- To the Keys
- Highway 1
- Big Pine Key
- Key West 1
- Key West 2
- Coral Castle
- Lake Okeechobee
- Vero Beach
Civilized Pleasures in Vero Beach
Sheila and her parents, Russ and Stasia, have a condo on the barrier island part of Vero Beach, between the ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. You can see the ocean from their third floor patio and a grand walking beach is only 50 yds down a boardwalk and path. In Florida, I gather that property owners on the beach can control access to the beach in front of their property, but can't block off the beach itself. In Key West, this results in pretty limited access since so much of the beach is narrow and opens off the lobby of resort hotels, but in Vero Beach you can walk for miles. At this time of year, most of the gulls, white pelicans and sandpipers have already gone north for the summer, but it's still lots of fun to watch the (year-round) brown pelicans cruising and diving for fish. And there are quite a few shells to find.
This was supposed to be the lazy, sleeping-in-and-watching-the-ocean part of my vacation (which is why I don't do the sunrise walk that Sheila does every day), but we still found plenty to do. Strolling or driving around is nice, this part of town is covered with a canopy of wonderful old Live Oak and a variety of palms, with the occasional Norfolk Island Pine rising above it. The oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus and impatiens are in full bloom and the mocking birds are singing all around. The houses are large, attractive and well-cared for, but a lot of them are empty right now because it is the end of the "snow bird" season and just like some of the birds, winter visitors are heading back north.
Still there were a few end-of-season cultural events to participate in. At the Vero Beach Museum of Art, we took in two excellent shows. One was the Thirteenth National Exhibition of the American Society of Marine Artists. This show included everything from idyllic seascapes to stormy impending ship wrecks to industrial port scenes to brilliantly lit ice bergs, rendered in oil, water color, chalk, acrylic and probably a few other media.
The other show was a magnificent collection of Hudson River School paintings belonging to the Manoogian family of Detroit and Grand Rapids, MI. (Here's an excellent article -- with pictures of some paintings -- about the show, "A Wilder Image Bright: Hudson River School Paintings from the Manoogian Collection," by the director of the museum, John Z. Lofgren. Apparently some members of the Manoogian family winter in Vero Beach, thus the connection.
These landscape paintings, done between about 1840 and 1880 are characterized by almost agonizing attention to detail, a feeling of great spaciousness and amazing renditions of light and shadow. They depict mostly woodland and river, both tropical and temperate, and a few are seascapes. Most are also quite literal in their representation of specific places, but many are romanticized and the later paintings begin to creep into the impressionist school. This exhibit was beautifully presented, with excellent and educational descriptions of the paintings and the artists and how they relate to the Hudson River School in general. If it ever comes to a town near you, be sure to go. I also understand that when not touring, many of the paintings are on display at various places in Michigan, so if you go there, check it out.
One other interesting thing in the Vero Beach Museum is a recent acquisition -- a Deborah Butterfield bronze sculpture of a standing horse, almost life-size, cast from a construction of birch sticks and branches. (Here are some nice photos of her work.) Portlanders will recognize the style, if not the name, of the sculptor, as the creator of the bronze horses on either side of the road leaving the Portland International Airport. The ones that tell you you're home.
Another thing I did in Vero Beach was shop. Sheila and I had gone to the world-famous Key West Hand Print Fashions, "Original Hand Print Fashions by Local Key West Artists Since 1961," where Sheila had found a nice, bright, oh-so-Florida outfit of clam-diggers and top (with bead fringe, hubba, hubba) and a shift, but I didn't find anything. So we went all around "the Village" in Vero, looking at clothes and trying them on with no luck -- either things didn't fit or I just couldn't face the price. Eventually Sheila took me to Anthony's where there were many perfect things and they were ALL ON SALE! So now I have shorts in colors like Caribbean and watermelon and shirts to mix and match and one Florida dress, fairly subdued, but full of fishies and waves. Stasia says, "Now they'll know you've been to Florida!" So look out when I get home.
One final cultural event we attended was held at the Indian County Library (I think) and was a film documentary of a young couple's tour of the Everglades in the late 50s or early 60s, called "Everglades Odyssey." I'm sorry to say I forgot to find out much of anything more specific about it and I took no notes while there because it was so engrossing. This young couple, he a naturalist, she a journalist, canoed around the Everglades and out to Big Pine Key, mapping, establishing camping sites, taking photos and, as a matter of fact, recording themselves on a movie camera for this documentary. Birds, trees, alligators, snakes, creepy hanging vines, special meals of freshly chopped hearts of palm, all were documented in loving detail. They were particularly proud of their Key Deer sighting, as well they should be. At that time there were very few of the deer around. The entire trip was quite an accomplishment and if I find the information I will give them appropriate credit later. (This is later. Their names were Barbara Home Stewart and Orin Fogle. They graduated from college in the early 50s and made their trip of 2-1/2 years in the late 50s. Other than that the Internet is a bust. If you want to know more, it probably will take a visit to a real library.)
I have quite a few more things to tell you about Vero Beach and surrounds, but I will be moving on tomorrow to visit a cousin and I don't think there is a computer available there. You may have to wait until I get back to Portland in about a week before I finish this journal.
But I would like to close with a brief story Russ and Stasia told me about the mother of one of their contemporaries who also kept a journal while making the grand tour of the continent in the very early 20th century. One memorable entry from India reads: "The weather was poor, so we spent the afternoon shopping for rubies." I didn't shop for rubies, even though it rained today, but I did learn some things about treasure recovered from the sea -- coins and jewels that give this section of Florida the name "Treasure Coast." Be watching for it.