Sounds of a Quiet Morning  

  

Living on a large lake in Palm Beach County, Florida, we get to experience a variety of natural and man-made sounds every morning. 

Since New Year’s Day fell this year on a Saturday, we had an unusual treat early in the morning.  Depending on the direction of the wind, we normally hear either the hum of the cars and trucks Florida Turnpike from a mile away to the west or the street noise to the east where cars love to drag race or show off their noisy mufflers. 

Weekends are usually quieter because there are no school buses and less traffic in general.  On New Year’s morning, when we went out to have our early breakfast on our second-floor balcony, we were amazed to see how still everything was.  There was not even a slight breeze, so the lake beneath us was like a mirror.  At around 6:30 am, the colors of the sky were just beginning to appear to the east. 

The magnificent colors of the early morning sky

Due to the lack of cars and trucks early that morning on the Turnpike, the sounds of our resident bird population were heard without any competition.  The limpkins were much louder than usual.  Their “crying bird” call coming from across the lake sounded like they were right in our backyard. 

Our noisy friend, the limpkin

Next to appear were the small flocks of Muscovy ducks whose familiar quacking announced their daily morning flight back to our lake. 

Muscovy duck

Once they arrive, they move around the lake by flying very close to the surface, so close in fact that you often hear and see the wings flapping against the water as they take flight.  Since the lake had no movement, this sound was even more distinct than ever.

From a distance, the noisy chatter of the Egyptian geese came next.  They are a relatively new arrival on our lake.  They live in large groups and their early morning honking will wake up even the deepest sleeper. 

The very noisy Egyptian geese

By 7:30 am, the sky was ablaze with orange and pink tones.  At that time, we normally see the egrets,

Egret

herons,

Heron in the early morning sky

an occasional roseate spoonbill,

Roseate spoonbills

and flocks of skittish ibises. With the exception of a short call by a heron, these lake residents are relatively quiet. 

But, at exactly 8 am, the man-made sounds began to infringe on our tropical splendor.  First, the drone of the leaf blower from the parking lot of the recreation center down the block.  Then, the roar of the lawn mowers from different points on the lake. 

At that point we could see that our sanctuary had disappeared.  We had to escape to our indoor quiet so that we could remember how peaceful the past hour had been.   

Our lake on a quiet cloudy morning

Going to the Beach in the Winter

Last summer, I wrote about one of our favorite activities during our Pandemic “staycation.”  From June to September we went very frequently to our closest public beach, about 20 minutes from our home.  If we arrived early in the morning before 9 am, we were guaranteed a parking space.  At that hour, the air temperature was still in the mid-70s but gradually the ocean temperature rose up to 86 degrees. 

It was sunny and we had the beach almost all to ourselves.  We could do our morning walk along the coast with multi-million-dollar mansions set back in the grassy dunes.

One of many mansions along the ocean

There were some weeks that we went there every day of the week. 

As the seasons changed, we stopped going to the beach because we resumed our normal walking routine with our neighbors within the community.  It also took too long to get to the beach because of the early morning school bus activity. 

When this morning I suggested to my wife that we go to the beach, we decided to make it a late-afternoon excursion.  Today was a sunny day and the temperature rose into the low 80s, but early in the morning it was “only” 65 degrees, a temperature too cold for my sensitive feet.  And the ocean temperature this time of year is only about 75 degrees, way too cold for my now “thin-blooded” body. I wasn’t even thinking about going swimming!

When we arrived at the beach, the parking lot was filled to capacity and we had to wait a few minutes for a space.  A quick survey of the cars revealed many out of state visitors, normal for this time of year and especially during the Christmas break. 

As we reached the ocean, it was so crowded that we had to find a place to put our beach chairs, something we never have to do during the summer.   We could tell that there were many grandparents with their visiting children and grandchildren. 

Our beach” in the morning during the summer: empty!

