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.