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Showing posts from 2020

The Time and Place for Love and Care

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For three weeks now, the Cooley household of two has been in strict, self-imposed isolation.As we isolate, I strive to maintain my sense of place in the world.That place has changed a bit lately.
What I do and decide affects others.I think about that.JS normally cleans our house once a month, but I decided not now – not until the pandemic is over.So I texted her (that’s her preferred mode of communication) to ask if she was okay and if she needed money; I said I could pay in advance for cleaning to be done next Fall or whenever.She texted back that she is good, no worries.
A friend later told me that JS is more concerned about being able to stay away from the virus than she is about money.She was frightened when she saw careless people still vacationing on Captiva.I will check back with her again soon.
I was concerned about my younger brother who lives alone in Tampa, because I had not heard from him or seen activity by him on Facebook for several days.So I called him about a week ago.Tu…

From the Front Lines to Peaceful Isolation

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The coronavirus pandemic makes me think of the Great Blizzard of 1978.  With this pandemic, my husband Tom and I are doing our part by maintaining a strict isolation.  We are staying at home, as far from the problem as possible, so that those on the front lines – the people who work in health care – are not hindered by us.
With the Great Blizzard, I was much closer to the front lines.Although my employer, The Ohio State University, shut down and cancelled classes for the first time in its history, the Student Health Center (along with the university hospitals) was the exception.We, the health center employees, were told to report to work because an outbreak of influenza had begun on campus, and sick students were coming to the center in spite of the horrible wintry weather.  I was a student as well, working to put myself through college.
The worst of the storm in Columbus happened overnight, as I recall.My neighbors and I woke up to about another foot of snow on the ground, on top of…

On Orchids: Musings by a non-expert

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I am not an expert in orchids.  Nor do I want to be.

My husband, Tom, started buying orchids many years ago, mostly from the garden center at the home improvement supply store.  He would bring these green friends home, and we would enjoy their company for a while.  But neither one of us would do much to care for them.  When we left for summer travels, we put the orchids out in the trees and wished them luck.  Almost all of them died.

Then we moved to a different house, in a different neighborhood.  I discovered that the pool cage at the new place is ideal for orchids.  This discovery was accidental, since I am not an expert in orchids.


Although they look good at first, the orchids from the home improvement store are poorly potted.  In the pool cage, the pots collected rainwater because they had no drain holes!  The orchids were drowning after every rain.  Inside the drainless pots, the orchids were crammed into cheap plastic pots that did have drain holes but were ugly and surely unco…

A step on the path to zero-emission electricity

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The Cooley household just received its ballot for voting on trustees for the Lee County Electric Cooperative board.  To my surprise, there is a contest on the ballot; two people are running for one seat.  That usually does not happen; these elections are generally uncontested.

The incumbent has a background in real estate and development with a B.S. degree in business administration from the University of Florida.  He has served on the LCEC board of trustees for 23 years.

The other candidate for the position is an electrical engineer, with experience in directing municipal utilities.  He's taught at Brown University, Northeastern University, Boston University, the Florida Institute of Technology, and more.  He has a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Alexandria University, and both master's and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from Northeastern University, according to the bio that accompanied the ballot.

Being a science writer who worked for a research insti…

A Brilliant Idea

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On our islands, we love to complain about the electric company because of inexplicable or unexpected, but generally brief, power outages.But complain as we do, we are actually fortunate to have the electric company that we do, because we, the consumers, own it:the Lee County Electric Cooperative, or LCEC.
Some people have to buy their electricity from a big corporation, and some have to buy it from their local government.We buy from ourselves, essentially.It is true that LCEC buys almost all of its power from Florida Power and Light (FPL).But there is a tiny percentage generated by solar panels on homes and businesses within the 5-county LCEC service area.
That’s right – five counties.LCEC started in 1940 when a citrus grower in North Fort Myers sold his power plant to the first co-op members in the North Fort Myers area.Since then, the service area has steadily grown to include parts of Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Collier, and Broward counties.
I was one of several Sanibel leaders who …

Ghost forests are not all bad

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A ghost forest is an area of dead or dying trees.  Ghost forests that are appearing in coastal Florida these days are generally caused by rising sea level -- the increasing intrusion of salt water into a habitat that once supported trees that were not so salt- or water-tolerant. The trees die, leaving only their upright, dead skeletons -- called snags -- and eroded roots behind.

But there is a ghost forest area on Silver Key in Sanibel that was caused more directly by humans.  Years ago, the City of Sanibel killed the invasive exotic Casuarina (Australian Pine) trees on Silver Key.  Many of the snags have now fallen, but some remain, and a few of them support osprey nests.

