Summer Flowers

You know life is wonderful when you wake up from a Saturday afternoon nap to a your sweet boyfriend setting a vase (okay, a travel mug) of fresh-picked flowers (that he also grew) on your nightstand. And then, when you wake up and wander to the kitchen for a snack, you find him unpacking sun-warmed veggies he harvested from the community garden, including okra, maybe because you told him that now you like okra. Lucky!

Montford Rec Center

A month or so ago, Tommy showed me a mini fruit orchard he had discovered at the Montford Rec Center, a park in our neighborhood. It’s small, maybe 10 trees or so, but I love the idea of a public fruit orchard. Most of the trees had almost-ripe fruit: pears, apples, figs, persimmons, and my favorite, loquats.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather had a loquat tree in his yard in Florida, and in my memory they are the most delicious and dreamy of treats. The size of a grape, loquats are a bright marigold color, and they burst with tangy, sweet juiciness. I never thought they could grow in North Carolina because of the cooler weather, so when I saw this tree I melted with joy and childhood nostalgia. Even though they weren’t ripe, I nibbled a few slightly bitter ones off the tree anyway, and vowed to come back soon to harvest these jewels.

But time has that nasty habit of slipping by unnoticed, and when we walked over there last week, I had a sad, sad moment. Every last loquat had been harvested, as well as the apples and pears. All that were left were unripe figs and persimmons. Wahh. I guess the Fruit and Nut Club got there first. Oh, well.

Luckily, it was a gorgeous day at the park, and I got a few pictures. Did I mention you can see Mt Pisgah from the Montford Rec Center?

Little Free Library in Montford

Tommy and I were taking a walk around our neighborhood when we noticed this beauty newly established near the road. Lit lovin’ library junkie that I am, I think this is pretty awesome.

What’s this? A tiny library in a community garden two blocks from my house? And it has a book of poetry by William Carlos Williams? And a few children’s books for my classroom?

Apparently, it’s one of many. The international network of “Little Free Libraries” works on an honor system. Really, it’s more like the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny jars. Just like you can’t really “steal” a penny, the Little Free Library folks remind us on their website you can’t “steal” a free book.

So you take what you like, and bring a book by when you’re ready to pass it on.

Listen here for an NPR story on Little Free Libraries.

Chris Jordan and the Midway Project

Since watching citizens of Carolina Beach (see my last post) stand up at a Town Council meeting and share their various arguments to ban cigarette smoking from their beloved beach, and since walking on that same beach, noticing cigarette butts littering the shore, I’ve been reminded of devastation the ocean experiences as a result of human negligence.

The stories I heard that night ranged from logical to deeply emotional. Of course, litter is always an eyesore and a pollutant, but one citizen argued that cigarettes are particularly damaging to our environment, for their hundreds of toxins and the cellulose acetate fibers (plastic) that make them slow to biodegrade.

Another citizen talked of her moving to Carolina Beach on the suggestion of her doctor because she was living with cancer; she requires fresh air and a clean environment to be well, but often when she walks along the beach, the smoke around her causes her lungs to produce an asthma-like attack, requiring her to take medication.

The beach smoking debate made me think of artist and photographer Chris Jordan, who is best known for his large-scale photography installations that remark on various current social and environmental trends, particularly devastation.

Take a look at Jordan’s most current collection, Message From the Gyre, but be warned that it is eye-opening and graphic. When I checked his website, I learned that in addition to photography, Jordan is currently working on the Midway Project, a film meant to illuminate the extent to which plastic garbage continues to affect life on our planet. I can’t wait to see the finished film!

“On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.” – Chris Jordan

What I most appreciate about Jordan is his mingling of honesty and hope. Although this project tackles an alarming and monumental environmental tragedy, the Midway Project is not about despair. It is a reminder to all of us of our daily choices and our inescapable interconnectedness.

“I envision our project not as being a bunch of us tramping around the island with cameras; instead I hope it will be an emotional and spiritual journey by a deeply connected group of artists, to honor the issues that Midway represents. Maybe it is not too ambitious to hope—if we can fully rise to the occasion—that we might be able to co-create a multi-media work of art that tenderly witnesses this middle point that humanity finds itself at right now. And in the eye of the storm —the apex of the Gyre—perhaps our collaborative efforts can create a container for healing that might have some small effect on the collective choice that is to come.” – Chris Jordan, http://www.midwayjourney.com

Our Port City Vacation

This was our second visit to Wilmington, so we knew we’d already started to fall for this small coastal town. We made it our mission this time to discover more of the area, to try more places and things. Originally, we had considered Wilmington because of UNCW’s MFA program, which I go back and forth about applying to. I figured it was time for a visit to the campus, and I’m so glad I did. How inspiring! It’s one of the few in the country that has a non-fiction track, and I noticed one of the faculty members had been published in Orion, my all-time favorite magazine. A small thing, maybe, but it made me smile and edge a little closer to truly considering going back to school. In no particular order, here are some highlights from our relaxing and inspiring Carolina Beach vacation.

Carolina Beach

Cape Fear river, downtown

Carolina Beach

Sea Oats

1. Riding a tandem beach cruiser bike. Once we got the hang of it (1,2,3, pedal!) it was a blast.

Tommy with the tandem

2. Staying at Carolina Beach, population 6,000, less than two blocks from the water.

3. The organic Mighty Muscadine grape smoothie at Port City Java, made with NC’s state fruit! (I ordered one each day we were downtown, every sip yearning for it to be mountain  Muscadine season back home in WNC).

Port City Java on Front St

4. Eating at Indochine. I challenge anyone to show me a more beautifully designed and delicious Thai restaurant. Anywhere.

Indochine indoors

Indochine outdoor seating

5. Taking a ferry ride to a quaint coastal town called Southport, where they happened to be filming Safe Haven (to be released in early 2013, an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name)

6.  Eating (alright, we’re a little obsessed with finding great food anywhere we go) crab cakes and potato salad at Provisions, a real-deal fresh seafood joint. It’s a hole in the wall with a waterfront deck that has gorgeous views of the Cape Fear river.

Tommy on the dock

Provisions Door

Pelicans in flight

On the dock, post-amazing-meal daze

Provisions

7. Stumbling on a town council meeting on the local tv station. Several locals stood up to request the council move ahead on adopting a ban on smoking at Carolina Beach. Alright!

8. The Tiki Bar! A straight shot from our apartment, this little gem is attached to a hotel and built on what is left of a pier that was destroyed by a hurricane. Tommy could watch pelicans coasting and preening to his heart’s content, while we drank margaritas and even my current favorite beer, First Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon!

Tiki Bar

Tiki Bar

8. Having a kitchenette in our beach apartment, so we could do some of our own cooking. From home, we brought fresh fruit (blueberries from the garden, peaches from the farmers market), local eggs, waffle mix, and heavy cream, so we could whip up this decadent breakfast one morning.

Homemade breakfast in our beach apartment!

9. Folks Cafe (Thanks, Martha!). We didn’t get to try their purportedly delicious South American cuisine (we were about to go to Indochine), but we did experience their super friendly service, order some tasty iced coffee (with coffee cubes!) and buy a pound of their small batch Peruvian roast to take back home with us.

10. The sunsets.

Sunset by our beach apartment

11. Running into our good Asheville friend, Taylor, because as history suggests,  if you’re anywhere in the world, you’re probably going to run into a friend from Asheville. He used his sweet photography skills to take a few pictures of us on the streets on downtown Wilmington. Here is my favorite.

Happy on Front St