They say that a photo should have a clear subject. It should tell a story. I’m not sure what you may think is the subject of the feature photo. People on the rocks, speeding in boats, flying through the air? All of the above? Or maybe the real story is that I just got home and I’ve spent over an hour just getting my photos from the camera and into the computer, and I’m too tired to do more of them. But this one should give you a clue of the fun to be had at Longboat Key. I had such a good time, but it’s also nice to be home.
I will be among the missing for a day or three while I catch up with an old friend in a perfectly delightful setting. This is new territory for me and I’ll be taking lots of pictures, but I didn’t bring my laptop so for now I’ll just pass along an iPhone photo from our walk on the beach. My young self would never have imagined that Maddie and I would be spending this day in this place all these years later, but here we are, and how lucky we are to be here.
It wasn’t easy trying to get to the site of the festivities in Tarpon Springs the other day, what with so many streets blockaded and such. Eventually I realized that I was close enough to where I was supposed to meet my son to just park (legally) on one of the side streets and walk to the meeting point. That worked well. The trick came when I had to walk back to my car with only a vague notion of where it was parked. I walked the side streets and parking lots to get there, and to my amazement I came across the lovely mural of Mother Meres tucked away on one of those side streets. Of course I took a picture and Googled her story once I got home.
It seems that Mother Meres was born Amelia Petzold Meres in Germany in 1845, and came to the US as a child of 5. In 1882 she moved to Tarpon Springs with her husband and she ran the Fern Hotel there. According to a story published in the Tarpon Springs Tribune this mural was dedicated in her honor in 2010, 84 years after her death in 1923. It credits her accomplishments as planting cyads, which eventually gave the Tarpon Springs Cycadia Cemetery it’s name. She threw the first Christmas Party in the area, and helped to plant trees to beautify the town. If I had done my homework I would have found the Kapok Tree Inn and taken a picture because she is credited with providing the seeds for the tree that gave it it’s name.
After her death in 1923 her gardens became a gathering place for the town, but they were mostly turned into parking lots in the 1950s. So this mural was created to thank her for lasting gifts her love of plants and nature have left for the town all these years later.
This statue sits in front of the library so I thought that it’s story was probably self-explanatory. But what a lovely statue it is, I wish I’d taken time for a few more pictures but we were rushing to the waterfront for the main event of the day. It seems there is more to Tarpon Springs than just the sponge docks…
Sping Bayou is a small park with a lovely lake in a older, upscale neighborhood in Tarpon Springs. I imagine it’s a rather quiet place on any other day than yesterday, because it was the Greek Orthodox celebration called the Epiphany, and it’s cause for quite a celebration in this proud Greek town. In fact this was the 115th celebration, and in this year of COVID it was a drastically scaled down event. It was reported that only half of the 800 parishioner passes to view the event had been handed out, so as my first time to view it gave me a better view than normal since my son had passes for us to attend. We didn’t attend the four hour mass to start the day, and the procession from the church to the park happened more quickly than usual, so we found ourselves in the midst of what is the main event of the day earlier than most of us expected. Each year a cross is blessed and thrown into the water, and this year there were 55 16-18 year old boys of the parish who dove into the water to try to retrieve the cross and bring honor to their families.
As you see in the feature photo, we arrived to see the arches where the divers would pass under to take their places on the dock. They would first jump into the water and swim to the waiting boats, and from there they would dive in and try to retrieve the cross as it was tossed. As you see below, safety was a big concern with a rescue boat and divers in full scuba gear in the water to keep the boys safe.
The police presence was felt, but they were mostly giving directions, and as you see there were mounted police of every description there to help.
Soon we saw the boys in their white tee shirts walking under the golden cross to take their places.
The priest blessed the cross, blessed the water, and asked God to protect us all during this time of COVID.
And then came the moment for the boys to jump into the water and swim to the boats to be ready to try to be the lucky one to retrieve the cross.
As they all kept jumping in I understood the need for the drivers to be there, but they safely made it into the boats and soon it was time. I concentrated on the priest to try to catch the moment when he threw the cross, but I was a second too soon. My son had told me that there would be a release of a dove, which I also managed to miss.
Here they all are, swimming for the cross, and the moment that I first saw that someone had come up with it. It only took a few seconds.
Now wrapped in towels the boys hoisted the winner onto their shoulders and paraded him back to the church while the last of the boys were still climbing the ladder out of the water. This year there were no concessionaires there to tempt us with their great Greek food. Not so much of a festival atmosphere. But the tradition was respected, and if the prayers are answered the celebration will continue en force next year.
The tiger in my feature photo was snoozing the entire few minutes that I stood there taking his picture. I’ve only watched him pace before, pace and pace, and it distressed me to see him so full of tension. But not always apparently, so that made me feel better.
And I sought out the snow leopard because he is a usual favorite and I didn’t get to see him last time. I thought he always slept on one of the branches in his enclosure, but he was in a different spot. I checked the photos in the camera and thought that my camera was not ignoring the mesh fence so I was disappointed. But what I was seeing was the shadows from the mesh ceiling of the enclosure. It was probably noon when I got to the zoo that day, and that wasn’t a good thing. The sun was higher, casting shadows, and the parking lot was maxed out and you had to drive around hunting for a parking spot. Earlier is better.
I forced myself to walk the rest of the zoo and I took a few pictures but the lure of the orangutans was awfully hard to resist.
The giraffe wasn’t cooperating so this photo will have to do.
But I can’t help myself, it’s always going to be about the orangutans for me. Mother and baby spent a long time huddled off in the shadows with another adult. I took pictures without knowing for sure if they were even facing us. I did get a few shots though. It was a good day.
The informative onlooker wasn’t at the orangutan enclosure on this trip, so based on what she has told me in the past I believe that that’s grannie’s hand, giving her daughter an encouraging pat to let her know she is doing a great job with her little one. We all could use a little encouragement now and then.
Charley used to quote his grandmother frequently, and one of his favorites was “All this laughing is going to end in a cry.” He would roll it out when the kids were having a lot of fun and getting a little wound up in the process. That didn’t come to mind while I was at the zoo taking pictures of the baby orangutans, but it sure did later when I was checking the photos out and remembering their antics and the reaction of the crowd as we watched. They had props, several tee shirts and a black sack of some kind, and watching them attempting to put on the tee shirts and putting the bag over their heads was hilarious. The humans were laughing anyhow, and as far as I could tell nobody cried.
I thought this last picture was a fitting way to say goodbye to a year that none of us would have believed was heading our way last new year. Turning the page feels especially good this year…