Fred Howard Park

Sometimes an artist has to get away from the studio.  And, what could be farther away for a still life painter than the beach?  Sunday we spent the day at Fred Howard Park.

Howard Park is an incredibly beautiful nature reserve and public park in nearby Tarpon Springs.  Located on 155 acres, the beach area in this photo is located on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, accessible only by a mile long causeway. Although there were several hundred people fishing, swimming, and picnicking at Howard Park that day, the place is so large and well planned that it never feels crowded during the summer.

This time of year, all the visitors are Florida residents looking for relief from the subtropical heat. Luckily, the torrential rains we also experience almost daily in the summer waited until much later in the day to appear.  If you look closely at the palm trees to the far left, you might be able to imagine how very windy it was, but not windy enough to ruin a beautiful day at the beach!

Spending time by the ocean holds special memories for me.  When I was a child, I spent a week each summer at my grandfather's cottage at Hough's Neck Beach in Quincy, Massachusetts.  Now, when I say "cottage," I mean a turn of the century, one room wooden building with a sleeping porch attached on one side and a tiny kitchen and toilet built onto the back. 

The only sink in the cottage was a huge cast iron tub in the kitchen, and the only shower was outside.  Every few years the city would try to condemn the building because of the lack of indoor bathing facilities. So, every few years my grandfather would have to go to the authorities and convince them not to knock the building.

My sweetest childhood memories revolve around that cottage.  I can still smell the musty cot I slept on in that sleeping porch, waking to the sound of sea birds.  Mornings were often spent digging clams.  That was before licenses and limits.  At low tide, we just took our metal pail and pitch fork and dug.  We would then spend the day changing the water in the pail of clams until they were clean enough to eat for dinner.  Steamed clams with butter, and free! Nothing has tasted so good since.

There were no video games or computers then.  I think the one small black and white television got only two channels and was on only for the Ed Sullivan Show once a week.  I spent my time walking the long, curving beach of Hough's Neck day after day, collecting seashells and baby horseshoe crabs until my skin was deep brown.  No, we did not worry about suntan lotion then either.

A day at Fred Howard Park sends me back to decades ago.  Sunday, we brought home a few seashells to put in my jar of shells on the kitchen window.

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