Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beautiful Shores, a World Apart

It's hard to believe that just a day's travel separates these two beaches:  the one above in the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos, and the one below at Moreau Lake in Saratoga County, New York.  My husband and I just returned on Tuesday from a week's vacation in beautiful Providenciales, the main tourist island of the Turks and Caicos archipelago, to find that winter had arrived at last in northern New York.   We had heard on the news that the temperatures had fallen below the teens here at home, a shocking cold that greeted us as we stepped from our airplane and made our way to our iced-over, snow-covered car in the long-term parking lot at Albany Airport.

I sure heard a lot of grumbling among our fellow travelers, shivering in their sandals and tee shirts, sorry to have left the balmy sun-baked coral shores for the frozen climes of upstate New York.  But I couldn't wait to change into my longjohns and polar fleece and get out into winter, which I did today. How thrilled I was to find Moreau Lake frozen over from shore to shore!

 Each climate has its own kind of beauty, and I can't believe how lucky I am to have had a chance to experience both.  While down in the tropics, we shared a lovely home near the sea with our son and his family, and when I wasn't larking in the pool with my darling grandchildren or basking on the sun-warmed shores of a turquoise sea, I was prowling the wild coppices, sunhat on my head and wildflower guide in hand, seeking to learn what brave plants could withstand this difficult habitat.  The tourists might love the baking sun, the constant trade winds and salt air, but it takes a special kind of plant to tolerate this dry and nutrient-poor environment.  Thanks to the thoughtfulness of our landlady, a marine biologist who learned of my love for plants and left two wildflower guides for my perusal, I was able to identify close to 30 native species.  Some had intriguing names like Bahama Stopper (a deliciously fragrant flower used to treat diarrhea) or Pork and Doughboy (with seedpods that look like sausages), and many had beautiful flowers, such as this glossy-leaved shrub with the fan-shaped flowers, called Ink Berry (Scaveola plumieri).  Most of the native plants had thick waxy leaves like this, the better to preserve their moisture against the blistering heat and drying winds.

Well, we won't find any beautiful flowers like Ink Berry around Moreau Lake this time of year, but I did find some equally stunning "frost flowers" blooming on crystal-clear ice near shore this afternoon. I went to the lake hoping to find the bubbles like stacked silver coins we found last year, but not a trace of them as yet.  These delicate frost crystals, brilliant white against the black ice, were ample compensation.

Down in the tropics, I marveled at the crystal-clear warm waters, which allowed spectacular viewing of the multi-colored fishes and corals as we snorkeled over some reefs.  Even my little grandsons, ages 5 and 7, were delighted to join their dad as they drifted over the spectacular coral "gardens."  Some fish were electric blue, some others a deep jade green with spots of gold and vermilion, and another skinny one that floated vertically in the water was striped a bright white and black.  Son Peter spied a large Grouper hiding among the green, gray, and deep-purple corals.

Once in a while, we're lucky up here to have the lake freeze as crystal-clear as those Caribbean waters, allowing us clear vision of all that lies beneath, as well as what lies within the ice.  That was the case today, as it was just a year ago, when I took this photo of my friend Sue lying down on that ice to photograph the silver bubbles embedded in the glassy ice.

Here's a photo of those ice bubbles we found last year (and we hope to find again this winter, perhaps along another shore).

In Turks and Caicos, as in most other tropical lands, little Anole lizards are ubiquitous, climbing the stucco walls and skittering across the ground-coral paths.  Lightning fast and agile as anything, they were very hard to photograph, despite their constant presence, always darting away before I could focus my camera.  This was the best I could get.

Our native northern Spotted Newts are equally elusive, and you'd think that such a cold-blooded creature would hibernate for the winter, but we often seen them scurrying along the sandy lake bottom, clearly visible when the ice freezes clear as glass.  This photo was taken through ice that was five inches thick.

There's nothing quite so beautiful as the sunset-tinted clouds floating over the sea of a tropical island.  There is rain pouring down from one of those clouds, but rainstorms only last a few moments, and then the sun returns.

Up north,we have storms of a different kind -- and temperature!  It was actually a beautiful, if cold, day when I took this photo a few years ago, just after a snowfall so the trees were adorned with dry snow.  A sudden wind storm that lasted but a few moments whipped up that snow so it looked like smoke rising from the forest. A beautiful sight!


The Furry Gnome said...

Lucky you! Great post comparing worlds!

threecollie said...

How wonderful to love to learn and to take that with you wherever you go. I loved this post.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your nice comments, Furry and threecollie. I put many other photos of plants, animals, and family on my Facebook pages. If you do go on Facebook, ask to "friend" me so I can share those photos with you. Some beautiful and interesting plants and critters, including a moth with fire-red wings and a tiny spider that looks like an itty bitty empanada.