Amy's Landscape

Views from the Florida Landscape

ORANGE ATTITUDE

The heady perfume of spring orange blossoms came wafting along the morning breeze to envelope and intoxicate me.  Its alluring scent drew me daily until I could no longer resist and with nippers in hand I gathered the fragrant blossoms with abandon.   Vases throughout my home dispensed the captured aroma for days afterward.

 

But with every flower I cut, there would be one less orange to enjoy in its time.  For at the heart of every  tender blossom resided the beginning of one tiny, green, orb that if nurtured patiently instead of sacrificed for a momentary pleasure would in time produce the sweetest of fruits.  I could not have my orange and smell it too.  I would not capture that aroma to fill my home in spring and still have my orange’s sweet nectar in winter.

 

How often we trade in greater reward we could have because we refuse to wait, to develop the patience we need for the better pay off.  Entitlement and impatience seem the order of our day.  We must have it now, lacking the ability to count the cost and when the bill comes due it must be someone else’s fault.

 

Mine was a generation from a cold era, the first where divorce came out of the closet and into the norm.  Our parents didn’t connect their freedom to abandon the family with a toll on us and we suffered the loss as walking wounded, bent on bandaging it by way of smothering our children with all the affection and attention left wanting in our own souls.  And so we did.

 

This generation grew up being told they could do anything, they were the most special generation ever.  Every child got a ribbon and award, no matter how poorly they did, how little talent they possessed or effort they put in, in that particular arena.

 

Baby felt special indeed, but in our generation of parents, it went over the wall.  We felt compelled to give Baby the best our money could buy.  Money equated to love and we bought it for Baby in record quantities, passing on a mentality that Baby should have it and have it NOW.

 

Baby morphed into teens who had to have the newest at all times and marketers were only too happy to oblige, creating fresher items destined for obsolescence in six months’ time, creating an ever-increasing appetite for ever-changing items.

 

It became easier for this generation’s parents to pass out a $20 or a new ‘i’ whatever than to say no and hold the line.  These entitled brats became college students who didn’t necessarily earn the grades but demanded the place, and used college loans to buy their way through in style, told by my generation that they’d be making huge sums the moment they exited college, because after all, they were so special. But we hadn’t had the guts to tell our kids no, or to pull up their pants.  We dared not teach them that piercings and tattoos don’t fly in the adult world, and when they graduated, it turned out they weren’t so special out there, as they’d been lead to believe they would be.

 

Oddly, my generation’s mentality would poise itself to eat their generation alive, because we grew up hearing ‘read the fine print’ and their generation grew up scanning, moving ever faster on the quest for more.

 

Few of them took responsibility to read the fine print on their student loans or car loans or home loans.  Now their student loans have ballooned, mortgages are foreclosed and prospective employers pass them over as immature caricatures of reality TV due to their inability to dress or act appropriately in a given situation or the realm of business.

 

These child adults don’t get it and they don’t know why the world has turned against them.  The world is giving them the spanking we refused to, teaching them that there really are unchangeable laws of the universe, and that the sun, sadly to them, does not revolve around their wants and desires.  I wonder what the backlash will be for the next generation because we taught this one to pick the blossom, without teaching them the rewards of patience, of waiting long enough to reap the orange.

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March 10, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, Landscaping, Life, Nature, Parenting, Random, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Show Queens of the South

Azaleas are the show queens of the South.  Where the Carolinas and Tennessee may boast their versions of that rhododendron with abundant pride, Florida considers itself the Azalea capital of the world.

Azalea varieties abound profusely, from the petite Duc DeRohan to the spectacular Indica Formosa that grows to tree size.  Azaleas come in countless colors and combinations including white, red, every variant of magenta or purple and Florida boasts them all with rightful vanity in a spring to summer display to beat all challengers.

The one thing they have in common is that they are acid loving plants that flourish in a rich, organic environment.  The wrong soil will quickly spell an end to the life of the most hearty azalea, where the right acidic soil found under every spreading oak will cause azaleas to thrive even in the wild with no human intervention.

