Easter: Spring Rebirth

yellow treeMy favorite season in south Florida is spring, especially the month of April with longer days and somewhat cooler air, in this tropical environment that means 70-80 degrees and less humidity.  Baby chicks float in canals learning how to be duck-like from mama, one of them having a whopping ten chicks following. Lime green iguanas litter docks and yards, a nuisance to many I suppose. Fuchsia bushes, purple vines, bright pink and Yellow trees vividly blooming. Spring is definitely in the air with procreation abound as nature brilliantly displays its awe-inspiring beauty.  Even the grass seems more lush and the sky radiant blue.pink flowers purple bush

Everyone is outside this week, as if we were in a deep freeze the prior months.  It’s Florida, winter wasn’t so bad.  But recently I’ve seen more people walking, jogging, landscaping and boating.  I applaud any outdoor activity, engaging in the open-air environment daily myself.  This past week, the change of season brought me inside for a bit of spring cleaning.  Dusting, washing cabinets, throwing away ragged rugs, tossing Christmas candles and out-of-season scented soaps.  All to make room for fresh fragrances and colors associated with Spring, combined with a true need to purify the house. Replaced by aromas such as Peach Bellini, Caribbean Escape, Coconut Lime, and Mango Maui.

bunny egg 2Easter, the oldest Christian holiday and perhaps the oldest celebration in human culture, symbolizes fertility and rebirth.  Observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern hemisphere’s spring equinox, occurring anytime between March 21 and April 25.  The concept of spring and rebirth is not unique to Christians.

Easter’s earliest reference comes from Babylon around 2400 BCE, with festivities honoring the moon and the spring equinox.  The holiday and many of its non-religious traditions have Pagan roots.  Easter is likely named after the Anglo-Saxon mother goddess, Eostre.  Her symbol was a rabbit and an egg, because of fertility and new life, although some say the ancients saw a Hare in the full moon.  Anglo- Saxons ate hot cross buns to honor their estrogen goddess during spring celebrations.  Some say the bun represented the moon and the cross the moon’s quarters.  For Christians it symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus, the son of God.

bunny egg chickMany cultures throughout history have celebrated spring equinox, when light is equal to darkness.  After a long dismal winter, they incorporate themes of decent into darkness, renewal, fertility, and the ultimate triumph of light over darkness or good over evil.  A celebration I consider worthy as the oldest and most celebrated tradition in human history.  Whatever your belief or reason to embrace this life-giving season, do so wholeheartedly.

If you ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it…  But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.

– Frank Lloyd Wright

book cover summery review and feedback

I’m in the process of editing my new novel and decided to write the back cover draft.  I’m looking for feedback, critique and suggestions.  I’m also not committed to the main character’s names if you have suggestions or preferences.  Any comments are welcomed, appreciated and encouraged.  I have two slightly different versions below, let me know if one resonates more that the other with a first or second version.  Thanks. Sierra

1.    Raven and Lucas embark upon a personal cruise around the Bahamas for an adventure of a lifetime, but things go terribly wrong after finding an artifact on the beach in Bimini. In the process of denying its supernatural power and fixing all their misfortunes, they form stronger bonds with friends, strangers and ultimately each other. Is it all in Raves’ overactive archaeological scientific mind, or does the artifact truly have bad ju ju?

A wooden idol is discovered by Raven just three hours into their two-week journey. Her curiosity and background entices her to keep the artifact with the intention of researching its background and story. Where did this unique, seemingly non-Bahamian statue originate and how did it land in Bimini?

Breakfast in Bimini follows this couple’s journey through paradise and beyond, perhaps even to another dimension.

2.     Raven and Lucas embark upon a personal cruise around the Bahamas for an adventure of a lifetime. Raves discovers a wooden idol on a secluded beach, just three hours into their two-week journey. Her curiosity and archaeological scientific mind entices her to keep the artifact with the intention of researching its background and story. Where did this unique, seemingly non-Bahamian statue originate and how did it land in Bimini?

Things go terribly wrong after finding the artifact. In the process of denying its supernatural power and fixing all their misfortunes, they form stronger bonds with friends, strangers and ultimately each other. Is it all in Raves’ overactive imagination, or does the idol truly have bad ju ju?

Breakfast in Bimini follows this couple’s journey through paradise and beyond, perhaps even to another dimension.

