Commonplace beauty

Image via AlaskaFreezeFrame on Pinterest

For Granted
By Annette Marie Hyder

They grow everywhere in Florida
chorus lines of guitar necks with velvet frets
wearing Marilyn skirts forever rising in an attitude
of windblown that lifts and flips
the crinkled silk they wear.
They get drunk on rain
their soaked heads nodding
in color so lavish it seems like an affectation.
They lean casually after the storms, their skirts spread
to dry in the sun, pink and packing a Ru Paulian surprise
and so soft, so sweet, so ballerina even
in their yellows, reds and blues, their oranges and whites.

We wore them casually in our hair
tucked them, like petaled pencils,
behind our ears in absentminded fashion
heaped them on top of dressers in bowls of water
and in our bath
floated them like candles
burning with color instead of flame.
We substituted them as umbrellas
in our fancy drinks
scented our lips with hibiscus
(a fantasy accord) in doing so
and carried petal promises
to each others lips when we kissed.
We took our waving sea of every day, everywhere hibiscus
for granted. We loved its beauty even while looking elsewhere
for new visual delights. And as is the case
in so many instances of this kind
have only come to appreciate our common place
once it is left behind.

Candied Peels

(C) Annette Marie Hyder

I make tangerine petals and orange branches
while the moon is high in the sky,
sugared tongues sticking out on the waxed paper waiting
for their taste of chocolate, a dark that’s almost bitter
for the nectar sweetness of the former and the lightness of milk chocolate
for the strong bite of the latter. I am finding that spot between extremes
where the savor is, where the tightrope sings.

It is cold outside but the fragrance from the simmering peels
breathes hotly against the window.
I feel secretive and witchy stirring bubbling syrup
by the full bright light of the moon.
Memory serves as a broom
that I ride back to the time of the rustling groves by our house
and the neighbor’s cows that regularly escaped enclosure
to moo right outside my window.

Citrus peels are usually discarded
but they can be used to sweeten, to garnish, to put the final touch on,
to tuck sachets of summer into the pockets of winter.
Sometimes thoughts of home, of family, curl in just such a way —
bright and pithy with the essence condensed.
And I am glad for these sweet scraps, from the small things,
here in cold Minnesota.

Clouds of cool, pillows of refreshment

There was something I was waiting for last night and I just couldn’t fall asleep because of the waiting for it. I wondered what it was that had me so expectant and then it hit me.

When my mother remarried for the first time after my father died, she married a man much older than herself, one who had been in the Navy. His name was Elmer, Elmer *Stinpinchky.

He always had (and I don’t think this a “Navy guy” state of mind — just his own parsimonious personality) special little money-saving things for the whole family to do. Like, he wanted us all to take “Navy” showers (a special routine he learned in — you guessed it, the Navy). That’s where you get in the shower, turn on the water and get wet and then turn off the water. With the water off, you soap up. After thoroughly soaping and washing, you turn the water back on and rinse. Then you turn the water off — immediately — and get out.

My younger brother and I constantly flouted this shower rule and Elmer, in turn, constantly berated us bitterly about it. He habitually harassed us about it because, guess what? He was listening at the door to gauge our compliance. I know, right? Pretty creepy. My mother asked us to comply with his rules and we always assured her we would and probably had every intention of obeying our mother — until confronted with the actuality.

To this day I take v-e-r-y long showers.

Well, his concerns for household expenditures extended to every aspect of daily living and, of course, to the running of the air-conditioning. We lived in Florida and he refused to run the air-conditioning during the day (when it was the hottest). At night he set the temperature for a delightfully refreshing 80 degrees Fahrenheit. My younger brother and I hated this with a passion. Elmer’s arbitrary control of the cool air was a challenge to us — a cannon shot over the prow of our childhood sense of right. He pricked us to our very cores and provoked us to rebel by making us lie in the sweltering heat waiting for the air-conditioning to come on so that we could fall asleep to its comforting song.