Are you in the right soil?  Do you surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best, confront you when you’re off the path and encourage you when you’re onto something good?  Or are you allowing yourself to be drained by others with no end to the flow?

What’s your environment like?  Are you surrounded with negativity, by people who continually zero in on what’s wrong or look for problems to steep themselves in?

Do you thrive on drama instead of admitting your contribution to the situation so you can grow up, change and move forward?

Do you get enough fresh air and sunshine, taking time to get outdoors to praise God for whatever beauty you find around you, and thank him for what you DO have instead of whining for more?

What do you focus your thoughts on?  Are you enriched with the nutrients you find in the Word of God and input that uplifts and challenges you, or are you sluggish and isolated because you don’t know what God wants for you or expects of you?

Maybe you need a soil check.  Ask yourself those questions and examine where your head and heart have been lately.  Next, admit to God and others where you’ve been off the mark, ask Christ to forgive you and get moving in a new direction.  It’s not as hard as it seems,  but it takes humility to look honestly at our soil and make the changes we need to thrive and not wilt.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frog in the Pool

It was as if he was going down for the last time.  How long he had suffered I could not tell but from the looks of his movements he’d been long at it.

Padding out to the poolside each morning I almost always saw one.  Somehow in the night they had fallen overboard by mistake or perhaps had been lured by the shimmering stars reflected from the crystal sky above.

But then they were there, first to swim with delight and abandon, to dive and float to their tiny heart’s content, only to find that once they’d reached their fill, there was no way out.

The sheer face of the tiled wall leads to a bull-nosed precipice over which they could not jump, swim or crawl.  And so they swam and they swam and they swam unto exhaustion, finally to sprawl ready to sink for the last time to the black depths below.

One avenue of escape arrived with the morning, a woman in flip-flops and moo-moo, possessing a coffee cup and kind heart.

His struggle tug at my compassion for things living and on instinct I ran for the pole and skimmer, hoping against hope that I would not be too late to save him from his watery prison.

Still, as my redeeming net approached from above, he suddenly took on new vigor, dashing with all his might to the bottom of the pool, using every millimeter of his instinct and strength to elude the only help that could free him!

Time after time I dipped in the net with which to scoop him from certain death and equal to my efforts to save, he eluded me.

How often we dance out this same scene with God.  Drawn to the glitter or the gratification of a toy or a desire, we chase a phantom, one that only leads to our damage.

Yet we continue to try to elude God; we resist his net of safety.  Because it means we must trade our will for his, we choose to keep our rebellion, even if our choice causes such misery.

When we finally give what we call ‘freedom’ up, give in and let go, oddly enough it turns out we don’t lose anything we don’t need to.  We become freer than we were, on a new plane, our eyes open to the reality that the pond was the chain that pulled us down.  The freedom to do it our way leads to death, the bow to obedience leads to life.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Your Spanish Moss?

Nothing gives so fine a touch to landscaping as edging.  The whirring metal blade carves a distinct line, making every planter look crisp, every driveway or sidewalk appear clean and orderly.

But all Southern landscapers know that just one touch of that blade’s tip on a piece of Spanish moss and instantaneously, the moss will be drawn in and wound tightly around the blade housing.

The smart landscaper knows this to be an inescapable reality and will humble her (or him) self to bend down and move the offending moss out of the way of the blade before the consequences come due.

But, over again, I would say to myself, “This time, it will be different.  Just this once, I will be the victor; I will do it my way without the same outcome, without the same result…”

And every time, without exception, I would have to relearn the lesson.  No matter how fast the blade turned, no matter how much I revved the motor to plow through the moss, the moss always won.

The moments I intended to save by refusing to bend down and collect the moss were lost, and the payment was minutes wasted picking out every tiny piece of moss wound tightly around the blade and housing, sometimes so tightly I had to stop everything and get a pair of needle-nose pliers to pick away at the tighter strands.

Why do we continually think we can get away with something we’ve already seen won’t work; that somehow, even though we do the same dumb thing, this time it will be different, somehow WE are different and we won’t pay the penalties?

