Monday, January 29, 2018

Sitting on the Porch of the Dock of the Bay

We are dog and house sitting in Orange Beach this winter.  I wasn't sure about this.  Last winter, our first since we retired, we spent January through March in predictably warm weather in a little retro house we own near Fort Myers, Florida.  It's a yearly rental of ours which luckily happened to be available January through March 31.  We had a pool and were on a canal.  The sunsets and sunrises were as brilliant as they are in the Southwest, with wow-like oranges, reds, and yellows.  I went down and stood on our dock every morning with my coffee in hand, just to smile and breathe in the beauty of the beginning of the day.  The days were warm and in the 70s and it was mostly lazy and wonderful.  But, Alabama.  Who winters in Alabama?  And our friends who live in the house we are "sitting" are flying off to the islands in the Grenadines for February and March.  Shouldn't we be catching the plane to the islands, too?

However, we had visited here last fall and I kind of fell in love.  First, our friends are gracious and amazing hosts. Second, we have a 10 year-old crazy lab we cart around with us and since we are dog sitting she gets to come along.  For those logical reasons Alabama for the winter made sense to us.  But, I also really love living on the wide open water.  We did that for 13 years, a few years ago, when we lived on a little island in Maine. I still miss the mesmerizing sunsets and watching the ice flow down river in spring or the sea smoke, that mist that seems like a cloud hovering above the water.  I also lived on an island, in a caboose, during undergraduate school (whole other story!), on Rockaway Beach on Bainbridge Island, WA.  And, growing up in Seattle, I was surrounded by water, seeking the water's edge whenever my mood was dark and confusing.

At this point in our lives, I prefer the peace and quiet of the woods where we now live, and the comforting "hug" of the husband-hand-built post and beam house along with the soul warming wood-burning stove once the temps fall.   However, I do miss the continually morphing moods and feelings that come with unpredictable sunsets, weather changes, moon rises when you live right on the water.  Right now I look out from the porch and see little white caps stirred up by the wind on the water in the bay.  This morning it was flat and calm.

I scoped the weather out for months, prior to making a commitment to come to the coast of Alabama for the winter.  The weather here off-season is neither hot (maybe pushing low 70's but generally in the 60s) nor cold (rarely below freezing but 40 or 50 in the morning is not surprising), and yet it's perfect.  Perfectly quiet because summer people are not here, a summer town in the winter.  Perfectly beautiful because it's like a little nature preserve out our back door, leading to the dock that wanders out, over and into the bay.  Being a contemplative and introverted soul by nature, this kind of place suits me well.  My easy-going husband likes it too.

And, although I love the interior of our winter "home" here in the seacoast town of Orange Beach, with lots of original colorful art, driftwood frames surround vibrant paintings of faces, mermaids and the like, which inspires my creative self, my favorite place is the backyard porch.  Connected to the back of the house, this giant screened-in porch looks out over the bay, with a swinging double bed that you can lazily rock back and forth on, as it hangs suspended from the ceiling.  There's a table and chairs, candles.  It rained yesterday and we all sat out there, rain drops dancing on the rooftop; we were cozy and dry in that sweet and embracing space, on that serene porch looking out over the bay.  More than once throughout the afternoon I hopped onto the swinging bed and lay back on soft piles of blue and pink pillows that you can stack up and fluff as you snuggle in and on the swinging bed, rocking and sleeping and reading.  There are these tiny little fairy lights, miniature blinking lights entwined on one of the chains that anchors the bed to the ceiling.  And as a gentle breeze blows, a huge set of metal chimes (identified as from the company, World Peace - One Backyard at a Time) which hangs out just beyond the porch's screened walls start clinging and ding-donging and binging away.  I feel transported to a Buddhist monastery somewhere in the clouds, as the birds chirp and sing their angelic little melodies.

I imagine swinging, sleeping, reading day after day down here in the South while the snow and ice do their thing in New England, bitter -17 degree cold which I will not miss.  I will miss family and friends.  I will miss my routine, my home, my life in Maine.  But I will not miss the cold.  To be honest, it's a bit of a civil war inside me being gone from family and home for the winter months but the side of me seeking warmer climes has won.

I wish my friends, the homeowners of this beautiful abode, health and good will on the islands where they will winter because we have been where they are going and it is beautiful and warm and salty with ocean air, living right on the beach.  We will take good care of your little canine love, Abby and thank you for allowing us to bring our crazy dog, Livy.

Cue Otis Redding....sitting on the dock of the bay lalalala.

Listen to this!  Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

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