After 4 pm, we didn’t realize that the sun had already gone behind the trees and the beach was enveloped in an early sunset shade.  We actually felt a little cold even though the temperature was still in the high 70s!  It was fun watching the seasonal visitors playing in the surf.  They were obviously not feeling the chill that we were. As soon as we finished our dinner, we decided to pack up and left the beach.  We both felt comfortable getting into our nice warm car.   

It reminded me of past winters here in Florida.  When the temperatures occasionally go down into the 50s and even sometimes into the 40s, we bring out our winter coats, sweaters, gloves, hats and scarves!   We would see some of our “snowbird” neighbors from Canada walking in their t-shirts and shorts. Just as we wondered about how they were dressed, they were probably looking at us as weirdos.  

It all depends on what you get used to!    

You never know what you’ll see at the beach!

The First Day of Winter – Florida Style

I’ve never been a great fan of winter.

Winter scene

Growing up in New Jersey, I was always uncomfortable in the cold. Growing up in a poorly insulated house, I can remember complaining to my parents that I just couldn’t warm up.  On cold days, I would seek refuge in the cold basement where I would lean against the oil furnace which helped me manage to get through the cold, dreary months. 

At the age of 30, I jumped at the opportunity to relocate in Florida.  I can still remember the day it happened.  With two infants already in their car seats in the middle of a snowstorm, the oldest had a particularly leaky diaper blowout.  After going back inside to change the diaper, we had one of those “What are we doing here?” moments.  The next day, when I found an advertisement for a position in a newly created clinic in West Palm Beach, I knew we had to make the right decision.

The process of getting used to the tropical climate didn’t take me long at all.  The summer we moved down to Florida was an exceptionally rainy one.  That’s where we learned how the torrential downpours can be seen in the distance. 

Rain in the distance

It can be sunny where you are, but down the road as you see the bright headlights coming towards you, you know you are heading into a storm.  Sometimes the rainfall can be so heavy that your windshield wipers can’t even keep up with the volume and many people pull off to the side of the road to wait it out.  It’s the Florida version of blizzard conditions.

As the “winter” approached, we began to experience the cooler mornings when the temperature actually went down into the 50s.  When I realized I was complaining about the cold, I knew I had adjusted to Florida.  My blood was properly “thinned,” as they say here to indicate that you had finally made the transition and you have the right to complain about feeling cold when the high temperature for the day doesn’t even reach 70 degrees. 

Dressed up in winter clothes

Now that I have been living here for more than 40 years, I am considered almost a native. On the days when the morning temperatures are down into the 50s and rarely even into the 40s, we bring out our winter sweaters, coats, gloves and scarves.  We laugh when look at ourselves, dressed in multiple layers of winter warmth and our Canadian neighbors pass us by jogging in their shorts.  We’re freezing and they’re loving the heat wave.

There are some days that my hands and feet just don’t warm up.  I wear foot warmers to sleep comfortably and socks most of the time to deal with the cold tile floors.  Occasionally my hands remain cold, despite washing them repeatedly in warm water. I remember when I was working as a pediatrician, I had to apologize before examining a patient’s warm abdomen or they would jump off the exam table.  I added silly phrases like “cold hands, warm heart” to my apology. 

My outdoor plants at this time of year, however, are loving the cooler weather.  They are going through a big growth spurt during this season, producing new leaves and flowers.

My collection of orchids that I have accumulated over the years, however, look pathetic.  Their last blooms fell off at least four or five months ago, leaving the plants with non-descript nakedness.  With scheduled feedings and a careful avoidance of fatal over-watering, I have managed to keep them alive year after year.

While several of my Christmas cactus plants are in full bloom,

Christmas cactus, in full bloom

the adjacent orchids have been biding their time until the simple looking plants start to produce new shoots.  Almost every day for the past week, I have been watching for new buds on one plant after another.  I get so excited when these new shoots appear.

The early bud of an orchid

 I feel a sense of renewed optimism when I see the first sign of growth.  I know that they will turn into a stalk of 15-20 delicate flowers with such amazing detail and beauty within a few months. 

View of our lake in the morning

We often read that it nourishes your soul to express gratitude early in the morning for the simplest things in life.

