Monthly Archives: November 2011

Light & Shadow, Key West

Foliage Shadows and bounced, raking light.

One of the indignities that my friends tolerate me inflicting upon them is to have a meal or a conversation abruptly interrupted by photographic urgency. This image, with its shadows and overlay of raking bounced light called to me at breakfast over Amy’s shoulder. I abandoned her for a couple of minutes to record it.

The breakfast was at Azur, the restaurant on the same property as our hotel, and after our second meal there, we decided that we needn’t go elsewhere the remainder of our trip. (Frankly, I can only wish we’d done that sooner: FANTASTIC food, delightful service, good value.) Here’s a the corner of Azur that faces onto Fleming.

Key West, FL

After our visit to the Hemingway house, we climbed the Key West Lighthouse. It’s not very high, but the view was lovely if not especially photogenic, and the breeze at the top was delightful. The interior, however, had some interesting effects of light and structure.

Key West Lighthouse, interior.

Filtered light in lighthouse.

Our Great Men Tour continued with a visit to the Audubon House. We ogled the beautiful bird prints, and I admired this humble bath-time still-life.

Bath items at Audubon House, Key West.

At some point I noticed that slats are everywhere in Key West. I guess they allow a breeze but mostly keep out the rain (and prying eyes, too). The graphic combination of slats, shadows, and tropical light is ubiquitous.

Slatted fence and palm trees, Key West.

Bonus: I liked the shadowplay on the wall so much, I also made a little video of it.

Sunrise 30: Lessons from a Month of Early Rising

Dawn in DC

I didn’t deliberately choose a thirty-day month, I swear. Nor had I realized that the end of Daylight Savings Time would actually mean an extra hour in bed or that as winter approached the time of sunrise would actually get later each morning. I know these things now, as I have experienced them directly—at a time of day calculated to get my attention.

I have decided that, at least in the city, sunrise is in fact more beautiful than sunset. The transition from dark to light, the quiet, the regular gratification of expectation (the sun DOES rise), these things are tremendously calming and reassuring, and a good way to start the day.

I would say that I am just now beginning to adjust to an early morning routine. But the adjustment is not complete; there have still been nights when I went to bed after midnight. I imagine that it would take several more months of rigorous dawn risings to make a true habit of it. Say, a hundred days.

I am not prepared to make that commitment.

Tomorrow, I will not set the alarm clock. That means I’ll probably wake to the sound of the dumpsters. I’ll likely not see first light. I’m curious to find out what that feels like, and to note what time I actually do get up.

I am, however, fully persuaded that time out of doors during daylight is an unmitigated good for me. So, for December, I am committing to an hour of outdoor daylight every day—days of precipitation excepted. I don’t think it much matters whether I’m sitting at a sidewalk cafe facing the sun or walking around or practicing Tai Chi, but a minimum cumulative hour of plein air is what is required.

This should be made somewhat easier by a mid-December journey to New Mexico. I want to see my sister and brother-in-law, and Bob is going to join me as well.

Key West Bicycles

Colorfully painted bikes, decorated with beads, Key West, FL

Bicycles are everywhere in Key West. They’re an easy and convenient way to get around: bike lanes are common, the weather’s great, and—as previously noted—Key West is flat like pancake.

There were two salient, if not especially surprising, features about bicycle culture in Key West. The first is the tendency to decorate, adorn, and gussy the bicycles, and the second is the rarity with which you will see anyone wearing a bicycle helmet. Tourists I can understand (who travels with a bike helmet?), but the locals are equally nonchalant about brain injury. Probably it’s just too darn hot and sticky to wear heavy headgear. I will confess that we did not.

Wispy tattoo on bicycle.

You’ve heard of bikers with tattoos, of course. Bicycles in Key West demand to be inked too!

Pedal too close to the sun for too long and this may be your fate. I suppose an all-black racing bike was a misfit in Key West from the get-go.

A Year Ago: In a dream

Sunrise 29

Dawn in DC

They said it would be rainy this morning, and I guess it was—sometime well before I got outdoors. The pavement and grass were wet, anyway. Still no excuse to stay in, though.

And, once again, glad there wasn’t.

Cat House

Polydactylic cat at Hemingway House, Key West, FL

There was a man who loved cats. He loved their grace and their independence and their unsubservient affection. He loved their sang froid and their remorseless, predatory ways. He wanted the cats that kept him company to be true to their own nature, as he saw it, and so he did not spay them. Some of them had extra fingers on their paws; their tribe grew and prospered.