New Orleans: Marathon, Music and Musings

fritzelsI signed up for the New Orleans Rock and Roll half marathon three months ago, taking advantage of the travel opportunity to make a fun weekend out of it. I booked three nights at the Royal Sonesta in the heart of the French Quarter, on Bourbon street, with its five-star ratings and an inner courtyard facing room, allowing for peace among the chaos. Upon arrival the street buzzed with performers, tourists, hobos and bead throwers. After all Mardi Gras was only a few weeks away, but it seemed like the party had already started.  Our chosen restaurant for the night, Grapevine Bistro, was a short walk with a few drink and entertainment stops along the way.  A crowd gathered around two break dancers jumping around to “I got a feeling“, a song by Maroon 5 that always gets my hips moving.  The next crowd was standing below a balcony of men and woman throwing beads for flashes of boobs.  A pair landed at my feet, so I looked up with a wide smile. Not this trip, maybe ten years ago.

At the Grapevine, I savored baked Brie, artesian salad and my favorite dessert creme brûlée, while my husband was in seafood heaven. Afterwards, we sauntered over to the oldest jazz club in the French Quarter, Fritzel’s, finishing our evening listening to live traditional jazz in a casual atmosphere. The walk back to the hotel was even more crazy with larger, drunker, louder crowds.  Oh, the French Quarter, how do I love thee?  The food, jazz, people, town… even if only for a few days.

marathon signSaturday centered around marathon preparation.  Finding the starting and finishing line, picking up my race packet at one of longest the convention centers spanning over six blocks, the running expo was in the last hall. Since a cold front left the city around 40 degrees in the morning and evening, I picked up a hat and gloves for my 13.1 mile run. I also acquired free samples of mostly energy boosters. Who knew they made energy jelly bellies.

After prepping my clothes, gear and caffeine for the following morning we headed out for an extremely well-behaved early evening around Bourbon Street. Well almost.  Music continued blaring and drinks flowed as we visited a few bars, for me that was white wine mixed with ice and soda water as a safe pre-race night drink.  At a close-by Italian restaurant, a small plate of linguine pesto soaked up the alcohol while providing a scrumptious carb-loading meal for the following day. The crowd outside was just beginning their debauchery as we ended a perfect evening at Irvin Mayfield’s jazz playhouse in the quiet comfort of our hotel.

By 6:30 a.m. I was bouncing off the walls from the energy drinks I sipped while getting ready, mostly a giant Monster green tea tasting like medicine. That combined with pure adrenaline and anticipation for the race had me acting like a caged lion pacing for freedom.  My hubby and pup slept through the madness.

Bourbon street was eerie in the early morning, the way I pictured the fictional Gotham City to be right before Batman’s arrival. Spotting a group of runners ahead, I swiftly caught up with them.  The street smelled of stale alcohol mixed with fresh-baked bread. The wind was blowing with an occasional strong gust.  My long running pants, three layers of shirts and  running beanie complete with a pony tail gap provided enough warmth.  A few young drifters slept in sleeping bags against the buildings.  Who would choose that lifestyle, I wondered.burbon 4 The starting line overflowed with runners prepping for the half and full marathon, like a skinny healthy version of Fat Tuesday kicking off Mardi Gras.  They had corrals instead of pace groups, and they seemed endless, winding around corners and streets. “How do I know what corral I’m in?”  I asked a stranger.

“It’s based on the first number on your race bib,” She said, and added, “They’re not that strict.”

marathonMine was seven, towards the front.  I was relived not to be in back of the 30,000 runners.  It was about ten minutes from the official start when my corral was up for release.  A thin yellow rope held us at the starting line until countdown and then we were set free as if bulls running in Pamplona, Spain.  I started my marathon playlist with my chosen first song, Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys.  Every few miles a band played above my music, and then my earphones went silent after about mile five. I was also getting extremely hot.  After trying to talk myself out of it I stopped and removed one of my shirts, tossing it to the side entangling my earphones in the process. The music came and went intermittently as I tried not to let it bother me.  Around mile ten my left foot went from numb to shooting an intense pain.  All the little nerves in my foot protesting, I ignored it.  Many observers with creative signs lined the marathon course.

                    I thought you said rum, not run.  Do you still have your toenails.  Look alive you’re about to pass a cemetery. We’re looking at your ass, keep running. Run, Zombies are chasing you.  It sounded like a great idea a few months ago. 

Some bystanders offered jello shots, mimosa and even a slice of pizza.  I smiled, waved and looked forward to the near end of 13.1 miles.

I found my husband and dog at the finish line, took a nice long hot shower and then met up with an old friend for a quick museum visit and Jazz brunch. The small Voodoo museum I went to years ago was interesting, but this time I was looking for information to include in my upcoming book, Breakfast in Bimini.  The attendant was very helpful suggesting a few possibilities and resources to check out.  Brunch was simply amazing and I was famished.  Made to order omelets, eggs benedict and pancakes.  A traditional pirogue, a flat boat-shaped serving vessel, held salads, meats, seafood and specialities.  Dessert pies and king cake tempted at the stern of the pirogue.  It was my first time trying the purple, green and gold doughy cake, and my little sliver didn’t hold the hidden plastic baby, meaning I didn’t have to buy the next king cake. Mimosa and Bloody Mary’s were constantly refreshed.

