Pippi Longstocking comes to life on Amelia Island, Florida

Villa Vilekulla, Pippi Longstocking
The real Villa Villekulla. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Art often imitates life. It’s more unusual to have it happen the other way around.

On Amelia Island, Florida, art and life have harmonized, especially for one particular children’s fictional character, Pippi Longstocking.

Pippi Longstocking was the brainchild of Swedish children’s author, Astrid Lindgren. She wrote a series of adventures about Pippi that have been read and reread by adoring youngsters around the world. The books have been translated into 64 languages.

Pippi books have been so popular that Hollywood had to join in the fun, too. Several versions of Pippi Longstocking movies have been made.

In 1988, an Americanized version of the original Swedish story was made into a movie, which was filmed entirely on Amelia Island. Island tour guides like to point out various locales where scenes from “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” were shot.

Lighthouse cottage, Pippi Longstocking, Fernandina Beach FL
The lighthouse cottage where Pippi threw the bottle into the ocean.
Most of the scenes were filmed in or near Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island’s only city. The only seashore scene, which was very brief, was filmed just down the beach from where we have stayed on vacation.

When our three grandchildren visited us in Florida near the end of January, they wanted to see some of the locations as depicted in the movie. They had seen the movie, thanks to Nana, who had it on videotape from her teaching days.

Nana packed the tape so the kids could review the various locations in the movie. They watched the light-hearted film, and we were off on our Pippi tour.

Since the setting of much of the book and movie was in Pippi’s dilapidated house, the Villa Villekulla, we headed there first. In previous years, the house looked much the way it appeared in the movie, unkempt, disheveled, and badly in need of a fresh coat of white paint.

Imagine our surprise, and the grandkids’ disappointment, when we found the house being remodeled. A distasteful olive green siding replaced the weathered white clapboards so prominently featured in the film.

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It was evident that the remodeling project was a work in process. The owner had replaced some of the windows of the Victorian-style home. Others were boarded up.

We later learned that the beloved house had been vandalized, purchased, and was being restored with the purpose of giving tours. In the movie, the villain tried repeatedly to obtain the home by deceit so the old house could be demolished and replaced with a moneymaking scheme.

The grandkids were disappointed to learn that the big tree in the side yard where Pippi and her neighbor friends so often played was the convenience of the producer’s imagination. They discovered how movies are produced.

We visited Centre St. in the quaint downtown area, where most of the movie was filmed. The ice cream shop was actually the oldest saloon in Florida. The building Pippi flew her bicycle by just happens to house a toy store named “Villa Villekulla.”

One puzzle remained, however. Where were the orphanage scenes shot? I found the answer after the kids left. Those scenes were filmed at a private school just north of Centre St. Ironically the old brick building originally had been a home for orphans.

When the sun broke through, and the temperatures warmed, our grandchildren’s attention turned from fantasy to reality. They played on the seashore in front of the lighthouse-shaped home where Pippi threw the bottle with a message in it for her father.

Imagination and reality met on the beach. Our grandkids couldn’t have been happier.

Pippi Longstocking, pink sunset
A sunset just the way Pippi would have liked it. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Tall ship angles

tall ship, peacemaker, abstract photography
Tall ship angles. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I had a chance to board and tour a tall ship docked at St. Marys, GA earlier this year. I enjoyed the tour and took several photos of interesting subjects and objects onboard the ship. However, I thought this photo, with its many shapes and angles, was the most interesting. The patterned sky of white and blue provided a distinctive background for the ship’s main mast.

“Tall ship angles” is my photo of the week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Spring’s arrival doesn’t guarantee spring weather

Amish buggy, first day of spring
First day of Spring 2014. © Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Spring has arrived, finally. Didn’t we say the same thing last year at this time?

A year ago after a long, cold, snowy winter, we looked forward to spring’s promise. It was long in coming.

Well, here we are a year later, virtually in the same situation. We’ve endured an even more brutal winter with record-breaking extreme temperatures, dangerous wind chills, and snowstorm after snowstorm.

