Postcard from Kottayam, India


Another reblog from Ron’s photos. This was an incredible cultural experience. Hope you enjoy. We are in Udaipur now and will be in the Rajastan state for a week. As our guide told us, the food and dialect changes every 100 km throughout India. The diversity is what makes India incredible.

Originally posted on Ron Mayhew's Blog:

We had an opportunity to visit the Thirunakkata Utsavam Festival and witness this passionate and lively celebration.  Twenty two elephants paraded through the Thiirunakkara Mahadevar temple grounds unadorned. Then each one was caprisoned in glittering gold brocade.

Thirunakkara Festival photo

Next, entered two horn and drum ensembles engaging in “melems”, trying to musically outdo each other.

Thirunakkara Festival photo

The men riding the elephants carried umbrellas and large fans and performed to the music.

Thirunakkara Festival photo

Several thousand spectators cheered them on .We enjoyed taking pictures of them and they enjoyed taking pictures of us. Very few Westerners there.

The event was officially opened by Bollywood superstar Jayaram.Jayaram Bollywood photo

View original

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Post Card From the Malabar Coast, India


Hello from southern India. Kerala is called God’s Own Country and it is all that. H ave toured Cochin, Munnar , Kottayam, and Mumbai. Here are a few photos from Cochin (Kochi) and Mumbai.

Originally posted on Ron Mayhew's Blog:

Malabar Coast Photo

Malabar Coast Photo

The iconic fish nets of Fort Kochi, in Kerala State in southern India along the Arabian Sea. The nets are thought to have been introduced by Chinese explorers when Kubla Kahn was emperor in the late 14th century.

Malabar Coast Photo

Spices being loaded in Jew Town, Kochi, as a man on his bicycle passes by (below).

Malabar Coast Photo

Malabar Coast Photo

Malabar Coast Photo

Victoria Terminus, a World Heritage Site, is an enormous train station in central Mumbai, where some 3 million people pass through each day.

Malabar Coast Photo

Mumbai at night.

Malabar Coast Photo

Time for Marsala Chai at the Taj Hotel, Mumbai.

Next stop, the tea gardens in the Western Ghats.

View original

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Bags Packed ~ India Calling

India Calling Photo

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

In two days, fotograffer Ron and I will be traveling to India. We’ll be gone for almost a month which means we’ll be off line most of that time.  Hopefully we can get a couple of “Postcards from India” sent out. Lots of catching up to do when we get back and we wish everyone a glorious spring.

Ron has been to India twice and I too want to experience this incredible country. Through Ron’s photography I can see it, but now it is time for me to taste, smell, hear and feel it for myself. I feel blessed we can do this together with good health and open minds and hearts to cultures other than our own.   Much of what we are doing will be new territory for him except for Varanasi. We look forward to attending the Thirunakkata Utsavam Festival in Kumarakom on my birthday and we’ll be climbing around the Amber Fort in Jaipur on Ron’s birthday. To top it all off, our 50th wedding anniversary celebration will be in Delhi before we head back home. Building memories together.

Posted in Bucket List, India, Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

One Trip EVERY Month: Burnt Store Road

 “The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see One Tripwhat’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.”
  ~ Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Prodded by Marianne’s monthly challenge, One Trip EVERY Month, we headed up Burnt Store Road, which runs along the Charlotte Harbor Shoreline between Punta Gorda and Cape Coral, Florida.  This is about a 20 mile rural stretch of road that takes us from Pine Island, north  to I-75. We hardly ever take the time to explore what’s along Burnt Store Road, so we planned a day trip with friends and did a three in one.

First stop: Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. It is comprised of over 43,000 acres in Lee and Charlotte counties which were acquired to provide a natural buffer from urban areas and agricultural lands to help protect the largest and most productive estuary in Florida. More than 80 miles of shoreline is protected.

