Beach Therapy

Sometimes life gets a little overwhelming. There’s so much drama, and everyone seems to need something. And between the stress, tension, and the extreme heat as of late, this Mama felt the need to get away for a few hours. Thankfully, Jekyll Island is just a few hours away and a perfect 24-hour getaway destination…perfect for this girl anyway. This beautiful nature-friendly island is home to pelicans, sea-turtles, deer, raccoon, various forms of sea life, and much more. It is the perfect place for someone who loves the ocean, nature, and photography. It is also the perfect place to let the wind and waves cleanse the soul. Beach therapy is a wonderful thing to calm the nerves and help you face the realities of life.

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We headed out on our beach therapy trip Tuesday afternoon and arrived at the island early that evening. At high-tide on Jekyll, the beaches completely disappear, so it’s always a good idea to know your tide schedules before heading out for a walk. We placed our shoes up high on the rocks and headed out for an evening stroll. High-tide was at around 9:30 pm, so we had time for a good walk before the beach disappeared. Now, somehow we managed to be on the island at the high-tide times of the day for this trip. On a previous trip a few years ago, we were there for several days, and at low-tide you can walk out nearly half a mile into the water and only be knee-deep. During those times, you can see all sorts of sea-life just below the surface of the water. You can literally find hundreds of sand dollars sliding about in the clear parts of the water. This trip, however, did not disappoint. We came across sand dollars, crabs, and sea gulls galore.

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There were no clouds this particular evening, so the sunset was not the most eye-catching, but lovely nonetheless.

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The sunrise the next morning, however, was nothing short of spectacular. We headed out just before sunrise to the northernmost point of the island. The driftwood on this end of the island is usually quite beautiful, but this year there didn’t seem to be as much of it as usual.

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We did catch sight of some deer nosing around the driftwood looking for a bite to eat. The photo wasn’t very clear, but you get the idea.

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The sea gulls were out in droves, feasting on crabs and fish, a couple of other photographers were out catching the early shots, and a few early-risers were out walking and looking for signs of wildlife.

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After wandering about for a bit, I caught sight of the first peak of the sun over the horizon. It is amazing to watch the sunrise. Every time I see a sunrise, I am amazed at just how quickly it happens. My tripod was ready, so I got the camera set and began the shoot. Within just a few minutes, the sun emerged from the water at the edge of the horizon. It flowed up like lava from a lava lamp, beautiful oranges melting and emerging from the blue water and forming a big orange ball in the indigo sky. Just as the sun separated from the horizon, a shrimp-boat powered along the edge of the horizon right in front of the sun.

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As I watched the ships on this particular trip, I realized why people long ago thought that one could sail right off the edge of the world. The ships seem to just ride along the edge of a shelf, and one could easily imagine them just tipping right off into oblivion. However, we know that the world curves on, so instead of fearing the unknown, we can instead wonder what it is they see sitting at the edge of where our sight can peer no further. Do they see miles and miles of water? Do they see other ships at the edge of their vision limits? Do they see other islands we cannot see? What is out there where they fish and journey? One day, perhaps I can venture out on a cruise ship and see what they see, but until then, I shall sit and imagine.

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After photographing that beautiful sunrise, we headed into the marsh for a little while hoping to see some wildlife hunting for breakfast. We found a few little critters.

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I found this little wasp in the midst of an early morning grooming session.

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When the sun had fully risen, and the light was growing brighter, we quickly realized we were becoming quite hungry. We headed back to our hotel and had a typical continental breakfast, packed up our belongings, checked out, and headed to the other end of the island for a little while.

The first thing I noticed on this end of the island was a myriad of dead fish on the beaches. I’m not sure if they were left over breakfast or escapees from the nets of the fishing boats. Whatever they were from, they attracted the birds.

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Again, the beach was nearly gone from high-tide, so we wandered about on the dry ground we could find. It wasn’t long before I found the most perfect place. There was a cedar tree with low branches right near the water’s edge. I was able to simply step up into the tree, find a perch, and watch the birds fly about and the crabs scamper about. It was the perfect watching tree, and had I had a book, the perfect reading tree (my books were in the car).  After many bird photos, ship photos, and simply sitting and listening to the waves, it was time to leave that beautiful place.

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That, however, was not the end of the adventure. After leaving Jekyll Island, we headed over to St. Simon’s Island to find the lighthouse. We were successful in finding the lighthouse, and we climbed it, and I got a few photos.

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After the lighthouse, we found a place to eat, and then we headed home. What we learned on this particular afternoon was that the best thing to do between lunch and dinner at this time of the year is head back to the air-condition and sleep…which will be our plan for our trip to the Florida Keys in a couple of weeks. So, stay tuned for the next adventure.

Graduating in Style!

Steampunk style that is! This proud homeschool Mama just awarded her firstborn with a high school diploma. Of course, since we homeschool, there was no formal graduation with a cap and gown. My son didn’t want all of that hoopla. In fact, he didn’t even want a party, but since my niece was also graduating from high school, and her little sister was graduating from Kindergarten, it was decided that a party must be thrown. So throw one we did. My sister and I went shopping and managed to come up with a pretty good little party for our graduates, if I do say so myself. Pretty good for last minute anyway.