View from my patio

When I give thanks daily for the warm December mornings and for the early signs of growth on my beloved orchids, you know that I’m thrilled to be living here in Florida.         

Fotógrafo Invitado: Steve Roth

El segundo de mi serie de “Fotógrafos invitados” es Steve Roth, miembro del Boynton Beach Camera Club. He tenido el privilegio de ser miembro de BBCC desde 2015 cuando me retiré de la práctica de la pediatría. Dado que he aprendido mucho del club sobre cómo mejorar mis habilidades fotográficas, decidí presentar los asombrosos logros de otros miembros.

En su vida profesional anterior, Steve fue arquitecto en el área de Miami. Creció en Nueva York, pero vino a Miami a mediados de la década de 1960. Se mudó al condado de Palm Beach en 2007 y, además de la fotografía, sigue activo jugando al golf.

Cuando Steve me envió 15 de sus imágenes favoritas para elegir mis favoritas, me pareció una tarea difícil. Su estilo muestra una edición de precisión con atención al más mínimo detalle en el uso de la luz natural.

Dahlia Bonita


“Dahlia Bonita” luce los detalles de los pétalos de una flor ligeramente blanquecina. A menudo es difícil mantener un enfoque perfecto en un primer plano de una flor, pero Steve lo logra muy bien.

Madre e Hijo

“Madre e hijo” fue tomada en Bali. Los macacos que deambulan libremente por la isla son excelentes sujetos. Me encanta este retrato de la madre con su bebé aferrado a ella porque ambos miran directamente al fotógrafo.

Mercado Flotante Tailandés

La captura de Steve del proveedor en el “mercado flotante tailandés” muestra su capacidad para posicionarse físicamente para lograr el máximo impacto fotográfico.

Niña de las Flores Vietnamita

Su imagen de la “Niña de las Flores Vietnamita” capta la calidez de una típica escena callejera con flores de colores brillantes que contrarrestan la blancura pura de su vestido.

Madre y Recién Llegado

En “Madre y Recién Llegado”, Steve ha atrapado al polluelo de garza recién nacido bajo la atenta mirada de su madre.

Estudiante Camboyana

Mi foto favorita del portafolio de Steve es su retrato de una niña camboyana en su salón de clases. Esta imagen, tomada con la luz disponible a través de una ventana abierta, cuenta una hermosa historia de la atención de un estudiante a su maestra.

Steve gana muchas de las competencias mensuales en nuestro club de cámaras. Constantemente se merece las puntuaciones más altas y nos muestra constantemente su gama completa de temas fotográficos.

Quiero agradecer a Steve Roth por permitirme entrevistarlo para mi blog. Mi próximo fotógrafo invitado será Herb Zaifert.

Guest Photographer: Steve Roth

The second in my series of “Guest Photographers” is Steve Roth, a fellow member of the Boynton Beach Camera Club.  I have had the privilege of being a member in BBCC since 2015 when I retired from practicing pediatrics.  Since I have learned so much from the club about improving my photographic skills, I decided to feature the amazing accomplishments of other members.

In his previous professional life, Steve was an architect in the Miami area.   He grew up in New York but came down to Miami in the mid-1960s.  He moved to Palm Beach County in 2007 and in addition to photography, remains active playing golf. 

When Steve sent me 15 of his favorite images to choose my favorites, I found it to be a difficult task.   His style displays precision editing with attention to the finest detail in his use of natural light. 

Beautiful Dahlia

“Beautiful Dahlia” shows off the details of the petals of a slightly off-white flower.   It is often difficult to maintain perfect focus in a close-up of a flower, but Steve pulls it off very well.

Mother and Child

“Mother and Child” was taken in Bali.  The macaques freely roaming throughout the island are excellent subjects.  I love this portrait of the mother with her baby clinging to her because both are staring straight at the photographer. 

Thai Floating Market

Steve’s capture of the vendor in the “Thai Floating Market” shows his ability to physically position himself to achieve the utmost photographic impact. 