God puts consequences in place so we’ll do the smart thing, the right thing, the good thing, for us and those in our lives.  Why do we choose to go back to that thing we know is wrong for us, hoping somehow this time it will be different?  How many times do we have to do the same thing and get the same result until we choose to plug in a different move or humble ourselves and do it his way instead of ours?

What is that one thing you refuse to give in over and give up to God’s sovereignty?

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Turn

What foolishness!  With too much on my mind and without giving attention to what, in reality, I was doing, I turned left, thinking I needed to hit the bank before 4:00 p.m.  But in heading left, I bypassed the post office and another quick stop I could have knocked out had I gone right and then to the bank.  I wasn’t really in the car at all but off someplace in my head, disconnected from what I was supposed to be focused on.  Now I’d have to waste more time I was already pressed for.  In my head I heard, “You can turn around any time.”

What is repentance, but to turn around, do a you-turn?  Many times the thought begins to creep over us that we’re heading in a direction that’s not in our best interest, or we get caught in the fallout of a poor decision or choice, yet we refuse to get it; too prideful to make the you-turn it takes to get back on the right road.

Did you take a left today when you meant to take a right?  Did you head in a direction you were too proud to admit you shouldn’t go?  That’s just the stuff the Christ came to move us through, to help us get off the pride train and make the U-turn we need to go in a direction God has laid out for our benefit.  To continue on is folly but we often do, too arrogant to say we’re wrong and humble ourselves to make the you-turn to real freedom and peace.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, On The Road, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Politics of the Left Lane

“WHY are you hanging out in the left lane?!”, I queried my son while zooming down the interstate.  “I’m not in anybody’s way, I’m going the speed limit, what’s the problem?”

For his age group, it’s not a problem.  But for mine, it’s a big problem.  In my 1975 Driver’s Education class, Coach Eddie always stressed, “Slower traffic keeps right; get out of the left lane!”.  In fact from time to time you can still see those pesky signs on the highway, admonishing drivers “Slower Traffic Keep Right.”

I don’t think anyone even knows what that means anymore.  Because for some reason, Driver’s Education Class fell out of favor somewhere between the time I was a teen and my kids reached that epoch.  In fact it’s optional in some states now.

For my three teenagers, it was an extra class they could take if we wanted our insurance rates to be lowered, and we did, so they took it.

But in our daily conversations about what they’d learned in class, I was amazed to find that “Slower Traffic Keep Right” had been dropped from the “pertinent information” list.  It just wasn’t taught to them in class.  So I did my job as parent and taught it to them myself.

Maybe this really has nothing to do with age, since people of every stripe seem to be hanging out in the left lane.  Maybe it’s the attitude of entitlement we have going on in America, that if I want it it’s mine, and anyway I was here first  so I own this lane, no matter what lane it is.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal but people are dying over this little infraction and attitude.  As I travel the interstate several times a week I’m astounded to watch a certain  game play out.

There’s the oblivious one, plodding along in the left lane, on or about the speed limit, but there are two others doing the same thing, abreast of them in the lanes to the right.  A big SUV comes flying up on the rear of this scene and moves up on the one in the far left lane, expecting this turtle to get the message.  But they don’t, or they don’t care.

Anger burns, tempers flare, and traffic begins to pile up.  Eventually one of the three cloggers pulls back or forward just enough for everyone to begin rushing through the gap, swerving around the turtle in the far left lane, horns blaring, fingers raised.

Sometimes, just to teach them a little lesson, one of the more aggressive drivers will pull around and in front of the left lane turtle and slam on the brakes.  And sometimes the turtle wakes up enough to move over, or to get angry and the game escalates.

Since record numbers of us here in the Great State of Florida have our Concealed Weapons Permit, weapons are sometimes brandished, threats are made, shots are fired and people are killed.  It’s insane how quickly this scene can advance from simple selfishness to someone dying.

I try to avoid all this drama by staying in the far right lane, at or  slightly above the speed limit so as not to be in anyone’s way.  But since nobody seems to know the far left lane is the passing lane, I sometimes get tailgaters behind me as if I should move over!  And sometimes, just for peace sake, I do, even when I feel like jamming on the brakes to teach THEM a little lesson!