Afterwards we roamed the streets of the French Quarter, leisurely checking out boutiques, street art and pop up jazz bands. The music continued to delight with the rhythm, creativity and talent.  Young hobos still abundant, I gazed into one young girl’s blue eyes, probably about 18 years old.  She looked pretty, clean and lost sitting next to her sleeping bag on the street with a bowl holding coins.  I understand rebellion, wanting to travel and experience life, but at what cost?  Would she be lost forever in an unrealistic quest?  I hoped not, but the French quarter draws people to its culture and some just get sucked into a romantic abyss.burbon jazz

The Year of Transportation disasters

It’s hard to forget the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 on March 8th, 2014.  The first in a series of unusual tragic disasters around the world, hitting Malaysia the hardest.  The routine flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China disappeared less than an hour after takeoff while over the South China Sea.  A multinational search began immediately for the Boeing 777 and it’s 227 passengers and 12 crew members.  The media was relentless in its coverage and in some cases aided in propagating numberous conspiracy theories.  The plane was hijacked and sitting in Pakistan or Afghanistan to be used against the U.S. or Israel for a nuclear attack by a terrorist mastermind, was a popular one that I briefly considered.  Another viewpoint indicated one or both of the pilots on a Jihadist mission.  Perhaps a bomb on board or the plane broke apart in flight, even though weather was not a factor.  The flight deviated from its scheduled route and after much analysis of various sources of data, experts concluded that the flight met its fatal track into the South Indian Ocean, just west of Australia.  We followed daily, questioning the resources and evidence until the public tired of the endless search and mass media frenzy.  Australia?  No wreckage even until this day at the end of 2014?  Will we ever know what happened?  It goes into the history books as being the largest and most expensive search in aviation history.

Four months later Malaysia flight 17 was shot down on July 17th over the Ukraine.  The television and web again buzzed with its own opinions and interpretations about the downed plane, and what was wrong with Malaysia Air for all its misfortune.  Russia and Ukraine pointed fingers at each other, in the mean time families mourned the tragic deaths of their loved ones, many from Amsterdam where the plane originated. It was most likely pro-Russian separatists using a Buk Surface-to-air missile, but nobody is willing to take responsibility for this needless destruction.  Casualties of an unnecessary war, 15 crew members and 283 innocent passengers murdered, travelling on another Boeing 777 with ties to Kuala Lumpur, its intended destination . Was Putin involved?  Bad Putin.

December 27th, 2014, the end of an already fatal year in aviation, Air Asia Flight 8501 disappeared.  Departing from Indonesia travelling to Singapore, the plane carrying 162 people vanished from the radar indicating turbulent weather along their path.  Two days later, wreckage and bodies were found just six miles southeast of the last known position, going in the opposite direction from the plane’s path. Is this another mystery flight catastrophe?  The black box is yet to be discovered, but given the fact that the crew asked for higher altitude and deviation for weather, severe thunderstorms probably played an important role.

The Sewol ferry sunk on April 16 off the coast of South Korea taking 304 lives, mostly young high school students on a field trip.  Abiding the captain’s command they remained in their positions to “stay put,” despite water entering the ship after the vessel capsized.  Meanwhile the captain and crew abandoned ship.  The inexperienced co-captain at the helm made a sharp turn and that combined with improper and overloading caused the ferry to list and sink port side.  Although with a prompt full force emergency response most lives could have been saved, they were not.  The Korean government was slow to respond and the crew unhelpful in such a dire situation.  Private companies and foreign governments came to the rescue before the Korean Coast Guard showed up at the scene.

On the same day the Air Asia flight disappeared,  an Italian ferry called the Norman Atlantic, carrying close to 500 people caught on fire. Almost all the passengers survived, one by one, being rescued by helicopter three at a time. Ten died in the disaster, but it could have been much more of a tragedy.

Am I still going to travel? Absolutely.  Staying at home, driving, or really doing anything exciting can be risky.  Life is worth the adventure and I look forward to plenty of it in 2015!