Eventually the man died by his own hand, but the cats lived on, generation to generation, in the freedom of his generosity. You can see many facets of his personality—pugnacious, funny, expressive, triste, dynamic, indolent, affectionate, charming—in the free-range felines whose dominion over the home continues uninterrupted to this day.

Hemingway House, Key West, FL

It’s rather a nice house. It was built by a man who made his fortune as a wrecker, “salvaging” ships that foundered in the shallow waters just offshore.

Hemingway House, Key West, FL

The cat-loving man added modern amenities, although it’s not clear what benefit the cats derived from them.

Hemingway House, Key West, FL

Hemingway House, Key West, FL

There are good places for lying in the sun.

Hemingway House, Key West, FL

And some places that are good for cooling your belly.

Hemingway House, Key West, FL

Proper homage is paid in decoration.

Window, Hemingway House, Key West, FL

And reverence even in the death of nameless ones. (The survivors are all named for movie stars.)

Kitten grave at Hemingway House, FL

It turns out that the man also wrote some books. Of course there was a cat icon on his writing table.

Hemingway House, Key West, FL

Bonus: If you are very, very lucky, one of the residents will deign to take notice of you and make himself comfortable on your person. I was the fortunate recipient of such favor. The very handsome and elegant Humphrey Bogart elected to settle in my lap for a few precious moments. I feel this represents the apogee of my career as a cat whisperer. The remarkable occasion was documented by Amy.

Humphrey Bogart bogarts my lap.

Cat on lap.

Sunrise 28

Liquid gold on the horizon.

A curious thing happened this morning.

I woke, saw that it was overcast, but determined that it was not so overcast, nor so cold, nor in fact precipitating in such a way as to allow me to stay indoors or crawl back to bed. I must needs go forth.

And so I did.

Half an hour later, after I had done my morning Tai Chi, I was watching the dogs romp in the Rosedale Conservancy and a strange feeling came over me. I looked at them and their humans and I was overcome with a deep and abiding affection for them.

At the Starbucks, I struck up conversations with the barrista and then with the young man sweeping leaves in the outside seating area. I looked around: the older gentleman with the muttly dog, the young lady balancing a coffee and a pastry in one hand, the couple communicating silently by glances and small expressions. It seemed I had unwittingly suckled at the natural teat that dispenses the Milk of Human Kindness.

They were all so delightful, so charming, so lovable. I could see that each and every one of them was carrying an entire universe around inside his or her head, as rich and as complicated and as meaningful as mine. I wanted to hug them and protect them from all bad things.

I sipped my coffee and ate my yogurt parfait and wondered whether something so simple as a change in schedule could radically affect a person’s outlook on the world. Does rising early making a person more optimistic, for example? Does staying up late and sleeping in promote apathy and cynicism?

I really don’t know, but it’s an interesting question.


Wharf at Key West, FL

Key West’s signal feature is that it is an island at the confluence of large bodies of water. Its history and its future are predicated on the oceans. Sun, sky, architecture, artists, sure, whatever. Ultimately they came, and still come, for the water. (And other potables.)

If you sail or dive or fish, Key West must truly be paradise.

Tarpon swim for chum, Key West, FL

The rest of us can swim in the pools or brave the somewhat rocky, weedy beaches. Or, you know, just have a drink by the seaside.

Outdoor bar and eatery by the wharf, Key West, FL

Two Years Ago: The experiments begin…

Purple Leaf MandalaOkay folks, would you like to see a silk shawl…
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Sunrise 27

Squirrel in cherry tree.

The marvelously, unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having has confused some cherry trees into thinking it’s spring. The fat squirrels, though, know better. This one regarded me with a certain wary contempt and then sprang up into the branches in search of winter sustenance.

I, too, would do well to prepare.

[MoS Project uses my OG iPhone for pictures.]

Key West Color

Abstract colors in light and shadow.

There are certain colors, and combinations of colors, that make little sense away from a tropical environment. If you live above the Mason-Dixon line, don’t even think about it.

Two wood charis, brightly painted.

Sunrise 26

Lovely Dawn

Today you get an extra-special bonus treat! The sunrise was so lovely today that I broke out the Pano software on ye olde OG iPhone and made one. This actually has an enlarged version available. There are some stitching artifacts, but I don’t care.

Lovely dawn at the National Cathedral.