Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sanibel Sunset

I am sitting in a time-share condo on Sanibel Island watching the sun set.  Well, since the building actually faces sort of South South-East, I am watching the effects of the sunset, as the sky goes from blue with brilliant white clouds to pink and purple, and now to a sort of steely blue with some oyster-colored spots.  The Gulf went from  a muted blue-green through silvery-gray, to now a pearly blue that is close to the color of the sky.  Earlier, just before the sun set, there was an enormous cumulus cloud that was directly in the sun's rays, and the reflection of that light on the water left a shining white path as white as it gets at night, when the lack of light leeches all the color from the landscape and the full moon turns the black water bright.

I've been painting the last couple of days, sitting on the porch and looking at the view and painting.  It's a little bit tricky, as there is a Building-Code-Required railing that runs right across my eye-level.  It's a trade-off: it obscures the view, but then I don't fall to my death. 

The last time I was here on Sanibel was some 13 years ago, when my kids were babies and travelling anywahere just ment doing the same jobs in a different location with slightly fewer things to keep the kids safe and occupied.  In that time, Sanibel has hardly changed. A few restaurants have changed hands or closed, there are a few more people on the beaches, but the biggest change has to be the  disappearance of the Australian Pines.

Australian Pines are a a feathery sort of evergreen, that were originally planted as windbreaks.  They gave the island a sort of familiar, homey look to those of us from the Frozen Northland, where we are used to lots of piney woods.  There were quite a few planted along the main road that runs up the length of the island, and they gave the road the feeling of a cathedral, as they arched high overhead.  I remember one night riding in the back seat of an open convertible, laying my head back against the seat and watching the pines go by.  My brother and husband were in the front seat, and because of the acoustics of a convertible, I could hear that they were talking, but nothing they were saying.  It was just another noise, like the sound of the waves on the beach, and I let the wind whip my hair into my eyes as I say the night float overhead.

The trouble with Australian pines on an island on the Gulf of Mexico, however, is that sometimes there are hurricanes.  And Australian pines have what was described to me as a "pancake" root system.  Flat, thin, close to the surface.  Far from being an effective windbreak, they tended to just topple over--especially the large ones that were 100 feet tall or more.  Most of the damage done on Sanibel (as opposed to on Captiva or elsewhere) was not from the hurricane winds themselves, but from the Australian pines flying around.

So, sure, I miss them--they were introduced in the late 1800s and certainly have better claim to being here than most of the people, but with them gone, the island actually looks more tropical and exotic.  I can live with the change.

And now the sun is completely gone.  If I turn around just so, I can see the light of the Sanibel Lighthouse flashing about the building and trees.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

High Tops Are Back?

Men with chainsaws arrived this morning at the place I am staying on Sanibel Island.  Their mission?  To take off the dead branches off the palm trees.  The result?  Instead of gracefully drooping fronds that wave and rattle in the breezes off the Gulf, they all look like this:

No lie.

Farewell, True and Faithful Companion

Those of us who are fans of Doctor Who received sad news yesterday--Elisabeth Sladen, best known to us as "Sarah Jane Smith" passed away yesterday.

Sarah Jane Smith was my first companion, as far as I can recall. Back in the dark days of 1981-82, when the only way to get "Who" was through oddly timed reruns on PBS, I was introduced to the series by my college boyfriend.  I had huge secondhand black-and-white TV in my dorm room, and there we watched Tom Baker and his 90 foot long scarf run from scary monsters and even scarier wobbly sets.  There was such a wonderful theatricality to it all--the show seemed to be barely more than filmed theater.  There were hardly any of the special effects or film tricks that had been developed even by then.  Monsters were extras in costumes--some of them were good costumes, many of them weren't, but they were all evidently people in costumes and it was up to the actors and the audience to conspire in the imaginative act that this was somehow believable.

Sarah Jane was the Doctor's companion way back then, a lovely, kind, and smart presence who was absolutely fundamental in making the series work.  After all, if someone as smart and brave as she was could be overwhelmed by what was happening, then it really was scary.  If she got fooled by the Monster of the Week, what chance did I have against such a thing?

Due to things like, oh, class schedules and the whole being in college thing, my viewing was erratic and possibly the local station stopped carrying it.  I did notice that she was replaced by a different actress who I didn't like as well, and the whole thing was wonderful, but kind of in the deep cultural background.

I came late to Russell T. Davies reboot of the Doctor Who franchise, which meant that I could line up the entirety of Davies reign on Netflix and watch the hell out of some fantastic television.  Loved Christopher Eccleston from the first minute, where his first line was "Run."  It was clear Davies knew what he was doing, and I was along for the ride.

And then he brought Sarah Jane back!  And not just "Sarah Jane," but the real, actual Sarah Jane--Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane!  And she was spunky, and wise, and brave, and everything she had been back in the old series.  But David Tennant wasn't Tom Baker, even though they were both The Doctor.

  And in a lovely ans emotionally believable arc, Sarah Jane wrestled with her disappointment that she had been left behind, worked through her jealousy of Rose, recognized that she had a life of her own that was worth living, and said goodbye.

She also saved the world from Krillitanes and was given back her dog--the frankly pathetic attempt at robotics that Sladen convinced us she could love.

She made a couple of other appearances on the show, notably in the glorious party that was the finale of Season 4, flying the TARDIS home with all the beloved companions of the new series.

She also got her own series, a series which has been hovering just below the top of my Netflix queue for months and months.  We saw some of it in that finale--her computer, her son, and K9.  She even got a visit on her own show from Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, in a two-parter called "Death of the Doctor."

I had no idea she was ill.  The tributes coming from the creative team running Who have been deeply moving.  But I can't help thinking there is a tribute that we will never see.  A bit of background: John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack Harkness in both "Doctor Who" and "Torchwood" was one of the Companions on that giddy flight at the end of "Journey's End."  And Barrowman, being Barrowman, has a "thing" he (reported) likes to do.

He likes to unzip, and display his "meat and two veg" to unsuspecting actors.  Apparently this is something that the "Torchwood" team is all too familiar with.  And he's managed to do it to everyone, and the emphasis is on everyone.  Except Lis Sladen.  I don't know why.  Maybe she was just too much of a lady for him to pull that sort of nonsense with, or maybe she was smart enough to recognize the warning signs and be absent from the unveilings.  I'll never know.  But I suspect, somewhere, John Barrowman will take a moment and bow his head in her honor.

And then drop trou.