The fact that he had very keen hearing, was a light sleeper and could immediately pounce on any air-conditioning infractions didn’t deter us once he had whipped our hearts to mutiny. It really became an all-out war with reconnaissance and special missions on our part against his temperature tyranny.

Elmer and my mother would go to bed and as soon as we heard him snoring, I would, or my brother would, creep out into the hall from our respective rooms and adjust the temperature. This would result in, most times, the enemy charging forth from his room and bellowing about what bad kids we were and turning the temp back to what he wanted (oh, and the horror of seeing him flap around in his boxer shorts and t-shirt as he ranted and brandished his fist!). But sometimes, oh sometimes, he would sleep right through long enough for the air-conditioning to whisk us off into dreams on a cloud of cool.

Finally, tiring of the nightly skirmishes, Elmer came upon what he thought was the perfect solution and which, I admit, at first brought bitter defeat into our hearts: A Honeywell TG511A Universal Thermostat Lock Box…

Image courtesy of the Honeywell Company

Product description from the Honeywell site:

“Make sure your temperature settings stay just where they should be with
the Honeywell TG511A universal thermostat lock box. Compatible with a
wide range of thermostats, this lock box protects against unauthorized
temperature changes while still permitting temperature monitoring. It
also shields your thermostat from unintentional damage as well as wear
and tear.”

But we were not deterred indefinitely. We discovered that touching the thermostat was not necessary to triggering the thermostat. A bump against the wall would trigger the mechanism by jostling the delicate spring system by which the arrow indicator maintained its balance. So, once the lock box was installed we all slept the better for it. Elmer could sleep secure with the knowledge that he held the key and we, we could sleep in comfort once his snoring began and the wall had been gently bumped goodnight.

Last night, on the heels of such hot weather I might have mistaken myself for being back in Florida and with humidity licking at the windows, last night I was waiting for the air-conditioning to click on — just like when I was little.

*Last name changed per my mom’s request

NASA shuttle program’s last flight

Atlantis lifts off Friday in Florida for the International Space Station on the NASA shuttle program’s last flight, STS-135.
Photo courtesy of The Houston Chronicle

Friday’s final countdown

The Houston Chronicle reports:

“CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Less than 24 hours after space shuttle Atlantis’ thrilling final ascent through a hazy Florida sky, Americans awoke today to a sobering truth: No one has any idea of when they might again see such a sight or where it will be going if they do.

For the first time in two generations, there is no schedule for a resumption of human spaceflight in an American spacecraft after Atlantis completes its massive restocking mission to the International Space Station. The uncertainty leading up to Friday’s launch, threatened for days by stormy weather, mirrored a greater uncertainty over the nation’s future in space and its commitment to space superiority.”
Read the entire article here.

In the yard, in a car, on a rooftop

Growing up in Florida, all I had to do to see the space shuttle launches flaming across the sky was step out into my back yard. On the road in a car when a launch was happening? We’d just pull over onto the side of the road to watch. Needing to feel closer to the excitement? A rooftop is a launchpad to feeling closer to the stars.

Watching the launches, it felt like our collective hand was pushing the shuttle across the sky — writing a space adventure with a big silver pen.

I’m sad to see the end of this NASA shuttle program but I also can’t help thinking about the  invasive nature of space flight.

Pushing the envelope

Annette Marie Hyder

Pushing the white envelope of the clouds
the space shuttle is a big silver pen
we use to write our name LARGE
not just a flourishing signature in the chalk of exhaust
but an autograph painted in hubris.
We graffiti the walls of space
and love the way we say
“humans were here” in flags and sundry equipment left behind
carve our initials on everything — even the heavens
and steal souvenirs because we can
and no one in charge appears to be looking.

Links of interest:
Space Shuttle
How many Moon rocks were brought back to Earth?

Everglade drifting

Annette Marie Hyder

Sugarcane runs long fingers
through the sky’s curly clouds.
Gators spank the river bank
with disciplinary tails.
Mosquitoes drape the shoreline
like Spanish Moss hanging on the trees.
The sky is a bleached denim blue
so soft
I decide to wear just that —
like a favorite old frayed shirt —
as I drift in my canoe.