Liebster Award

liebster_award

Thank you very much to HauteAngel for nominating me for the Liebster award. You can check out her awesome blog at:  http://hauteangel.com/

Here are the questions given to me by HauteAngel with my answers:

  1. What inspired you to begin blogging? I wanted to keep my writing mind engaged, I’m always looking to educate myself through research and writing.
  2. North or South? South
  3. Favorite color? Green
  4. Top or bottom? Top
  5. If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? My grandmother, Jane Goodall, Michael Crichton.
  6. Wine or beer? Wine
  7. What is the last fashion item you purchased? A comfortable pair of ink colored skinny jeans
  8. What celebrity inspires you? Be it artist, photographer, singer, actor, etc…. ?  Scarlett Johansson. Smart, beautiful and a good actress.
  9. Country or rock music? Rock traditionally but I’ve been enjoying country lately.
  10. Favorite fashion designer? Donna Karen

These are the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2. Answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominator.
3. Nominate other bloggers for the award (that have fewer than 200 followers).
4. Create 10 questions (or less) for your nominees to answer.
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blogs and notifying them.

I nominate:

The Wife of Bath

Simon682

Indah Susanti

A Writer’s Path

12heatherm

Palace of Eternal Flowers

A sense of Place

Samuel J Bass

The girl in the Green Scarf

Fall is in the air, Northern Georgia

tree

 

Fall is my favorite time of year along the eastern coast of the USA, with a change in temperature, foliage and festivities.  I took a week to admire and appreciate this yearly change of seasons in the northern Georgia mountains.  A hike in nature revealed its beauty after a day of chilly deluge with radiant earthly colors and cool crisp air.  The trail was soft and spongy from pine needles and the previous day’s rain.  Yellow, red, brown and unturned green maple leaves scenically littered the path while other leaves endlessly floated in the wind. Sourwood and dogwood trees were equally colorful and abundant. Soggy chocolate-brown pine cones and sturdier acorns appeared on parts of the trail, some broken, others in tact.  I imagined squirrels stockpiling for the winter, but I didn’t see a single animal large or small. A burbling creek ebbed and flowed, sometimes growing louder, other times just whispering in the distance.  I crossed over the creek via wooden tree planks on a few occasions, paralleling it during the most of my walk while meandering past boulders and tranquil Raven_Cliff_Falls_GAvalleys.  Ancient tree roots sprouted through the organic trail, well-worn and glossed over like a penny rubbed too much for good luck.   The air was fresh, clean, oxygenated, and slightly petrichor. The trail ends in a grand finale, a hill of slippery boulders flanked by a gigantic granite rock split in two with a waterfall splashing and cascading to the bottom.  I cautiously climbed the smaller rocks to the top of the waterfall, admiring for a brief moment its magnificent beauty.

Fall in the alpine village of Helen means Oktoberfest, one of the longest and largest Bavarian festivals held in the United States.  Crowds flock to the quaint town to celebrate from September 17 to November 1st.  Weekends are packed with beer drinkers sporting traditional Bavarian hats called Tirolerhüte, many exhibiting pewter pins based on personal interest and cities they have visited.  A man with many pins is either well-travelled, very active, or just a tourist collecting pins for Oktoberfest.  Woman also wear these hats in the United States, but it’s not traditional garb.  If you want to stick to custom, their outfit consist of a tight-fitting white Dirndl dress and blouse showing ample cleavage.  An apron wrapped around the dress with a bow tied on front and flat shoes complete the outfit.

octoberfestThe festhalle housing the main event was full of people, beer, bratwurst, pretzels and dancing to live music. First on our minds was buying a stein full of Oktoberfest Warsteiner which we accomplished immediately.  After securing a seat at the common long tables, food was next on our agenda.  For a vegetarian that means a pretzel at this event and a bratwurst for my husband.  Beer would be my nourishment for the evening since the pretzel was dry and less enticing and flavorful than the beer, although the beer cheese dip helped the dehydrated dough.  Apparently fine cuisine was not the strongpoint of the popular festhalle, but music and socializing was the highlight.  The band, people watching and making friends beat out the lack of flavorful fare, but well worth it.  Although I love a good meal , it’s not  always my top priority.  At the end of the night I was singing and dancing to Rocky Top and doing the chicken dance thanks to Warsteiner and a lack of vegetarian options.

The next few days we explored the many pop-up tents housing beer gardens and festivities surrounding Oktoberfest.  Every major venue had their own personal tent and talent for the occasion.  One thing that stuck out in my mind was the ubiquity of boots among females, an appreciation I held being a lover of a good pair of boots.  My husband and I made a game of it, him not noticing the Northern Georgia boot culture until I pointed it out, and then he could not stop noticing it, almost becoming obsessed.  We started taking pictures of the various boots and he approached one couple.

“My wife loves your boots.  Can I take a picture?
The boyfriend almost fell over, “Your wife loves her boobs?”
“No, Boots. Not boobs.  Don’t get too excited.”

