Archive for ‘Observations’

A Different View

Looking North to Downtown St. Petersburg, FL September 2021

My explorations yesterday led me to Lassing Park in the Old Southeast part of St. Petersburg. This wide swath of green space borders Tampa Bay and serves as a buffer for storm events when tides rise.

While all the hustle and bustle and new high-rise condos are happening downtown, Old Southeast is a quiet, older area with a funky vibe. Established in the 1950s this neighborhood flies under the radar yet the views can’t beat.

Colorful City

I’ve had this mural on my “Things to Do and See” list for months and today I finally took the time to capture it. I love the vibrant paint but be sure to look closely at each of the letters – they contain iconic images from this area (red brick roads, oranges, craft beer, sea turtle, blue water, palm tree on the beach).

St. Petersburg hosts the SHINE Mural Festival every October and since 2015 over 100 murals have been added to the cityscape. Last December I shared a photo of one of the cool murals from the 2020 festival. I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s additions!

Art or Nature?

Last weekend, after Hurricane Ida swooped by, I found one of the most complete Pen Shells (Atrina rigida) I have yet come across here along the Gulf Coast. Since it was such a nice specimen I brought it home.

I set it on my kitchen windowsill, my preferred location for recent finds that I want to spend more time examining later. In the morning light I noticed that the shell rather matched my accent tile – the interior nacre had a similar iridescent sheen and color.

As Dante Alighieri said, “Art imitates nature as well as it can…”

Fishing Fun

Living in Florida it was bound to happen sooner or later. In my case it took a mere 18 months before I finally went fishing. I haven’t fished since childhood when I’d go out on the lake with my dad and grandpa, and I’ve never done it in saltwater.

Thankfully, my fellow fisherman was experienced and knew Perico Bayou well. He worked two poles effortlessly while I contented myself by dropping a line near the pilings. We both caught a few undersized fish, most notably a couple Sheepsheads and a couple Red Drum.

I knew how to identify Sheepshead from their black and white stripes and Red Drum from the distinctive black spot near their tail. What I didn’t know until this past weekend was how gorgeous their tails could be. That bright splash of teal – wow!

I was relieved that we were using circle hooks, which are designed to catch fish in the corner of the mouth, instead of the J-hooks I used in my childhood (which have an increased chance of gut hooking).

We weren’t the only anglers out that morning; at one point there were nine Ospreys soaring and diving for fish while a Willet worked the muddy shoreline gobbling up Fiddler Crabs and worms.

Our “catch of the day” was a rather cantankerous Blue Crab. It was easy to pull the crustacean up because it refused to let go of the shrimp we were using for bait. Luckily for the crab, we both thought it too beautiful to eat (even though it was big enough to keep).

The cool thing is as a Florida resident I can fish from land (or docks/piers) for free (though I do have to register first with the FWC: Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission). If I step on a boat I’ll need a different license and there are also other special permits required for lobstering or snook fishing.

Even though we didn’t manage to catch dinner, I had a great time. As they say around here, there’s no such thing as a bad day fishing!

More Than Art

Mondays are free admission days at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, the official art museum of Florida. While that was enough of an inducement, I was equally delighted wandering the grounds of the sprawling 66-acre estate as I was the museum’s 21 galleries.

The compound, which currently consists of the art museum and library, Ca’ d’Zan (the Ringling mansion), two Circus museums, and a performing arts theater, as well as several distinct gardens and ponds, is perfectly situated along Sarasota Bay.

The handsome estate is an enduring legacy for the enterprenurial showman. Born in Iowa to German immigrants, John Ringling and five of his siblings began their first circus in 1870, when John was merely four years old. I won’t go into all the details but suffice it to say, it’s an impressive story: from the early days of charging one penny for admission to John becoming one of the richest men in the world by 1920.

As with many rags to riches stories, this one also saw a major reversal in fortune. John lost most of his money during the Great Depression, when he died in 1936 he had only $311 in the bank. More recently, in 2017, after 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed its tent flaps forever.

The residents of Florida are exceedingly fortunate that John Ringling bequeathed his sprawling estate and art collection to the state. Though the property floundered for the first 60 plus years, it has thrived since 2000 when it was transferred to Florida State University.

I’m looking forward to a return visit when the weather cools off!