Storytelling is editing on the fly

You can’t include everything in a snapshot. There were herons in that picture and there was a shy and bashful breeze. There were tortoises, red-tailed hawks and a rattlesnake in a tree. I left them out but couldn’t resist giving just a peek.

Day longs for night

Here in Minnesota, with the trees wearing sweaters of snow and the avenues snow-plow-sculpted in ice, my thoughts are turning to Florida.

I miss the Spanish Moss draping the trees, multiple rainbows and temperatures hovering at  70 degrees.

Here’s a thinking-of-Florida poem:

Day Longs for Night
Annette Marie Hyder

The night
lets down her long dark gypsy hair
spins on her bare feet
and stomps her passion
for moths, black blooms
bats and all things witchy.

The moonlight,
her Mona Lisa smile,
mysterious and subtle, suffuses her
wild beauty
with a gentleness so fragile
it can be broken by
the ephemera of clouds.

Pieces of her hair
catch in the swaying trees
to curl and dry by morning’s light
into Spanish moss
as if the trees
could not bear
to let her go.

And she had no princess slipper
to leave upon the lawn
but she left dewdrops
crystal beads of perspiration
for day to come upon.

Day spends his time plotting
ways to find her in his arms —
the sunset a prayer, a beacon,
a campfire, for her wandering to find.

Iguanas falling from the sky

Image courtesy of Jackie’s Page

My mom tells me that the leaves in Florida, which never do, have changed: a blushing profusion of cold bitten flush. And of course the iguanas, which have become proverbial as indices of cold, are falling from the arboreal sky.

(Where she lives, in Hardee county, it got down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit last night!)

Urban legend caught on video

WPLG Local 10 News reports:

Record lows across South Florida are literally freezing the invasive iguana in its tracks.

Kamikaze iguanas, plummeting from their treetop perches, have long been a Floridian urban legend. On Wednesday morning, Local 10 caught the free-falling lizard on tape.

Scientists said these seemingly suicidal lizards are a result of South Florida’s record cold weather. Iguanas prefer temperatures in the 80s and 90s. With Wednesday morning’s temperatures at around 35 degrees, a handful of lifeless lizards hung from branches and fell to the ground.

While these iguanas appeared dead, experts said they are not. When temperatures drop below 40 degrees, iguanas go into a type of hibernation in which their bodies essentially turn off, only allowing the heart to pump blood. When the temperature rises above 40 degrees again, the iguanas are revived.

“It’s almost like they go totally to sleep. Generally speaking, if it warms up afterward, they can recover,” said Ron Magill of Miami Metrozoo.

Ron Magill adds this cautionary note:

“I knew of a gentleman who was collecting them off the street and throwing them in the back of his station wagon, and all of a sudden these things are coming alive, crawling on his back and almost caused a wreck.”

Read the rest of the article here.
Watch the video here.

you can tell it’s cold in florida because
Annette Marie Hyder

this morning the scrub oaks
woke up confused
to find their leaves changed
since they went to bed
the mangroves wont walk
with the cold in their bones
arthritic concerns nod their heads

the palms shiver in silver
that criss-crosses their trunks
their fronds are fast frozen
even the shoreline
wears a sweater of rime
sequined with seashells
that tinkle and clink in surprise
at the frost-rimmed cup of the sun

gulls and cormorants —
feathered teeth of the sky —
click and chatter with cold
but it’s the blankets of ice
that the oranges are wearing
that really give it away
that and the way the iguanas are airborne
on their way to kerthunk at your feet

Links of interest:

Its so cold in Florida that…

Many Floridians, in wonderment and delight, took to flickr to share their amazement at, and photographic proof of, the rare beauty of ice in Florida:

Frozen Grass
Freezing Florida winter
ICE!!! It’s Florida, Right?
Florida Snowball
Great Horned Owl