What’s the answer to this?  Maybe we could leave home 5 minutes earlier so we’re not in such a rush and so easily angered by people’s behaviors.  Maybe we can treat people will a little more grace, a little more civility and courtesy, even if they are an oblivious dope, or ignorant of the law.  Maybe, and this is a provocative thought,  we should all start paying a little more attention to DRIVING while driving.

And maybe we could spread the word, across this wonderful wide open country, along our tree-lined boulevards, among our jam-packed freeways, interstates, pikeways and highways,  with our own kids, spouses, and friends: “Slower Traffic Keep Right”!!!

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, On The Road, Parenting | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where was God 9/11?

Listening to the band “Earthsuit” during my morning bicycling trip, the lyrics “Jesus riding on a white horse, hero calling from the sky, I see Jesus riding on a white horse, with spare room for you and I, to fly!” were interrupted as I wheeled into the garage, by the incessant ringing of the house telephone.

Yanking off my CD player headphones, I grabbed the telephone to hear my husband Lee shouting, “Turn on the TV, America’s being attacked!

Now, as a citizen of the vast and unassailable United States of America, I couldn’t bring myself to take that concept very seriously.  I made no effort to rush indoors; instead I took my time removing my Keen hiking shoes, peeling off sweat drenched socks and refreshing my face in the sparkling waters of our backyard pool.

The telephone’s irritating encore drew me back inside the garage, Lee calling again to say he was genuinely concerned.  Since he was unable to get to a television himself would I pleeeeeease let him know what was going on?

Stepping inside, I turned on the TV in time to view the surreal image of a plane floating gently, slightly angled, slicing violently through the exploding glass of the second tower.

My first thought was for the safety of our children; and that our children needed to be home with us to experience whatever was to come.  It was important to us as parents that if we were facing a national crisis, we were the ones to present it to our children, to be with them to hear their emotions, to share our thoughts and views on the events, and to take our concerns together to the God who knew what was going on, since we obviously didn’t.

We had three children, one each in elementary, middle and high school at the time, so I raced from school to school, collecting each child, trying not to show on my face the anguish welling up inside.

Lee met us at home and we huddled around the TV to view the bizarre images, powerless to do anything but look on silently together.  We knew the one thing we could do was to join together as a family to pray for God’s intervention and mercy for everyone impacted by those cataclysmic moments.

Later, after everyone drifted off to beds and sleep, I was flooded with tears.  I’d already felt over my limit trying to raise three kids in a culture where god is what you wear and how much you possess; praying for wisdom to say and do the right things in front of them so I didn’t set the wrong examples with my own life.

How could I carry on with the image of those unsuspecting people dying so violently on a bright and beautiful September day and stave off the feeling that I was helpless to do anything that made any difference in a world like that?

How could I dare say to our children that God was in control, that he knew this thing was going to happen and he allowed it anyway, even had plans to use it for good?

The next day, a newspaper quoted an Afghan fellow saying the Afghan people would welcome America’s retaliatory bombs because they had no hope anyway.  They had no homes, no money and their children were starving, so death would be a welcome relief from their dreadful daily existence.

My reasons for living seemed a little precarious at that moment too, and as I read that
article, a solidarity with that man and his people began to take hold.  I’ve seen the world differently since then.

Over the next few days I realized the sun was still radiantly beaming in the softly clouded sky, although oddly void of air traffic.  The evening platinum tinged moon was waxing (or was it waning), the birds still sang their glorious melodies, and the leaves were beginning to fall from the trees in anticipation of winter.  God, it seemed, was still in complete control of his universe, everything obeying the programming their Creator  put in place before the beginning of time.

No matter how evil men might decide to act, God’s mercy and love was there for
anyone who chose to call on him as those dreadful moments unfolded, just as it has been, and it will be,  throughout history.