We laughed and took a picture along with photos of ten other boots.  Oktoberfest in Helen, the boot culture.  I better find a good pair.

bootsboots 7boots 6

boots 4   boots2

 

Breakfast in Bimini excerpt

end of world barDark in comparison to the bright sun outside, the rustic tavern displayed writing all over wood panel walls, underwear hanging above, and signed currency from many countries taped on a panel behind the bar. Names of boats and fishing teams, individuals with dates they visited, relationships broadcasted, love proclaimed.

“Interesting,” I mumbled.

My name’s in here,” Luke announced.

“My underwear’s on the ceiling,” Russ challenged. I looked up searching for the camouflage boxers I saw earlier on the trip. It was mostly ladies thongs, but boxers also hung from above like a flag revealing a conquest. My eyes shifted to one distinguished pair depicting a skull and crossbones with a patch over the eye, the typical Jolly Roger avatar faded and exposed on a single pair of boxers. I briefly thought of Jeff and his treasure hunting Davy Jones yacht, wondering if he’d left his mark in this bar. I continued scanning for Russ’s undies, my gaze landing on a pair representing the confederate flag. It was integrated with a rainbow of woman’s thongs. Blue, black, pick, multicolored, green and purple.

“That’s yours,” I pointed to the pair hanging in the distance. “The confederate flag, cowboy.”

“Damn, you’re good Kelly. But wrong. I wouldn’t give up a pair that nice.” He turned his stool in the opposite direction, pointing to a plain tan pair with grey scribbling’s. “Those are mine from 2001, during a wild fishing trip.”

“So you let people sign your ass while wearing them, or afterwards?” I asked, giggling at the thought of Russ running around the bar in his undies asking for autographs.

“On of course. A bunch of drunk girls in the bar signing my ass. Nothing on the front, I’m not that type of guy.”

I choked on my drink, spraying a mist of beer while laughing. “Oh, I could imagine.” Glancing at Luke, “So no undies on the ceiling for you, sweetie?”

Smirking, “No just a signature of my name and year, somewhere around here.” He searched the tavern, eyes scanning for a hint of recognition and then handing me a black sharpie, one of many sitting atop the bar. “Make your mark,” he said pragmatically.

Eagerly grabbing the sharpie and searching for an empty section to claim as my own, I noticed fainter scratching’s were written over with darker, fresher markings. I avoided busy walls and found a corner behind a speaker and wrote, Kelly and Luke, Breakfast in Bimini, 2011. Satisfied with my scribbling’s, I joined the two men sitting on bar stools, gulping a slightly stronger Kalik Gold.

“Ok, now the undies,” Russ blurted out, wickedly grinning.

“And I can do a shot from your belly button,” Luke added with an equally sinful grin. “It’s tradition in this bar.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” I addressed both of them with a smiling gaze. “But I’d have to say, this place definitely has character.”

compleat angler 1“You might change your mind after a few of these,” Luke said, handing me a Kalik Gold to go. Walking the streets of Bimini with a drink in hand is also tradition, ambling to our next stop, lunch at the Big Game Club. During our short walk to the restaurant we sauntered past some ruins stopping for a moment of nostalgia. Luke and Russ both filled me in on the colorful history the Compleat Angler. Ernest Hemingway was perhaps the most notable resident that slept, drank, and wrote at the Angler, but so did Jimmy Buffett, presidential hopeful Gary Hart got caught messing around at the bar and hotel, Matt Damon was spotted there and the less famous Russ and Luke with their past debauchery. Built in the 1930’s it was once the staging area for rum-runners during the prohibition. Prior to its fiery destruction just five years ago, it housed a small yet unique Hemingway museum and it was full of fishing pictures from every decade since the thirty’s. On any given weekend the bar was packed with drunken tourists and locals listening to live music from Stevie S while socializing, sometimes getting downright crazy. The two compared their most memorable stories, with passionate sinful laughs. I longed to have the same memory of the Compleat Angler. Now only a brick fireplace stood in the center of boulders outlining the three rooms and an outside patio. An A-frame wooden sign over a stone archway read The Compleat Angler, a reminder of its humble yet ornate vibrant past.

“How did it burn down and do you think they’ll rebuild it?” I asked.

The two chortled in unison as we continued strolling to the Big Game Club. “The fire was questionable, the owner was the only one who died. All the Hemingway memorabilia was destroyed. Lots of gossip about foul play, but no arrest were made.”

“If it was that popular, will they rebuild?”

Luke took a swig from his beer as we continued along King’s Road. “It’s the Bahamas, nothing much gets done around here.”