Vietnamese Flower Girl

His image of the “Vietnamese Flower Girl” catches the warmth of a typical street scene with the brightly colored flowers offsetting the pure whiteness of her dress.

Mother and New Arrival

In “Mother and New Arrival,” Steve has caught the newly hatched heron chick under the careful eye of his mother. 

Cambodian Student

My favorite picture from Steve’s portfolio is his portrait of a Cambodian girl in her schoolroom.  This image, taken with available light through an open window, tells a beautiful story of a student’s attention to her teacher.

Steve wins many of the monthly competitions in our camera club.  He consistently deserves the highest scores and is constantly showing us his full range of photographic subjects. 

I want to thank Steve Roth for allowing me to interview him for my blog.  My next guest photographer will be Herb Zaifert. 

¡He vuelto!

Después de un descanso muy necesario de escribir dos y, a veces, tres publicaciones cada semana durante un año, ¡he vuelto!

Este jueves, presentaré el talento fotográfico de Steve Roth en mi serie continua de “Fotógrafos Invitados”.

Durante los próximos meses, también escribiré sobre mi reciente viaje a Panamá, el primer viaje al extranjero en casi dos años.

Espero poder compartir con ustedes algunas de mis experiencias mientras disfruto de la vida en el sur de Florida. También disfrutaré dándoles un vistazo a un país que, sorprendentemente, no se encuentra en un lugar destacado en las listas de “visitas obligadas” de muchos viajeros.


¡Manténganse al tanto!

I’m Back!

After a well-needed break from writing two and sometimes three posts every week for a year, I’m back!

This Thursday, I will feature the photographic talent of Steve Roth in my continuing series of “Guest Photographers.”

Over the next few months, I will also be writing about my recent trip to Panama, the first trip abroad in almost two years. 

I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of my experiences while I enjoy life in South Florida. I will also enjoy giving you a glimpse into a country which is surprisingly not high up on many travelers’ “must see” lists. 

Stay tuned!

My Language Partners

One of my favorite pastimes during the Pandemic has been the weekly conversations with two new friends.  Through Conversation Exchange (conversationexchange.com), I have been able to practice French with Michel and Spanish with Sebastian. 

Michel is a French man living in the south of France. Before he retired recently, he was a flutist in the Regional Orchestra of Montpelier, a city about 60 miles away.  He is also a flight instructor.  He loves learning to speak English and he and I have a good time correcting each other’s mistakes. 

Michel lives in the area west of Montpellier in the south of France.

Sebastian is a younger man who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  He works in the financial division of a software security company.   Sebastian has several other “language friends” in the U.S. because he is trying to learn to speak American-style English.   

Sebastian lives in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.

With my language partners, we are not afraid to point out the errors that each one of us makes.   This often leads to some very funny discussions.  With both Michel and Sebastian, the conversation is free flowing; there’s no script or pre-defined lesson.   

Our three languages are full of expressions which often don’t translate well from one to another.  We enjoy explaining the origins of these expressions and their correct usage.  We also try to teach each other how to converse more like native speakers instead of sounding as if we are reciting vocabulary lists.  For example, last week I was telling them how in normal conversation, we use words like “wanna,” “gonna” and “gotta.” 

In addition to practicing a foreign language, it is interesting to notice how one’s mother tongue is so rich in vocabulary and idioms. Now when I talk in English, I am much more aware of the complexity of our language. 

When I speak English, I am much more aware of the complexity of our language.

I have discussed with Sebastian that English must be a very difficult language to learn.   Since Spanish is an almost completely phonetic language, I have often said that most English-speakers think Spanish would be an easy second language.  He is quick to point out that Spanish grammar is full of complex rules with many different tenses and moods (such as the indicative and subjunctive).  He complains that it takes a lot of memorization to remember how to pronounce similarly spelled words like “cough,” “rough,” “dough” and “bough.”  I then remind him how hard it is to learn the genders of new words.

Thank you, Zoom!