Stories of kindness, heroism and miracles spread; Americans came together as one nation, under God, indivisible by hate, for a while.  Nothing in God’s realm had changed, only I had a new perspective: that God uses unique circumstances to reveal himself and call us to a relationship with him, whether we enjoy and approve the technique he employs or not.

And I had a new compassion for a people half way across the globe, who like us wanted to love their family and live in peace as best they could with their fellow humans. For years many nations endured the terror we were just now experiencing on American soil, many as believers who called on Christ for God’s direction and authority to carry them through and see beyond the moment to God’s purpose in the  event.

The world grew smaller that peculiar 11th day in September.

September 10, 2011 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, Parenting | Leave a comment

O’Brien World Team Slalom

Growing up on a crystal Florida lake aptly named Clear Lake, it was standard procedure to ski the entire weekend away.  On a typical Summer Saturday my dad would grab the tank out of the boat, run in town to Smoky’s Gulf and, with gas at 18 cents a gallon, fill up for a day of family fun for about a buck.  

Back then we had an old Evinrude C-clamped on the back of a wooden boat, a Y yoke straddling that with a float attached to a ski line of about 40 ft.  Our skis were wooden combos about 8 inches wide each and I learned how to drop a ski by the time I was 9 due to the fact that I lived constantly in competition with my three older and much prettier sisters. 

There was an old osprey nest on the far side of the lake where the osprey would return to raise their young year after year.  In the summer, when Daddy would swing the boat, and me on slalom, by the point on which that nest was built, that giant wonder would come flying out, screaming, soaring in a loop overhead.  I developed my own responding bird call to welcome him home and let him know it was me flying by down below.  I thought he came out every time just because he loved me, and I grew to love him too.

Once I married we got a tad land locked, but not for long.  I overrode my husband’s land-lover ways and bought a ski boat, then forced him to learn how to drive it just so I could slalom again.  The first thing I bought, besides a new vest and 70′ rope was an O’Brien World Team Slalom.  Oh, the wonders of gliding along the glass on that thing, free as a bird on the wing, cutting in and out along the shoreline, even inadvertently buzzing the occasional gator.  

As babies came along, skiing fell by the wayside and I  sold the boat and all its equipment, including my beloved slalom, a move I deeply regret.  I should have,  at the very least, kept it to mount on the wall. 

But once those babies were teens, it was time to introduce them to the pure heaven of water sports.  Once again, the O’Brien World Team was the slalom of choice for me, along with a ton of tube and wakeboard stuff for them.

I’ve owned and enjoyed that O’Brien World Team for 15 years, instantly enveloped in the feeling of being a kid again, gliding along on a golden lake.  But eventually, sadly, the bindings were getting floppy and I was starting to feel a little insecure out there.  It was time for a new slalom. 

Thinking I might graduate to another model I splurged and ordered some fancy black and gold thing from Overton’s.  It was awful!  It didn’t sing like my World Team.  It didn’t glide and cut like the old guy; the familiarity was gone and my confidence with it.  Suddenly I felt a little old and vulnerable…I never fell on the old World Team and perhaps my old bones wouldn’t take it now if I did on this new guy.  He might have been flashy but he just didn’t performance with the familiarity of my old friend. 

So I returned it for a new World Team blemish model.  The blemish is completely unnoticeable but saved me about $100.  My old buddy had a typical slide-in binding that had to be wet before you could wedge a foot inside.  But the X-9 binding this new guy came with is snug and secure, a lace-up style that adjusts to perfection, very nice. 

This O’Brien World Team is like an old friend.  It was as if he knew me, and I instinctively knew him.  Though he has new colors and graphics, there is no mistaking his style, his dependable quickness out of the hole, either from deep water or those crazy shore starts we started doing as kids.  

This fellow is great for cutting in and out along the shoreline, dodging the occasional gator, log or cattail, the precursor to today’s every-lake slalom course.  He’s  stable in any water, and that old feeling of osprey-on-the-wing freedom is there all over again. 

