Musings from MillerQuilts

Archive for April, 2005

April 2005

Friday, April 1st, 2005

It is interesting to note how themes for the monthly newsletter arise; often a theme emerges if I will only pay attention to what’s going on in my life, just under the surface fracas! It was my trip to the Florida Keys this month that reminded me of how different people’s lives are, just because of the area where they live.

When I first moved to the Northwest from the San Diego area in 1989, I responded very strongly to this part of the country. The only way I can describe this feeling is to say that I was finally “in the place in the Universe where I belong.” I wonder if this strong sensation has to do with the fact that I moved to Woodinville, which is just across the Cascade Mountains from where I was born, in Wenatchee, WA. But since my family moved to the east coast when I was only three, I hardly think I have strong memories of living in this part of the country.

Travel, of course, makes one more aware of how different surroundings affect attitude and demeanor…It is exhilarating to fly from one climate to its opposite in only one day’s time. In Washington, we are still in fleece jackets and coats; in Florida, people are in thin tee shirts, tank tops, and shorts…

Having grown up on the East coast, I am not at ease if my environment is flat, very windy, arid, or dry and hot. There is something comforting about the tall, tall Pacific Northwest evergreens, and something soul-restoring about views of the snow-capped mountains of the Olympic and Cascade ranges. The change of seasons is very important to my sense of balance as well; in the Northwest, we rejoice in every minute of daylight we have. When living in San Diego, I remember missing the change of seasons most of all—sunshine every day was quickly taken for granted. The year seemed to grind on, marked only by the turning of pages of the calendar on the wall. The change of seasons means renewal to me; a chance to make some changes, to start anew; to focus on something that will be a positive direction to my life’s journey.

I was warned to watch for iguanas, scorpions, fire ants, and land crabs in the yard around the charming little cottage where I stayed in Marathon. This little fellow (can you find him?) was part of my tour of the yard, and was at my eye level. I had to open the front door carefully every morning—my hostess Bonnie Carl said that one morning, about five iguanas scattered from off her front porch when she came out to greet the day!

While my eyes go up to the mountains and the tops of the trees (looking for eagles) here, in Florida my eyes were down—watching for fire ants and iguanas and scorpions and hermit crabs and ibis. The palm trees left ample room for the ocean breezes to blow, but how vulnerable I felt to the vagaries of Mother Nature there. In fact, a storm blew in across the Gulf as we were eating dinner before my evening lecture; the rain came roaring down out of the black, black sky (and of course we had no umbrellas with us); so the “first” in my career this trip is giving my lecture with my hair soaking wet, my clothes very much on the damp side…while driving across the Seven Mile Bridge en route home, the lightning storm across the water was most impressive…

One is constantly reminded of the healthy respect Floridans have for the forces of nature; so many of the houses are cinderblock, with storm screens in place year-round. The majority of buildings are built on cinderblock “stilts”: raised an entire story to accommodate occasional flood waters. I asked everyone I met about their hurricane strategy; so many of them are not afraid of these terrible storms, but choose to “stay put” rather than evacuate even when advised to do so by the authorities. Floridians point out: “where would we go? Into the line of traffic on the one road up the Keys?? Where motel rooms are few and far between until you get “way north??” There is a hardiness in such people; an independence and fortitude learned from Mother Nature herself.

But oh, the beauty of the color around these solid buildings; the hibiscus and oleanders, the bluegreen of shallow ocean water as far as the eye could see…

Floridians have a healthy sense of humor when it comes to their surroundings; my hostess Mary Ann Lindorth in Key Largo has quite a collection of seals. Two of them are at the entrance to her carport, and sport “costumes” for every season…

Since this is Spring Break, and since so many retired people live in the Florida Keys, the illusion is that it truly is a paradise, where nobody needs to move very fast, or work very much. The beaches seemed very well populated with bodies ranging in color from bright red to dark, wrinkly brown; and the bridges linking the Keys were full of people of all ages “wetting a line”…This is so unlike my experiences in big cities, where I often sense that there are too many people in a given space; and all are rushing and crowding and honking horns and talking loudly on cell phones and vying for space and territory.

In the Keys, you feel that you are in a completely unique environment; after all, only one narrow two-lane road links one city to the next. There isn’t a “big box store” on every corner—rather, department store shopping exists only in Key Largo and Key West, both extremes on the Florida Keys. Though there is a wonderful quilt shop called The Seam Shoppe in Key West (go to, for the most part, quilters depend on their travels to add to their quilting supplies.

Even the earth beneath my feet had a unique feel to it; very different from the soft, damp, fertile ground at home. Since the Florida Keys are, after all, coral reefs, what appear to be soft lawns are misleading. I walked on those reefs with thick-soled shoes, and felt like my feet were getting a massage from the sharp uneven coral formations. Ground cover in yards of private homes was everything from a sturdy variety of rye grass to pea gravel to scattered seashells.

While here winter witnesses us Northwesterners walking around hunched under umbrellas sucking on coffee cups, in Florida it looked like people walked with their bodies in an “open” position, soaking up the sun, like birds spreading their wings to dry them…The skies are ever-changing, as they are in the northwest—but in Florida, you can see so much more of them; it’s as though the clouds have a bigger sheet of paper to make formations on. Seeing so many more stars in the sky at night because there are so many fewer “city lights” below, is as awe-inspiring as seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska or the Northwest Territories.

So are you in the place in the Universe where you belong? What do you savor about the area where you live? If you are unhappy there, what are you doing to alter it? If you are in the city, how fast can you get out of the city into the country? If you live in a dark area (like the Northwest in the deepest winter), what lights have you added? ? What colors have you painted your walls? Conversely, can you cherish how cozy and “safely hidden” you feel when it is rainy and foggy?

Where is the quiet in your environment, where is the music? Where is the greatest concentration of animals in nature? Where in your environment can you hear the sounds of nature more, the sounds of mankind, less??

Who are your neighbors? Do you and they face your surroundings open and curious, or hunched in and private within the walls of your home or the fences around your yard?

How much do you know about the city where you live? Have you visited all its parks, have you walked all its trails? Where is the most beautiful spot to stand in your city, to see a sunset or a sunrise?

Spring is here… go out and explore…look at and feel your environment, with the sensibilities of a visitor from a very different state, a different climate…
and be grateful…