesterday’s storm. It is 68 degrees this morning, at least 8 degrees cooler than this time yesterday. Also, darker each day. Reversion to regular time doesn’t happen until November 2. I apparently have a “wake at first light” brain, and these dark mornings I am waking up later and later.

The big man stops near a sand trap. I swear, the way he is so still, head slightly bent, he looks like he is praying. It’s a good place to pray: the low green man-made hills, clusters of native oaks and longleaf pines, a meandering lake, the morning songs of birds just beginning, and dark turning to light. A perfect place for morning prayers. Either that or he was fiddling around with his cell phone. I prefer the idea of prayer.

This condo rental has turned into a fantastic restful retreat. I love coming out to the screened porch each morning to write, drink coffee, and greet the morning. Something wondrous about being in the presence of dark turning to light. So often in our world, we are seeing light turning to darkness in so many places, even our own country.

I feel more rested this morning than I have in recent memory. Just cut up a carton of strawberries: dark, sweet and delicious. We won’t have so much time to laze around this morning, but we’ll have to hit the shower by 9:30. Buck has a dermatologist appoint at 11, then “True Beam” at 12:45, and then we’re done for the day — looking forward to some exploration and a long walk — maybe some weight lifting, too.

Ah, here comes the weed eater. The care and feeding of a golf course is never ending. Hilarious. The weed eater guy took max thirty seconds to walk over and cut some poor little piece of green that stuck its head up a fraction of an inch too high, got back in his cart and left.

Guy in “club car” just went by wearing a wind breaker. I feel cool enough for a wrap, too.