The adjustable arc fin is great for fine tuning the ride to fit my style, which hasn’t changed much in 40 years.  Somehow, when O’Brien and I get together, the old bones become new, and I’m 9 years old all over again.  Except it’s my 19-year-old son driving me around these days.  O’Brien has been with us through 3 generations now.  

The old model with the floppy bindings is securely in my garage, while we build a new house on a lake.  This time, I won’t let him get away.  He’s getting mounted on the wall, to overlook the new O’Brien and me having fun on the lake.  Some day, I’ll teach my grand children to love him like I do, just the way my dad taught me.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Boating, Environment, Florida Outdoors, Parenting | , , , | Leave a comment

To Buy A Kayak

A water girl am I, there’s no doubt about it.  We have a 24-foot boat for family cruises down the wild, tea-colored St. John’s River, or snorkel jaunts in the tropical waters of the Florida Keys and manatee-filled springs of Crystal River.  

Our canoe is just the ticket for still, peaceful morning sunrise paddles on the lake.  And the jet ski rounds out the water vehicle line for our family’s summer slalom, tube and wakeboard escapades.

So, I’m not sure what propelled my desire for a kayak.  Somehow a kayak beckoned, filled a longing none of those other vessels seemed to. 

Florida has so many pristine streams and remote backwater creeks that just couldn’t be gotten to in another craft, with perhaps the exception of the canoe, which could often be unwieldy in high winds or on streams with strong currents, downed trees or tight turns. 

And now that our children were out of the house, a pair of kayaks would be a pleasurable way for my husband and me to create new memories, just the two of us, in places we hadn’t experienced with our kids.

After becoming a birding photographer for floridabirdwatching.com  owned by Jenny and Kenny Boyd, I’d become ever more drawn to the world of kayaking.  Not merely passionate birders and nature enthusiasts, the Boyd’s own Central Florida Nature Adventures, the premier guided kayak touring company of Central Florida. 

For  years I listened raptly as they shared their wonder over the unique, unspoiled locations to which they’d introduce awed clients from virtually every country on the globe.  I’d even joined them to kayak the pristine streams, for which Florida has always been famous, the “real Florida” that still exists, in large part, due to an aggressive state land acquisition program that preserves these matchless and distinctive wilderness jewels for all, who muster courage, to experience.

In childhood, my family canoed several of the Florida State Parks, but we had been motorboat enthusiast and I remained so, passing the love of that pleasurable pastime on to our children. Yet listening to the Boyd adventures reminded me of the wilderness treasures I’d experienced in youth, and I longed to again enjoy these marvels of our naturally beautiful State.

 Canoes use to be the popular boat for backwater exploits, but with kayaks now light enough to carry up townhome stairs and store on patios, the sport had exploded for the landlocked. 

 On Florida weekends, nearly every vehicle in town had a kayak strapped to it and the sport had taken on a bit of snob appeal as it grew in popularity, array of construction materials, and available gadgetry. 

 Wandering the kayak section of several sporting good stores for about two years, I learned a smattering of what to look for, but the salespeople knew little more than I did and it seemed easy to make a pricy mistake. 

 Prices ran the gamut. What made for quality and what just made for hype and snob appeal?  What did “roto-molded” mean, and what was the best material for a kayak? 

 Paddles were a world unto themselves! The task of figuring out myriad details of boat, seat and paddle options intimidated me into feeling out of my league, so I just kept leaving the stores befuddled and frustrated.

 One fine day I hit my limit for merely listening to Tales of Exploration from Central Florida Nature Adventures’ fervent participants.  It was time to launch into the unknown, to get beyond feeling intimidated by ignorance and the dread of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, which I didn’t.

 It started with a simple e-mail to Jenny Boyd of Central Florida Nature Adventures, jenniferkayaks@yahoo.com  and from there my own kayak adventure took off.  Without talking down to an obvious neophyte, Jenny began educating me, regarding what to look for and why it was important.  

At the outset, it seemed logical that a shorter kayak would be less pricy and easier to handle, load and unload. But Jenny helped me widen my knowledge. 