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Of course, being a photographer, I couldn’t let them have just any old regular party. We needed something with a little pizzazz that was photo worthy. So with a few things we already had and a few new things, we did this party up steampunk style!

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Now my son loves to frequent a local bar with his friends on karaoke night, so we headed over to Celtic Tavern to make arrangements for our little party. The people there are amazing, and they all know my Jonathan, so we had no trouble procuring a table reservation for the evening and setting up our little party. It was even live music night, so we were able to enjoy some guitar pickin’ and singin’ as well. (Live music night is Friday by the way, and karaoke is Saturday…just in case you’re ever in Old Towne Conyers, GA. Just tell the folks at Celtic Tavern that Jonathan’s mom sent ya. They’ll take care of ya.)

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(This is Jonathan with Kristen, the beautiful bartender.)

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(And this gentleman is Greg, the co-owner of this fine establishment.)

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After the grads arrived, I stole them away from the party for a photo session. Old Towne Conyers ended up being a great place for a few Steampunk cosplay shots.

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The kids were a little concerned that I was going to get them arrested for climbing up on the side of that building, but no one said anything…except for that guy that hollered something at us when we were on the railroad tracks, and there was that guy on the motorcycle who told my niece she dropped a feather (she was wearing a feather boa). All was well, and we didn’t get into any trouble.

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Old Towne Conyers made for a good place to find a few out-of-the-ordinary graduate gifts for our out-of-the-ordinary young adults as well. They film The Originals here, so the town has its share of New Orleans-style curio shops with a witchy, vampire flair. We found our treasures at The Black Cat Curio. The young lady running the shop was super sweet and had lots of stories to tell. And her fellow shopkeepers, Peanut the cat and…well, the other cat whose name I can’t remember…helped us find the perfect gifts for our graduates. The gifts we found had nothing to do with graduation, and they may have seemed a bit odd to most. Our graduates, however, thought they were perfect.

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And the rest of the family…well, they were just miffed that we went to the shop without them. My other sister headed out the door with the kiddos after we ate to see if the shop was open. It was closed, unfortunately, so they headed over to Creamberry’s for some yummy ice cream. Our beloved tavern doesn’t have much of a dessert selection, but I’m not too sure how they felt about those crazy people I call family bringing the ice cream in there to eat, and I know how I felt about the fact that they didn’t bother bringing me any! And it was cotton candy flavored! They did let me have a taste, so it was all good.

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Ah, but a great time was had by all, and we managed to leave early enough for the regulars to have their bar back for the evening.  I’m sure they were quite relieved when our crazy crowd left.

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And there was this one thing with wearing the mini-hat like a unicorn horn that I never quite understood.

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There are so many great people and places in this area we call home, and I am glad my son got to grow up and graduate here. Now he has the task of choosing what the next chapter of his life will be, and his sister…well, she had so much fun she started making plans for her graduation party which won’t happen for three more years yet.

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And before I sign off, I’d like to say:

Congratulations Class of 2015! May the road before you be filled with love and adventure!

Rain, Angels, and Pondering Life

This past weekend, I set out on a trip to Rome, GA. I went to school there once…a long time ago. My how the city has changed and grown in the last twenty plus years, and perhaps my memory has faded a bit over the years as well. What I went in search for this particular day was a cemetery I once was shooed out of by a friendly local officer. Why you ask? Well, when a group of college girls go wandering about an old cemetery at night, it is apparently a recipe for disaster according to local law enforcement. We were kindly warned about strange men who sleep in cemeteries at night and attack young girls. I’m sure there was some truth to this warning; however, I am sure it was embellished a bit to scare us away as well. So, what do I do now that I’m nearly 41? Well, go wandering about that cemetery alone in the middle of a thunderstorm of course! I know…probably not the safest thing to do, but where’s the adventure in being safe? Of course, in case of attack, I’m pretty sure this camera of mine would put a pretty good sized dent in someone’s head. In case of lightning, however…well, at least I was already in the cemetery, right? That’s what I texted my husband, anyway. To which he replied, “It gives a whole new meaning to cremation.” Lovely vote of confidence that man gives.

I suppose I should get on with my story now. I dropped the family off at Six Flags (I will spare you the story about why I avoid that place at all costs), and I headed toward Rome. I arrived at Myrtle Hill Cemetery late morning or perhaps around noon (I wasn’t really paying attention to the time). It was looking rather cloudy, and it had rained along the drive. I parked in the empty lot, got my camera ready, and stepped out of the car. Then I felt raindrops. After briefly contemplating whether to risk a trek up the hill or not, I got back in my car, and just in time, it would seem, as a monsoon began. I managed a couple of photos of the rather large and imposing mausoleum before and during the downpour.