Burnt Store Day Trip Photos

It was a crisp, cool morning, suitable for hiking the 1.75 mile Old Datsun Trail. It winds through oak and sabal palm hammocks, pine flatwoods and isolated wetlands. We also walked the short, mile long Eagle Point Trail at Alligator Creek Preserve which included an alligator pond, marsh and mangrove habitat. These communities are home to red-shouldered hawks, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, bobcats, wading birds, otters, alligators and migratory birds. One hawk was our total wildlife count, but that didn’t matter. It was just great to be outdoors.

Burnt Store Day Trip Photos Burnt Store Day Trip Photos Burnt Store Day Trip Photos Burnt Store Day Trip Photos

This was an old Florida experience, the one of my childhood, before development took much of the native habitat. I look forward to sharing these many trails in this preserve with my grandchildren when they visit, and include a trip to the Environmental Center. After a picnic lunch, we headed for our next stop.

Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm. This is a destination in itself. A thriving business that imports pottery, statuary and garden accessories from Mexico and Asia, it is a riot of colors, textures and shapes set among a vast bamboo garden. Because it covers five acres, visitors can use a golf cart to drive around with a salesman who will answer their questions concerning pottery use and price. I just wanted to walk and take in the lush grounds.  I could have picked out dozens of pots and statuary which reminded me of previous trips to far off places:  Talavira from Mexico and the glazed pots from Vietnam. I wouldn’t have to go far to find what I want.

Burnt Store Day Trip Photos Burnt Store Day Trip Photos Burnt Store Day Trip Photos Burnt Store Day Trip Photos

Being SW Florida, fancy outdoor lighting is taking hold. Artistic and functional.

Burnt Store Day Trip Photos

Our third stop was Sandman Book Store which I covered in my previous blog. Another delightful stop. Thanks to all of you who visited the blog and who took time to go to the Face book page explaining how the bridge of knowledge was built.

Burnt Store Day Trip Photos-12

Wanting to know the origin of the naming of Burnt Store Road, I discovered that the widely accepted story took place in the mid 1800’s when a trading post for settlers was in this region. Seminole Indians, who were peaceful and kept to themselves, sometimes used this trading post, too. A surveyor showed up and acted like he owned the place, including the area the Seminoles lived in, causing a stir. Legend has it that Billy Bowlegs led the raid to burn down the trading post. Settlers and Seminoles were killed and the store was never rebuilt. Old Salty, a settler, who had befriended Billy Bowlegs, hid him until he could get him out of the area.

Whether it’s true or not, I’d like to believe that part of that hike was in Seminole territory.

Posted in Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Kitty Wan-Kenobi ~ Keeper of the Books

“I love walking into a bookstore. It’s like all my friends are sitting on shelves, waving their pages at me.”  Tahereh Mafi

Sandman Book Store

A wall of books. Right in front of me.

Shelves of books everywhere, of course, but this was truly a wall of books.

I stopped at Sandman Book Co. yesterday, a place I haven’t been to for quite awhile. What a pleasant surprise. The used book store had expanded its space, quadrupling its size and was unrecognizable from my previous visit.

Out came the camera.

How unique. How artistic. How did they do that?

Sandman Book Store Sandman Book Store

There was a gentleman standing in my view finder and I asked him if he wanted to be in the picture. He said, “No”, and moved back a few steps.

He marveled at the structure, took out his smart phone and took some pictures, then said,

“It saddens me to see all these books used this way. No one can read them.”

When I studied the construction, I noticed no covers or book spines visible, nothing to indicate who is next to whom. But the arch way was so inviting, an old world charm, beckoning me to walk through into a world of fiction, memoir, travel books and beyond.

Sandman Book Store-3 Sandman Book Store

Looking at the arched construction, I began playing with metaphors:

~Walking through the arch is like entering a world of other’s minds.

~Books are the foundation of knowledge.

~Open a book and you open the mind. A closed book is a closed mind.

~ The unfinished arch represented for me all the books still left unread.

I walked around the categorized sections, fingering books and admiring how bright and open the space is, yet it felt intimate.

When it was time to leave I noticed the sign.

Sandman Book Store

Meet Kitty-Wan Kenobi.