“A shorter kayak may or may not be less expensive.  And it’s not necessarily easier to load in or on a vehicle.  Weight is a real factor, but shorter may not necessarily be lighter.  Price and weight both depend on the manufacture, what it’s made of, and what amenities are included, the weight of the seat, etc.” 

One might assume a shorter kayak would be easier to maneuver through the water, but not necessarily!  “The shorter the kayak the more it will move from side to side as you paddle.  This actually requires more effort to move through the water.  The longer the kayak the truer it will track, the straighter it will move through the water, and the less effort it takes to paddle,” Jenny informed me. 

 As a professional kayak guide, Jenny paddles a lightweight 9’ Dagger and loves it.  Though it takes more effort to paddle the straight runs, she’s better able to maneuver quickly to serve a client’s needs or move rapidly from one position to the other while shepherding a tour along swift streams and tight spring runs. 

 For a first kayak, I really didn’t want to invest a lot of money, in case my needs changed as I learned, or I didn’t enjoy it or use it as often as I thought I would.  But Jenny warned, “Be careful with the cheaper brands.  While you might save a few dollars on your initial costs, those kayaks will often delaminate.  They can’t take the intensity of the Florida sun or the rough treatment kayaks often endure through loading and unloading from whatever method of transportation you use.  The snaps, straps and cushioning of seats are cheaper and don’t last as long.  Those are important elements to consider when purchasing a kayak.” 

I hadn’t considered any of those aspects, and now realized how valuable her professional help was in avoiding decisions based on ignorance that I would surely regret.

 Jenny suggested I purchase a roto-molded polyethylene kayak, which would be easy to load onto an SUV due to its lightweight, and be relatively inexpensive compared to Kevlar or fiberglass kayaks which, while light, are stiffer, scratch more easily and are much pricier. 

 She also suggested a 12’ length, that would track straight and true for undemanding paddling along streams, but be nimble enough to make turns and curves without a lot of back paddling. 

 Then there was the choice of a sit-on kayak, definitely the easiest to enter and exit, or a sit-in kayak, which was the choice for a dryer ride. 

 For kayak builders, she suggested I consider Perception, Emotion, RTM, Dagger, Wilderness Systems and Old Towne as brands known to be durable and well-built.  And she suggested I head to Mosquito Creek Outdoor www.mosquitocreek.com or a similar company that specialized in kayaks, and had a pool where one could actually paddle a kayak before making the investment. 

 “That’s the main thing, to paddle the kayak before you buy. These guys paddle for the enjoyment of it all the time.  They are in the kayak business and that’s what they do well, for business and for recreation.  Their passion and experience allows them to help you make wise choices for your particular usage, since they paddle the same areas and know what you’ll be dealing with.”

With that tutorial under my belt, I headed to Mosquito Creek Outdoor in Apopka, Florida.  While they have a wonderful store in the front, filled with everything the outdoor enthusiast could dream of, the real action was in another building to the back. 

Upon entering the place, I was astounded to see every size, style and color of kayak imaginable, yet the staff was friendly and especially patient, putting me at ease to ask questions without feeling ignorant or intimidated.  Right in the middle of the huge showroom was a pool for paddling one’s selection around, to get a feel for how it moved, and how one moved with it.  Gary then proceeded to spend nearly an hour helping me make informed choices, based on his personal experience as a paddler and vast knowledge of the sport as a professional. 

Gary showed me the differences between models, helped me compare the things we needed, and didn’t, and helped me whittle down choices based on the type of water on which we’d spend the most time.  He even educated me on the value of color.  “If you plan to spend time in waters shared by motorized boats, you want a lively color that allows you to be seen easily.  If you’re photographing wildlife, colors that imitate nature will help you blend into the environment more effectively.”  Even a kayak’s color was about so much more than mere good looks.

Paddle options could baffle the mind, but Gary gave me a lesson on the reason for differences in construction materials, and the value of light weight paddles versus rugged ones that could stand up to abusive conditions.  It was important to balance those factors based on the usage they would endure.

Most state parks and kayak guide companies use aluminum shaft, nylon bladed, one-piece paddles for ease of use and durability.  They’re also less expensive to purchase, but tend to be heavier.  For the day-tripper, that’s sufficient. 