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As I sat in my car, I mulled over the fact that rain seemed to stop my adventures way too often. I came to the conclusion that I either need a waterproof cover for my camera or a waterproof camera. I now have a lovely waterproof camera on my Amazon wishlist…emphasis on the wish. After sitting for quite some time, I determined that I was not going to let the rain ruin my trip, and I began to drive. So I found an entrance, and I began to drive up that hill. I waited patiently for breaks in the rain to get out and wander about (never too far from the car, mind you, as the rain could come pouring down and ruin my trusty camera at any minute).

Stepping out of my car onto the narrow path high above the city was just a bit unnerving, especially with the thunder and looming storm clouds. However, the rain had abated for a bit, and I was determined to get some photos. The first scene to dazzle my senses was of the city far below. I didn’t realize just how high that hill was until I was standing at the top gazing at the city of the living far below from atop my perch in the city of the dead.

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Now pay special attention to the center of this photograph. Do you see the clock tower right there in the middle? Good. There will be a quiz later.

Now the next thing I began to notice from my perch high above the city was something very frightening and dangerous. Well, frightening and dangerous if you’re a Whovian like myself. I began to see that I was surrounded. By what you ask? By Weeping Angels. They were everywhere! What is a Weeping Angel?! Poor unsuspecting normal people, you must be educated so as not to be caught unaware. A weeping angel is a being from another world. It’s defense mechanism causes it to turn to stone when it is seen by any other living creature. “So don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead.” (10th Doctor quote: BBC’s Doctor Who) If these creatures catch you not looking, they zap you into another time and feed on your time energy.  (Please forgive me my fellow Whovians if I have misspoken something and doubly forgive me for what I am about to do…transmit the image of an angel.) Oh dear, and now the normal people ask why I have asked for forgiveness for this transmission. Well, here it is. The danger of photographing a weeping angel is that any image transmitted of a weeping angel itself becomes a weeping angel (see BBC’s Doctor Who season 5, episodes 4 and 5: The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone).

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All fandom references aside, I am ever amazed at the intricate detail and craftsmanship involved in these beautiful grave-markers. Some of the most fascinating sculptures I have seen have been in cemeteries much like this one. The statues are so detailed they almost seem to be living beings turned to stone. Their creators were true artists of the time. Throughout the cemetery are many stone figures and intricate scroll-work carved into marble and stone commemorating the life of the one laid to rest there.

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One can’t help but wonder as one walks along and views such masterpieces what the story is of the life laid to rest there. Many stories lie buried beneath the grave-markers, and the stories they hold are as varied as the markers above. Some intricate, lavish, and seen by all, and others simple and less-known. Every life lived and every story left behind it is a fading footprint that has left an impression on the lives and hearts touched by it. Though the stories may fade and be forgotten like the fading names on the markers above, the legacy left behind lives on in some way through those that carry on. It may seem a bit odd to be fascinated by these moss-covered cities of the dead, but thinking of these lives, these stories, and the people who carved their memory-marker makes for a great adventure stroll. So barring no run-ins with vagabonds or restless spirits, a stroll through the cemetery can make for a lovely outing…between rain showers.

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Pop quiz! Do you remember that first photo I showed you? What was in the center of it? Right! The Clock Tower! After leaving the cemetery, I traveled across town in search of Clock Tower Hill. There are seven of these hills in Rome, GA. I only visited two while I was there Sunday. I lived on one of the others many years ago while at school. The other four will have to wait for another day I suppose.  Anyway, so off I went. And you’ll never guess what I saw atop that hill! Well, yes, the Clock Tower of course, but what else? I stood upon this particular hill in the city of the living and peered across the valley at none other than that city of the dead that I had just left.

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Of course my first thought was, what a pretty view. My second thought after looking through my camera lens was, oh cool, I was just over there! So, I garnered a few shots of that lovely view, and if you can’t tell, I was rather fascinated by that church steeple. I actually got a couple more shots of it. Do you want to see? Of course you do.

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Then I turned around a got a few shots of the Clock Tower.

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And of course, I can’t go anywhere without getting a few shots of the flora, fauna, and wildlife.

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So even though there was rain, I wasn’t deterred from my Rome adventure, and I hope you enjoyed the walk through the cemetery with me. Oh, but before I go, there is one more story I would like to tell. As I headed off of the hill of the city of the dead, I was presented with an interesting sight. There before me was a lovely apartment complex. Beneath the name, it said Senior Residence. I just wasn’t sure what to think of that. Now, the cemetery is lovely, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone, especially anyone nearing the end of life, would choose to have this as their balcony view. I certainly understand living near a cemetery.  I grew up with an old family cemetery on our property on the hill above our house. I spent my summers cleaning it with my mother and playing in it with my sisters and cousins. I heard stories of the people’s lives, and a few stories of those who weren’t quite settled in death (leading to avoidance of that area of the property after nightfall). I still reside near that old cemetery plot, and my ashes will one day be laid to rest there, too, but I can’t imagine choosing an apartment near a giant cemetery. All I could think is, “There’s nothing like stepping out onto your balcony and taking in the lovely view of your impending doom.” Okay, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. My husband, of course, gave it the politically correct term of “progressive living arrangements”. Enough of the morbid thoughts now. I shall leave you with these lovely pictures, my thoughts, and a heartfelt “adieu”.