Sandman Book Store

The next day, I looked at my photos and then called the book store. The owner, Heidi graciously answered my questions.

4,000 books were used to assemble the “bridge of knowledge”. Her husband Scott, co-owner, built it himself, taking a month to complete. Plywood, 2X4’s, staples, adhesives and 25,000 nails hold it together. His inspiration came from a temporary art sculpture he had admired.

This is South Florida’s largest independent bookshop and they obviously deal with thousands of books. The books used for the project are damaged, have pages or covers missing and basically unsellable. Heidi says she likes to think of these as recycled books and part of a “rescue effort” to be used in this final way.

I agree.

I have included a direct link to their face book page showing how the wall of books was constructed. Take a peek.

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”  ~ Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

Sandman Book Store

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments

Sing Us a Story

“It’s always been a gift with me, hearing music the way I do. I don’t know where it comes from, it’s just there and I don’t question it.” ~  Miles Davis

Pine Island House Concerts

We have discovered a new way to enjoy music. Attending local outdoor house concerts.

The rules are:

Make a reservation right away as only 30-35 spaces are available. You can choose to come by boat for the concert and then you’re not taking up a lawn chair space.

Show up on time. Bring food to share. BYOB if you so desire.

Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your cell phone.  Turn off your cell phone or you’ll never be invited back.

Enjoy the twinkle of the lights strung on the trees. Sit back under the winter time Florida moonlit sky and listen to a story.

We have been to several concerts in the past month at two different homes. It is a great way to support independent musicians who are discouraged by the bar scene and just want to be listened to and respected for their art in a small, intimate venue. The quality of these musicians is what keeps us coming back. Besides, what musician wouldn’t want to be in Florida right now and their enthusiasm to perform is genuine.

For me, I particularly enjoy the “back story” the musician provides before he strums his guitar. What strikes me is the writing process the song writer goes through. Some keep journals where they write down a particular word, phrase, or story that inspires them. For some, their creativity flows better when they collaborate with fellow musicians. For most, it is drawn from life experiences and for others it comes from making oneself write daily. Sound familiar?

One of these musicians, Tom Prasada Rao, teaches songwriting workshops nationally and Pine Island House Concerts-2was the songwriting instructor at the University of Virginia’s “Young Writer’s Workshops from 2000 to 2007. That program was modeled after The University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop. It was there at UVA while creating the songwriting curriculum that Tom developed his craft. He uses writing prompts to guide his students. He also encourages them to come up with prompts of their own to put on a Share Board free for any participant to use… including the teacher.

One of the most entertaining songs we listened to one evening came from a classroom writing prompt:

                  “Your small child comes to you and wonders what those sounds are that come                     from Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom at night.”

The response was creative, imaginative and in good taste. I’ll leave you to wonder.

The host for this outdoor concert was Annie Wenz, an incredibly talented musician herself. She backed up Tom with percussion.

Pine Island House Concerts

Most of the song writers/ musicians that come through this area are of the Trop/Rock Island (Jimmy Buffet) genre and others fall into blends of blues, folk, country and you name it. We have listened to John Frinzi, Hugo Duarte, Brent Burns, James “Sunny Jim” White and a couple from Austin, Thom Shepard and Coley McCabe.

One ambition they seem to have in common is that they are still trying to write the perfect song.

Tom Prasada- Rao said, “As I grow older I care less about the music business than I probably should. I care more about life as poetry, trying to play like there are no wrong notes anymore.”

I’ll leave you with some scenes and water views from two of the concerts. Click on any image to enlarge.

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , , | 33 Comments

The Cracker Day Rodeo

One Trip
Marianne of East of Malaga has created the One Trip EVERY Month Challenge which sounds like fun. She’s even suggesting we include those local places of interest that we never get around to visiting but wished we had.

With cameras in hand, Ron and I headed to The Cracker Day Rodeo, which took place at The Lee County Posse Arena in North Fort Myers, Florida, the end of January.

