New Settings, New Thoughts

Kate Flora: Travel is one way I keep from getting stuck in familiar old ruts–the same IMG_9338house, office, routes, books that surround me. At the moment, we’ve just arrived on Sanibel Island, on the Gulf Coast of Florida after a long drive down from New England. We’ve done this drive before, and so we’re interested to see what has changed. Some years, we leave mountains of snow and return to mountains of snow. Sometimes we see the effect of winter storms on states to the south. Sometimes, as is the case this year, trees as far north as Washington are buddings, their tips red with the anticipation of spring.

One question that kept occurring to my husband and me: where are the birds? Usually once we get into the Carolinas, and certain through Florida, there are lovely birds along the roadside. This year? Very few. And somewhat disconcerting to a crime writer, most of the birds circling overhead are vultures.

Our frequent companion on the journey is Charles Dickens. One audio Dickens novel (30+ hours) is long enough for a journey to California and back, so it is likely that when we’re not working at the places we’ve designated our “desks” here in a house set up for vacation, not writing, we’ll sit by the pool and listen to more of David Copperfield while the crows argue in the palm trees and busy flocks of pink-beaked white ibis peck at the ground outside the pool cage.

1sR93+IkR7CkbPm5NZ3ZKASince writers are especially attuned to people’s looks and behavior–we have to be to continue to create different and distinct characters–it is interesting to relocate to a new place with a new population. For a few days, we were in Naples, where we went to “seafood night” at the yacht club. Lots of fancy clothes, including entire glittery outfits. More makeup on some of the women than I’ve worn in the last twenty years. Their hair is “done.” The dresses, no matter the wearer’s age, are shorter and tighter. The gentlemen are mostly in sports jackets, except for the young ones, but there are fewer ties, and some of those are far more colorful than those in staid New England.

Driving habits, too, are different. Although Massachusetts drivers have a reputation for bad driving, here tailgating and passing on the right seem very common, and we are informed that the influx of new people in Naples has imported the habit of honking. Since there are many, many four-way stops, the sound of the horn in often heard in the land.

One benefit of long hours in the car is the chance to ponder on plot ideas. When the current WIP is sent off, I’ll need a new story in the series. Pondering on a new serial killer gave rise to the question: Can you get DNA from cremains? Answer: it depends. And there is also a clue that came to me in a dream: where is Kitty’s ring?

Naples is a city of very fancy cars. The vegetation is different. I’m looking forward to my month among people from all over the country, and Canada, and to a lot of nosy people watching. I’ll keep you posted about what I learn.



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3 Responses to New Settings, New Thoughts

  1. Sandra Shea says:

    Loved this post! Felt like I was along for the trip. Thanks.

  2. susanvaughan says:

    Kate, thanks for this post. I just returned from that same area, but on Marco Island. I too felt re-invigorated by the change of scene. Interesting wildlife and the serenity of the beach. No fancy dinner for us at a yacht club, though. For a great walk and lots of birds, I recommend the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, a little south of Naples off Rt 41. GPS can find it. Early morning is best to see lots of birds and maybe spot an alligator.

  3. Julianne Spreng says:

    Birds are taking a hit from pesticides, loss of food sources (see first item), habitat loss, feral or invasive predators, and changing weather patterns. It’s a sorry statement on our general lack of concern for any other species besides human.

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