Embracing Change

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Changes, large and small, define our lives.  When the changes are out of our hands and seemingly beyond our control, they can inspire fear, anxiety, and resentment.  For the past several years we as a family have been at odds with change. Though we were seemingly living the good life with a house and generous opportunities for family time due to Five String’s teaching schedule, we found our lives still filled with dread. Dread over the school week starting back up again, over the ever-increasing list of household maintenance, over the rising cost of covering basic expenses with decreasing income.

However, as we started planning our trip to drive the length of Route 1 and transitioning to a less settled lifestyle, our feelings about change began to change. The idea of driving south with no set itinerary, of choosing what we saw and where we stayed on the fly, cast change in a whole new light. Since we had chosen change, the unforeseen and unexpected became new and exciting.

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Now, living in the first of our many upcoming rentals after the trip, we’re finding it easier to embrace the changes we have no control over. The weather has been dull and dreary for days upon days, which can feel maddening when you are close to the ocean and can picture the beach walks you could be taking as a family. With no choice but to push through, we’ve discovered the joys of pushing two couches together to make an ultra-comfortable reading nook, of having pancakes and waffles for dinner, of greeting the rain with raucous dance parties.

Then today the sun pushed through the clouds and we were presented with a gorgeous afternoon. We hastily threw on our bathing suits to take our usual course down the beach. Though the beach looks different each time we walk it, there are usually familiar sights such as a massive washed up tree. Even it changes each time we pass by, disappearing more and more under a blanket of sand. In the end, it seems we are changing each time as well: the more we embrace the changes we are creating, the more the unexpected offerings of the world seem an invitation rather than a source of anxiety.

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The Fives arrived back in Maine on a very rainy Tuesday. We left Maine in the middle of June and it felt good to cross over the border. We moved into our new rental house and are getting used to having a kitchen and private bathroom just down the hall. Unfortunately our mound of belongings in storage didn’t disappear while we were gone and we spent today schlepping them in and out of a moving truck. As this blog as our witness we swear to have a fourth as much stuff when we move again in June. We made due all summer with what could fit in our car and it was so much more relaxing. Stuff definitely equals stress but the sound of the Maine ocean helps.

Mountains & Mail

As we drove into Vermont on Thursday evening we were blown away by the sight of the Green Mountains. We realized that it had been since the middle of June since we had last lain eyes on any mountains. It was a gorgeous sight to behold and even though we were feeling a bit cold we were all glad to be back in New England.

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Unfortunately in addition to natural mountains we also has a mountain of mail waiting for us at Nana’s house. Even though we have switched to mostly electronic bills and correspondences, we still had quite the hefty pile to go through. Most of it ended up in a paper bag bound for the recycling center but there were some fun surprises including a box of goodies from Mazda. Being back in the shadow of mountains feels great but being back in reach of the U.S. Postal Service feels like a mountain of inconvenience.

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Dolphin Beach

One April when Five of Hearts was just a baby we fled a particularly snowy Maine in search of sunshine. We drove straight to South Carolina before deciding that it wasn’t warm enough and heading into Florida. Through some lucky Internet searching we found a campground on the coast of Jacksonville that had camping cabins. We spent a very enjoyable week soaking up the Florida sun with baby Five of Hearts and drove back to Maine making plans to return again someday.

With only a week left in Florida we knew a perfect ending would be to go back to that campground. Hanna Park is run by the city of Jacksonville and features over a mile of sandy beaches as well as multiple hiking and biking trails. The beautifully wooded campground accommodates everything from tents to large RVs. However, we prefer staying in their camping cabins. For only $35 a night you get an empty cabin with an air conditioner/heater and a screened in porch. Five Ball has severe dust mite allergies so this type of lodging suits us best. There are no beds, rugs, or couches to set off his allergies and we can set up our air mattresses and the kids’ PeaPods while staying out of the rain and bugs. The screened in porch is great for serving meals on and comes in handy during the rainy Florida afternoons.

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Besides the great cabins you can’t beat the proximity of the campground to the beach. Just a minute drive from the campground and you are at one of the many parking lots and boardwalks to the beach. As we were visiting during the week that schools started back up we virtually had the beach to ourselves. Except of course for the dolphins who make regular appearances just off the beach and often put on spectacular shows while diving and jumping to catch fish. The kids happily spent a week jumping and riding the waves or playing on one of Hana Park’s many playgrounds.

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Due to hungry mosquitoes during our visit we didn’t utilize the hiking trails as much as we did during our previous visit. However, the park has an extensive network of hiking and biking trails that are worth checking out. It is also a popular area for surfers. As tropical storms made the seas rough we were able to watch the surfers riding the towering waves on our last day at the beach.

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It was a good thing that the stormy weather ushered us on our way or we would have had a hard time leaving this amazing place.

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Cotton and Treasure: The Kingsley Plantation

When we arrived in Florida in July we started a historical fiction novel with Five of Hearts about a plantation owner and his family living in Florida in the early 1800’s. The Treasure of Amelia Island by M.C. Finotti fit nicely into our exploration of Route 1 as we had already read about the American Revolution and slavery in the original colonies. Now in Florida we were seeing more and more signs that the area was long under Spanish rule. The Treasure of Amelia Island begins in 1813 when Florida (or La Florida) is still goverened by Spain but Patriots are pushing to make it part of the United States.

The book recounts the life of Ana Jai Kingsley, a remarkable woman who after gaining her freedom goes on to own and run her own plantation and slaves. Although, unlike most slave owners in the United States she believes in freeing her slaves once they have worked for her for a time. As increased pressure is put on the family to renounce their loyalty to the king and join the Patriots, Ana Jai actually burns down her plantation so it won’t be used by the Patriots. As a freed black woman she would be sent back into slavery if La Florida were to become a state. Therefore, the family flees closer to the coast to a new plantation on Fort George Island where they remain for 23 years before eventually relocating to Haiti. The patriarch of the family, Zephaniah Kingsley, spends those years trying to convince the lawmakers of the new state of Florida to allow free people of color to remain free.

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While the book covers the history of the family it does so through a much more exciting fictional tale of a treasure hunt and alligator attack all told from the perspective of the Kingsley’s youngest daughter. Five of Hearts thought that the information about life on the plantation was interesting but she really loved the fictional treasure hunt the most. We knew that the Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island was still standing and is now opperated by the National Park Sevice. While camping on the coast by Jacksonville we were only 15 minutes away by ferry making it a great time to visit and bring closure to the book.

After taking the very short car ferry over the St. John River we drove through a thick spanish moss covered forest which at one time was fields of sea island cotton. Entering the plantation from the road we came to the partially remaining slave quarters first. The National Park service has done a fabulous job preserving and explaining what plantation life was like for a slave. After viewing the back breaking work and conditions that the slaves faced we were all flabbergasted at how Ana Jai who was once a slave herself could go on to become a slave owner.

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While the entire house wasn’t open for touring, we enjoyed walking around the grounds and especially the garden where we saw sea island cotton and indigo growing. Walking by the water at the front of the house it was hard not to find it a beautiful sight. However, after viewing the manacles that were found on site as tools of punishment for the slaves it was hard to view the plantation in a positive light. Visiting the plantation put a funny twist on the book. While reading it we had all hoped for the safety of Ana Jai and her family against the Patriots. However, after seeing how she forced her slaves to work and live it was hard to think of her with much favor. The definite take home message of the book and the plantation tour was that slavery was a truly horrible affair.

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