Last week, we had an interesting experience.  The three of us arranged to have a Zoom call.  We did it mostly in English, but since Michel understands Spanish, we conversed in Spanish for a few minutes too.  It was a lot of fun connecting three continents while sharing our mutual passion for learning foreign languages.

Conversation Exchange (conversationexchange.com) is a great tool to connect language learners from all over the world. And it’s free!

Mis Socios lingüísticos

Uno de mis pasatiempos favoritos durante la pandemia han sido las conversaciones semanales con dos nuevos amigos. A través de Conversation Exchange (conversionexchange.com), he podido practicar francés con Michel y español con Sebastian.

Mi amigo Michel vive en el sur de Francia, cerca de la ciudad de Montpellier.

Michel es un francés que vive en el sur de Francia. Antes de jubilarse recientemente, fue flautista en la Orquesta Regional de Montpelier, una ciudad a unas 60 millas de distancia. También es instructor de vuelo. Le encanta aprender a hablar inglés y él y yo lo pasamos bien corrigiendo los errores del otro.

Sebastián vive en Buenos Aires, el capital de Argentina.

Sebastián es un hombre más joven que vive en Buenos Aires, Argentina. Trabaja en la división financiera de una empresa de seguridad de software. Sebastian tiene varios otros “amigos de idiomas” en los EE. UU. Porque está tratando de aprender a hablar inglés al estilo estadounidense.

Con mis compañeros de idiomas, no tenemos miedo de señalar los errores que cada uno de nosotros comete. Esto a menudo conduce a discusiones muy divertidas. Tanto con Michel como con Sebastian, la conversación fluye libremente; no hay un guión ni una lección predefinida.

Nuestros tres idiomas están llenos de expresiones que a menudo no se traducen bien de uno a otro. Disfrutamos explicando el origen de estas expresiones y su uso correcto. También tratamos de enseñarnos unos a otros a conversar más como hablantes nativos en lugar de sonar como si estuviéramos recitando listas de vocabulario. Por ejemplo, la semana pasada les dije que en una conversación normal usamos palabras como “wanna” (“quiero”), “gonna” (“voy a”) y “gotta” (“tengo que”).

Además de practicar un idioma extranjero, es interesante notar cómo la lengua materna de uno es tan rica en vocabulario y modismos. Ahora, cuando hablo en inglés, soy mucho más consciente de la complejidad de nuestro idioma.

Cuando hablo en inglés, soy much mas consciente de la complejidad de nuestro idioma.

He hablado con Sebastian de que el inglés debe ser un idioma muy difícil de aprender. Dado que el español es un idioma casi completamente fonético, a menudo he dicho que la mayoría de los angloparlantes piensan que el español sería un segundo idioma fácil. Se apresura a señalar que la gramática española está llena de reglas complejas con muchos tiempos y estados de ánimo diferentes (como el indicativo y el subjuntivo). Se queja de que se necesita mucha memorización para recordar cómo pronunciar palabras deletreadas de manera similar como “cough”(“tos”), “rough” (“tosca”), “dough” (“masa”) y “bough” (“rama”). Luego le recuerdo lo difícil que es aprender los géneros de palabras nuevas.

¡Gracias a Zoom!

La semana pasada tuvimos una experiencia interesante. Los tres acordamos tener una llamada de Zoom. Lo hicimos principalmente en inglés, pero como Michel entiende español, conversamos en español también durante unos minutos. Fue muy divertido conectar tres continentes mientras compartíamos nuestra pasión mutua por aprender idiomas extranjeros.

¡Oye, pelirroja!


Solo me ha llevado 71 años…


Al crecer en los años 50 en Nueva Jersey, siempre me destaqué como la pelirroja de piel pálida. Aunque solía recibir cumplidos todo el tiempo de los amigos de mi madre, lo odiaba.


“¡Oye, Red!” es como la gente siempre me llamaba. No tendrían que recordar mi nombre ya que el rasgo más fácil de identificar era el color de mi cabello.