The remaining salt marsh on Silver Key appears to be thriving.  Much of it is savanna-like.  Part of it is wooded with sea grapes and buttonwoods.  And then there's the beach side of Silver Key, which is in a constant state of change.

Where the beach meets the wooded area is a bit of the other kind of ghost fore…

Living off the land while leading

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My friend Yvonne Hill recently convinced Sanibel's Island Cinema to show the movie "Harriet."  This superb movie is full of riveting moments and inspiring drama.  The setting for much of the action was a land that is much like parts of the western half of Sanibel:  mostly flat, interspersed with brackish tidal waters and marshy woodlands.

How did Harriet Tubman survive, traveling through that tough wilderness, I wondered?  The movie, wonderful as it is, does not really cover this subject.

Even on a small, 3.5-acre tract of upland and lowland wetland woods that my husband and I once owned on Sanibel, we would become disoriented as we wandered through the dense foliage.  What kept us from becoming completely lost was the sound of traffic on Sanibel-Captiva Road.

But Harriet had no traffic noise to orient her.  Instead, she relied upon her knowledge of nature.
The place where she was enslaved as a child is now in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore …

Mangroves make the world a better place

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In these days of concern about climate change, we often hear about the importance of forests for storing carbon.  Worldwide, mangroves account for storage of more carbon than almost any other kind of forest on earth.  I wrote about mangroves in this blog four years ago.  Since then, a study published in 2018 has shown that the earth’s mangrove forest soils hold 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000 – far more than previously estimated.[1]

Florida, according the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has 554,515 acres of mangroves.[2]  About 11,000 of those acres are on Sanibel.

Besides sequestering carbon, these mangroves around us are stabilizing our shorelines. Their root systems slow the flow of the water, causing sediments and nutrients to settle and form a foundation for marine life.

Mangroves are important to fish.  The Florida Museum affiliated with the University of Florida tells us that “an estimated 75% of the game fish and 90% of the commercial species in south Florida are dep…

Walking the ever-changing beach

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I begin my morning walk by just ambling down the lane on the hushed and heavily wooded Porpoise Point, heading south along the aptly named Coconut Drive.  On breezy days like this, I avoid walking directly beneath the taller, fruit-laden coconut trees.
One day last week, a cannonball-size coconut fell to the pavement right in front of my car as I drove home on Coconut Drive.The impact was so great that a gush of coconut water shot up from the cracked husk.I felt blessed that I was no longer driving a Miata, but a CX-3 instead.
As I began my walk this morning, I thought about which route to take.On a windy day, I might not opt to walk on the beach because I do not wish to be sandblasted. Being sandblasted hurts.But this morning was simply breezy in a blustery way.When I could see Sunset Bay as I passed the cute, old beach cottages across from Castaways Lane, I could see the exposed sandbar.Hmmm. Tide is low, I thought.In spite of the breeziness, I decided to walk the beach.
I could he…

Providing Sanctuary

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Last weekend, I finished my most favorite volunteer job ever:  a one-year term as moderator of the Congregational Church on Sanibel Island.  The moderator leads the church council, the governing body of the church.  In our church, one prepares for being moderator by first serving a year as vice moderator.  So this was really a two-year stint.
My first thought, when it came time to prepare my “Year in Review” comments for last Sunday's annual meeting, was to do what I’d done before when I’d led nonprofit organizations:go through the year’s reports, minutes, news releases, calendar, etc., and write a summary.
But the church annual report already had brief and informative reports from each of the committees, the deacons' board, and the church council.  I urged church members to take them home, read them, and think about how they’d like to be involved with the church in the years to come.
So instead of trying to summarize those summaries, I wanted to talk about just three things that…

Can Sanibel Walk the Walk?

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After hearing dozens of citizens complaining loudly about the air pollution and noise emitted by gas-powered leaf blowers, the Sanibel City Council reacted by merely reducing the hours that these devices can be used by commercial landscapers and city employees.  Because a few landscapers do not want their workers to wait until 9AM to start working, they have replaced the gas-powered blowers with more environmentally friendly electric ones.

That ordinance was passed by the Council in December, but even as the Council members passed it, they acknowledged that they need to do more to reduce or eliminate the use of these pollution spewing machines.

In January, they shocked the citizens by doing as little as possible: they passed a resolution to "encourage individuals and businesses to voluntarily use environmentally friendly alternatives to gas-powered landscape equipment, including electric and battery equipment, in addition to manual tools."

I thought that this request for vol…