“If you climb in the saddle, be ready for the ride.”  ___Unknown

We just had a few hours to spend and missed some of the events, but watching these young people, mostly girls, give it their all, was an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.

Posse Rodeo

The contestants are divided into two divisions: the Pee Wee, ages 10 and under and the Junior, ages 11-17.

Parents and grandparents sported their western wear as they took seats on the worn out bleachers and the procession got under way. The Grand Entry was presented by the Lee County Junior Posse comprising of at least 30 girls riding in on horseback, some with flags.

Posse Rodeo

The event commentator, a fifth generation Florida Cracker, with a booming voice, announced the rodeo queen and proudly, with shining tiara, she rode in. Immediate applause from the stands.

Posse RodeoPosse Rodeo

With music blaring from the loudspeakers, from country to disco, the team of girls skillfully did their routine. Timing was everything as they crissed-crossed in front of each other on their beautifully groomed horses.

Posse Rodeo

The Pee Wee Goat Tail Tying competition consisted of riding into the ring, dismounting and tying a ribbon on the tail of a goat, which was held in place by the “goat lady.”  For some it wasn’t as easy as it looked. No goat is going to stand completely still and enjoy having its tail tied.

Posse Rodeo

Even harder was the Junior Goat Tying competition which consisted of riding in, dismounting, catching a goat which was tethered on a long rope, flipping it on its side and tying three legs together. To qualify, the goat had to remain tied for six seconds and many a goat wiggled loose before then.

Posse Rodeo

The Hairpin competition consisted of riding in and racing around one barrel back to the start line for the fastest time. These girls and their horses seemed to have that one down.

Posse Rodeo Posse Rodeo

The Posse Arena was founded in 1960 and the Cracker Day Rodeo is its signature event. It receives no funding from the county and is a non-profit organization which helps fund local 4-H and high school rodeos. It was clear that many of these contestants come from families whose parents and even grandparents once rode in that same arena. This part of the county is horse, cattle and agricultural, noted from the many farms and ranches dotting the area.

The term “cracker” is based on Florida’s “cracker cowboys” of the 19th and early 20th centuries; distinct from the Spanish vaquero and the Western cowboy.  During this time, Florida was once the largest cattle producer behind Texas. These were no common cows. They were descendents of the Spanish Andalusian stock left from the days of Ponce De Leon in 1521. Rough and rugged, these cows could subsist on palmetto leaves and the scrub land. They seemed to resist the heat, humidity, and malarial mosquitoes.

Instead of fencing their cattle, they were left to roam. Cowboys did not use lassos to herd or capture cattle.  Instead they used dogs and long braided-leather whips to round up and move cows. The crack of the whip could be heard for days as cattle were driven down the main streets of Ft. Myers to the Punta Rassa dock where they could be shipped to Cuba. Today, Punta Rassa is where the bridge goes to Sanibel Island, one of SW Florida’s famous beach destinations.

The Florida Cracker Horse also traces its ancestry to De Leon. Left behind by the Spanish, these Iberian Horses of Spanish and African descent adapted to their Florida surroundings, a breed that evolved from natural selection. It was this breed that has had a vital role in Florida emerging as a ranching and agricultural state. It also had an important role with the Seminole Indians. Today, these ponies are called: Chickasaw Pony, Seminole Pony, Marsh Tackie, Prairie Pony, Florida Horse, Florida Cow Pony, Grass Gut and others. The Florida Cracker Horse Association was chartered in 1989 as a non-profit Florida Corporation. Its purpose is the preservation and perpetuation of the Cracker Horse as a distinct and unique Colonial Spanish breed of horse.

The expression “cracker” is commonly used to designate a Florida native, but is also used as a derogatory term meaning, redneck, etc.

Obviously, the Cracker Day Rodeo is a venue that proudly honors its pioneer and Florida heritage, and is a place to showcase these kids’ hard work and talent.

Posse Rodeo

 “Let a horse whisper in your ear and breathe on your heart. You will never regret it.”  ~Unknown

Posted in Bucket List, Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments