Sunday, October 21, 2007

Looking for inspiration

When your beach house is in the ’burbs, rather than at the beach, sometimes you have to hit the coast for some inspiration. While the house I’m staying in on St. George Island, Florida, offers little in the way of home décor inspiration, the view more than makes up for the serviceable but unremarkable place.

From the comfort of a screen porch (an essential for any beach house, whether in the ’burbs or not) overlooking the beach, I have watched storms roar through, enjoyed the perfect beach day (yesterday, it was breezy, sunny, low 80s, the Gulf was like glass) and nearly been blown to Timbuktu.

St. George Island is off the coast of Florida, east of Panama City. I first came here as a Florida State student. It’s about an hour and a half from Tallahassee. The island is long and narrow, with a state park taking up about a third of the east end. The rest of the island is houses, a few shops and restaurants and a couple of inns and motels—all low-rise. It looks like the Myrtle Beach I remember from my early childhood, before it got so built up. (I’m dating myself, I know.)

When I was in college, we came here one February day—the advantages of going to college in Florida. The weather was beautiful, high 70s, sunny, but the water was freezing cold still. Back then (the early 1980s) the island was nearly deserted. Few houses, the state park was only a couple of years old. We just parked the “sin den,” as someone christened my 1978 Gold Buick Electra 225 that was big enough to raise a family in, by the side of the road, tromped across the dunes (no worries about protecting them in those days) and laid out our beach towels. We were the only people on the beach. All was fine until I had to go to the bathroom. Like I said, the water was too cold to get in. And I’ve never been one for going behind a bush. I planned to walk back to the car and drive it to the one convenience store on the island and use their bathroom. But the enormous, heavy car was stuck in the sand (now they have signs telling idiots like me not to pull off the side of the road and park). I had to go in the water. I waded in just as far as I had to, did my business and when I came out, my legs were blue from the cold. I huddled under my beach towel, trying to get warm and figure out what to do about the car. I had friends with me and we all had to get back to school that day. Fortunately a nice park ranger cruised by in his Jeep. He stopped and asked if we were the ones stuck in the sand, laughed when we admitted we were and pulled us out for free.

The people here are still nice, though as a friend learned, it now costs $70 to have your car towed out of the sand!

But I’m having no bad days at the beach this trip. Even today, the windblown day, isn’t bad. My poor dog, Prissy the Pomeranian, and I couldn’t take our morning walk on the beach. She’s built so close to the ground that the wind kept blowing sand in her eyes. She tried to walk backwards to keep the sand out, but that didn’t work. After she did her business, right quick, I might add, I picked her up and carried her back to the house. So we’re sitting inside (it’s too windy even to enjoy the porch) with the French doors thrown open. The breeze wafting through the house and the roar of the surf—no longer smooth as glass—are all the inspiration I need.

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