Winter is upon us in my small town here in the Western North Carolina mountains...at least 18+ of winter knocking on the door, with even bigger piles of winter white blanketing the world outside. The stuff is heavy and dense, weighing roofs down, blocking roads, challenging power company crews out fixing downed lines. Oh yes, winter is upon us. Inside, River Dog and Pikachu Cat find the warmest spots they can: River in front of the living room gas stove.
I perch at my desk chair, wishing for heated seats or at least spring. Speaking of heat and spring, back in November I drove down to Florida over to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, not far from the Georgia line. A friend lets me borrow his historical charming-sweet little cottage "Fernandina Cottage". All I have to do is find my way there from here, River tucked beside me in the passenger seat, a load of art supplies and various bags tucked in the rear.
It takes us a good seven hours or so to get to the cottage, since we hit about every rest stop in between. We packed up before rain hit and got away to Florida just in time: driving in to sun and warm temperatures, palm fronds swaying. This trip, I was lucky to know where things already were: Nana Theresa's Bake Shop downtown. Thrift shops. Rhonda's house a couple blocks back from Wade's house. Who the neighbors and dogs are. The quickest way to the beach. Townie's Pizza. How to walk to the Green Turtle. Y'know. Important stuff.
This trip I expanded my exploring to American Beach. Then, neighbor Rhonda took a day off and introduced me to parts unknown: the little chapel in American Beach. Roads with Spanish moss dripping, live oaks. A ferry ride. Fresh shrimp at her favorite dive, painted orange, beside the river. Places she'd been where if you get out, you get toted off by mosquitoes. We just drove by that day, neither one of us wanted to duel with skeeters! She pointed out a quaint church tucked in Florida woodlands, a tabby house ruin, probably built by slaves. Little bits and pieces of the past. Small winding roads where new Florida still doesn't exist. Oh, I was hungry to find Old Florida still left.
We admired buckets of silver fish gleaming on the dock, right off the boat. Driving on, we came into the outskirts of Jacksonville near the Navy base. That's a whole 'nother story...but I'll say we had quite a laugh over our adventures that day. Back in Fernandina Beach, I hung some art around the cottage (with Wade's permission, of course) and rearranged furniture. It was a work of art. Over in the evening, the days short and with the time change, I'd pour a glass of vino, sit with River out on the front porch and toast life. It does a body good to go somewhere, and have a few friends along this path of life.
By the way, if you'd like to spend some time at Fernandina Cottage, just contact Wade Kirkland via Facebook, the owner who lives in Charlotte, NC. I can attest that it's in the heart of all sorts of Good Things. Historic Fernandina Beach. Not far from the sea or dining. The marina's a walk away. Bikes. Galleries. Bakeries. Fresh caught seafood. The oldest bar in Florida. A nice woman named Bonnie who works at the Visitor Center in the old depot building. I liked her. Besides, I'll always remember her name, since it's mine too. Oh, yes, it does a body good to get away.
(P.S.: This month, I'm "Artist of the Month" at Tryon Arts & Crafts School (see link at right) and will be featured at David Cedrone's "Whimsical World Gallery" December 15 from 5-8 p.m. along with David (gallery owner and artist), Alex Trumble, Kelly Sparks, and Amy Goldstein-Rice. Enjoy live music with Jay Maybry Band!)