Sunday, February 28, 2010

Margaritaville-Key West

With enough frequent flier miles, I pondered where to go mid-winter-a place to warm the bones and find inspiration for painting; some place warm and exotic within the U.S. yet different than Mexico or Hawaii. The answer: Margaritaville! Time for a a painting trip to Key West, FL. During the week, it was warmer back home, but with a new place to explore and brushes in hand, I was ready to put oil to canvas.
Notes during the trip:
There’s a muffled quality to the sound in the air here, and I haven’t been able to grasp the source. Is it the ocean? The humidity? When I actively listen I hear the rustle of wind through the palm fronds, the occasional car go by, and the screech of an island bicycle stopping for a light.

Tourists have many options for transportation here. Some opt for the oversized electric golf carts that look downright fun for toodling around in. The $90/day price tag took ‘fun’ out of it for us, so we opted to rent bicycles-perfect on the flat wide streets.

These are no ordinary ten-speed drop-handlebar bicycles. Upon mounting mine I immediately flashed back to my days at age 10 riding my fat-tired steer horn handlebar bike. Backpedal to break, and with only one gear. Yesterday we discovered a great paved trail around the island and pedaled its entirety in a little over an hour, passing turquoise waters and sandy beaches.

I’ve been gathering facts like candy and would like to leave with a bowlful. Key West is at 24 degrees N latitude, just 1 degree North outside the tropics. It is closer to Havana,Cuba-90 miles- than Miami (160 miles). It’s the southernmost point in the Continental U.S.
And I learned why the sunsets are so big here-why so many gather at the Pier every evening: Most East Coasters never see the sun set over water! Being from Washington State: uh…where else would it set…?

I could not name most of the animals or plants that I see here. Large buzzard-like black birds soar for hours on warm breezes. Green foliage-spiky leaves, gnarled branches hide many of the houses in the neighborhood. These old homes are predominantly white with shutters over windows. Geraniums and tomatoes have no fear of frost and grow uninhibited. I, however, feared frost as it was chilly last night, the air conditioner continued to churn out the cold air; these old homes do not have heat. In an attempt to warm up, we made our way down Duvall Street to the Butterfly Conservatory, where it’s a constant 85 degrees. It turned out to be the highlight of the trip as 2000 winged jewels flew around us, some landing to rest for awhile. By weeks end, we completed our stay and began our own winged migration back home, to balmy Skagit Valley.

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