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

It’s so cold in Florida that…

Iguanas are falling from trees

How embarrassing!

So imagine you’re an iguana. You are just minding your own business, sitting in a tree in Florida, when the next thing you know, bam! You land gracelessly on the ground, having fallen from the tree without warning. In fact you are not going to even be able to get up and scurry away in embarrassment because your body has basically shut down and sent you into a deep sleep. One minute, relaxing in the sunshine in the privacy of your leafy bower, the next minute, spread out — a spectacle — in an obtrusive display of very public deep-sleep.

Photo courtesy of

Frosty 40’s = lethargic lizards

The Ledger reports that:

The chilly weather in southern Florida this week was cold enough to force some iguanas to fall from trees.

Experts say the cold-blooded reptiles go into a deep sleep when the temperature falls into the 40’s.

Their bodies basically shut off and they lose their grip on the tree.

to Collier County Domestic Animal Services control supervisor Dana
Alger, iguana reports traditionally rise when temperatures drop, as the
reptiles seek to warm themselves on asphalt surfaces such as sidewalks,
roads and driveways.

Most of the iguanas were once pets that got released when they got too big. The reptiles can grow up to six feet long.

Falling iguanas are just as indicative of winter’s onslaught, to South Floridians, as the first falling snowflakes are to

Photo courtesy FOX News

The oranges are coated in ice

The oranges are wearing winter coats — coats of ice.

It’s so cold in Florida that they have had to give the oranges an icy bath. When the temperatures look to head lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit, orange growers, many of them pulling all nighters, protect plants by spraying them with water that freezes, insulating the temperature at 32.

Cold isn’t entirely bad for citrus though. The cold can benefit some growers because it slows down
growth and hardens up citrus trees. It also makes the oranges sweeter.

Even the tourists are wearing long pants

When it hits the low 60’s, Floridian fashionistas rejoice that they can finally wear their leather jackets and stylish coats. Conversely, tourists can be seen, on cold days in Florida, relishing the brisk temperatures by wearing shorts and bathing suits in temperatures that dip to 45 degrees. But once the real cold of 30 degrees sets in, even visitors from other states can be seen wearing long pants. They wear them as they sight-see, jacket-less, gawking at the natives sporting winter coats that would bring on a heat stroke if worn by a Northerner.

A Florida poem
Previously published in Steel Point Quarterly
Annette Marie Hyder

Mangrove trees walk in the unopened box of night.
At the edges of expectation
the surf pounds its point home relentlessly, sings
ancient mariner woes applicable to all
who listen on nights like these.

Something is coming,
something vast, on the wings of hurricane.
The palm trees tremble
frantic to their fronds —
lash themselves into tambourines of ecstasy.

Mangrove trees trail their roots —
the sight almost obscene to the unexpecting eye —
in the crocodile loved tide
seeking omens in the inverted
backward flowing sky.