Al estar tan pálido, era muy propenso a quemarme con el sol. Desde que era muy pequeño, puedo recordar las dolorosas ampollas en mi espalda y hombros cuando no seguí el consejo de mis padres de limitar mi exposición al sol.

¡Puedo recordar esas dolorosas ampollas!

Sí, yo era ese niño en la piscina con la remera blanca. Yo también odiaba eso, pero me condicionó a ser mucho más un niño de interior que una persona de exterior. No puede quemarse con el sol con mucha facilidad cuando está adentro practicando para su lección de piano semanal.


Ahora que soy una persona mayor jubilada, los rizos rojos se han desvanecido, por lo que ya no me llaman “pelirroja”.
Desafortunadamente, cuando era un adulto joven, fui excesivamente cauteloso con el sol. Casi nunca usaba pantalones cortos y prácticamente me quedaba adentro. Sin embargo, a medida que fui creciendo, me di cuenta de que disfrutaba de las actividades al aire libre como el kayak y el tenis. Pero todavía puedo escuchar a mi madre recordándome que no olvide mi sombrero.


En Florida, donde se levanta a mediados de los 90 (~35º C) a media mañana, nuestra rutina al aire libre se ha limitado a las primeras horas de la mañana y la noche. Al final del día, cuando el sol comienza a ponerse, la temperatura baja unos grados y estamos agradecidos cuando baja a mediados de los 80 ( 25-30º C ) .


Durante los últimos 20 años, mi esposa, Meryl, ha intentado que vaya a nadar a la piscina de nuestro vecindario. Tenía todas las excusas bajo el sol (perdón por el juego de palabras) de por qué no quería exponerme.


Pero finalmente este verano, acepté ir temprano en la mañana a la piscina, que es una caminata fácil de cinco minutos a lo largo del lago. De vez en cuando hay otra persona allí, pero la mayoría de las veces tenemos esta hermosa piscina para nosotros solos.

Nuestra piscina comunitaria vacía temprano en la mañana.


La semana pasada, dado que la piscina estaba cerrada por reparaciones, decidimos ir a nuestra playa favorita. Está a solo 20 minutos y, en esta época del año, si llega lo suficientemente temprano, se le garantiza una plaza de aparcamiento. Justo después del amanecer, hay algunos caminantes y corredores serios, e incluso una persona ocasional que practica Tai Chi.

Disfrutamos viendo Tai Chi en la playa poco después del amanecer.


La temperatura del agua está ahora a mediados de los 80 ( 27-30 º C ) . Con la temperatura del aire en el mismo rango, ¡es delicioso! A veces puede haber un crecimiento excesivo de algas, y otras veces, una leve marejada le recuerda que debe tener mucho cuidado.


Pero ayer, ¡las condiciones fueron absolutamente perfectas! El amanecer fue hermoso, las formaciones de nubes fueron increíbles y la humedad fue un poco más baja de lo habitual.


Como suele ocurrir en Florida durante el verano, de repente empezó a llover. Estábamos en el agua a una profundidad de aproximadamente un metro cuando las gotas de lluvia parecían estar bailando en la superficie. Justo más allá de los árboles en la orilla, apareció un arco iris doble, arqueándose sobre todo el cielo occidental.

¡El doble arcoíris fue mágico!


La experiencia de disfrutar del agua tibia combinada con el sonido y la vista de la lluvia fue muy poderosa. No podíamos recordar cuándo habíamos disfrutado tanto en la playa.

¡Solo me ha llevado 71 años apreciar lo que tenemos!

Mi esposa, que solía decir que el calor del verano de Florida era “opresivo”, ha cambiado de opinión por completo. Ahora me saca de casa lo suficientemente temprano para que podamos aprovechar lo que Florida nos ofrece sin costo alguno.


Ahora, cuando pienso que me tomó tanto tiempo disfrutar nadando en la piscina o en el océano, me río de mí mismo. Supongo que nunca es demasiado tarde para apreciar lo que tenemos tan cerca de casa.

Nuestra playa, a solo 20 minutos de nuestra casa.