But for the individual who kayaks often or for longer distances, fiberglass shafts or carbon blades can’t be beat for lightness of weight and construction.  And weight is a factor you’ll appreciate more with every paddle stroke.  Just a few extra ounces adds up on long distances and can really tire you out, detracting from your enjoyment of the sport. 

Fiberglass shafts are usually married to carbon blades, which tend to chip more easily than nylon does.  It can’t take the punishment of carelessness or withstand a beating like a nylon blade can. Paddling in rocky-bottomed areas or places where you might push off rocks along the edge will shorten the life of a fiberglass and carbon paddle very quickly. 

Two-piece paddles are more expensive but make great sense for flexibility of use and ease of storage.  The shafts can be extended to different lengths to accommodate your personal taste and are marked to allow for paddles to be “feathered”, that is, set at different angles.  Storing two shorter lengths inside a kayak is easier than having one long paddle protruding out to trip upon or drop overboard.

 Never underestimate how quickly you can get into an emergency situation on the water.  While kayaks are stable, it’s not hard to flip one in a tight turn or swift moving current, and life vests are essential safety equipment to wear or at the least carry on board.  And most state and national parks require them to be included in your safety gear before paddling their waterways.

Kayak vests are different from typical ski vests or life preservers in that they are cut to allow for ease of continual arm movement and therefore chafe less than other types of vests.   Shrewd kayakers include a small first aid kit, a towel or sponge for bailing, a whistle for location, an extra break-apart paddle and a poncho as important safety gear to prevent a day’s kayak adventure from turning into a nightmare experience.

By the time I left Mosquito Creek Outdoor, I’d purchased two 12’ Perception Prodigy sit-in kayaks, Adventure Technology Glass Shaft Ergo T4 carbon bent shaft paddles to go with them, and a few essential accessories to keep our gear dry and bodies safe. 

 Two days later, we were gliding along Rock Springs Run, heading against current with near ease due to the perfectly suited 12’ Perception kayaks and lightweight AT paddles.  Yet we didn’t even realize we were getting a near full-body workout in the swifter turns and twists of the run. I could go off alone to photograph silently the elusive bird life that inhabit those serene waters and in moments rejoin my husband to continue our adventure exploring the crystal stream’s spectacular vegetation and wildlife.

For me, kayaking was no longer an intimidating snob sport but a new avenue through which to connect with my husband and experience the tranquil marvels of nature, plus get a respectable work-out in the bargain.  After all these years, life in Florida is still pretty great…

© Amy K. Munizzi

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Boating, Environment, Florida Outdoors, Kayaking, Nature, Parenting | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello

I’m a follower of Christ, wife, mom, writer, photographer, boater, skier, pygmy goat farmer.

As a writer, I harken back to the ones of old who locked themselves away in some remote cabin in the woods to write in privacy, isolation and most of all anonymity.  Fame and personal recognition would have appalled them, because they were all about the Word, the written word, and not the desire to be the center of attention, sometimes even writing under a pen name to ensure their privacy and solitude.

But then I realized that God has a lot to say to people and he might want to speak to them through me.

While I craved privacy, God instead called me to expose myself and what he has taught me as a human and as a mother through writing a book, just published, called “When They Go”.  It explores  how excruciatingly painful it was for me to let my children leave home, and what issues played into, what should have been a commonplace event, becoming the end of life as I knew it.

So here I am.  I believe in God.  I think he’s the Ultimate Scientist, the Ultimate Creator  and is pretty amazing in his sense of humor.  He’s always up to something good, no matter how odd it looks or how painful  it is.  And the more painful it is, the more potential we have for learning something we need to know to be a more effective human being.

While I’ll write with humor, with tongue in cheek, with all seriousness and sometimes with sarcasm, it’s always through the lens of what I believe about God and the world around me, and the order I see he’s given us, even in the chaos we create for ourselves and those around us.

So hello world.  I’m climbing on board the blog train.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, On The Road, Parenting | , | 2 Comments