East of the Mississippi River, it was a winter of biblical proportions. Where three or more gathered, complaints, exasperations, and unmentionable utterances about the lousy weather could be heard far and wide, even in church.

Amish farm, early spring
Waiting on spring. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Schools closed or delayed opening for a multitude of reasons a multitude of times. Local businesses suffered financially.

Even when it wasn’t snowing, the long string of gray days coupled with the dark, frigid ones weighed heavy on people’s spirits. It got so bad that rumors circulated in the statehouse that the all-knowing and all-seeing state legislature was ready to adopt a new motto for Ohio. “I can’t take it anymore” had its second committee reading when Old Man Winter’s grip finally loosened.

Thanks to the second consecutive polar vortex, snow, ice, cold and stinging winds affected folks not used to such stuff. Winter reached far into the southeastern United States.

Snowbirds got their feathers frosted a time or two. Wind chill advisories reached all the way to the southern tip of Florida. Even Key West wasn’t spared.

Amish farmer, plowing
Plowing the snow. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
With the air temperature in the 40s and the winds blowing off of the ocean at gale force, it was cold. Floridians aren’t asking for or expecting any sympathy cards, however.

It is prudent to focus on the passing of the vernal equinox and hope upon hope that the spring weather of 2014 will not repeat this year. My farmer friends need no reminder.

Spring a year ago lasted as long as the frigid winter had. Fields were unapproachable, and crops couldn’t be planted on schedule, not even by horse drawn machinery.

The first cutting of hay for some farmers didn’t happen until early June. I think that was when the last of the snowplow glacial piles finally melted. That’s how cold and wet April and May were a year ago.

Keep calm sign
© Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Let’s hope that there is no replication of that weather pattern this year. Everywhere this winter’s weather pounded, good people are ready for a regular, normal springtime. Nobody can blame them.

It’s nice to see sunrises and sunsets straight east and west morning and evening. I’ll enjoy their slow inch north, and hope that clouds, precipitation, and cold fronts don’t weaken the sun’s warming influence.

Spring will arrive. Forsythias and azaleas have already reached their peak where frost and ice briefly ruled in the south. Crocuses have already bloomed in southern Ohio. Our turn will come.

crocuses
Crocuses. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
I’ll keep my excitement subdued when the buttery daffodils trumpet their glory. I have too many memories of enjoying their sunny spirit one day, and watching them droop from the weight of heavy, wet snow the next.

I hope that doesn’t happen again this year. I also hope that spring behaves itself and brings us the weather we should get.

I realize that severe thunderstorms, hail, lightning, tornadoes, frost and flooding are all part of that package. I also know that daylight will linger longer, and temperatures will gradually warm to near normal.

To get there, however, we’ll simply have to be patient and hope that fairer weather will prevail.

rural sunrise, foggy sunrise
Foggy sunrise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

A sign of spring

gulf fritillary butterfly, sign of spring
Gulf Fritillary butterfly. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

With spring set to arrive officially on Friday at 3:45 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, I thought a splash of natural color would only be appropriate. I captured this Gulf Fritillary butterfly flitting among sand dunes on Main Beach, Fernandina Beach, FL in late January. The white spots on each wing indicate that it was a male.

“A sign of spring” is my photo of the week. Let’s hope we all see many more such signs in the days and weeks ahead.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

In words and deeds, a President humbly true to his faith

Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter
With Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Humility, service, love, family and faith are vital pillars of any stable community. My wife and I enthusiastically witnessed these highest of human qualities at a little Baptist church in Plains, Georgia.

We knew we wouldn’t be the only ones who would want to hear Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school. When the former president is scheduled to teach, the tiny congregation of 30 swells to 10 times that amount, sometimes more.

The good folks at Maranatha Baptist Church know what to do. They are ready for the ensuing onslaught. So are the authorities.

When we arrived at 8:30 a.m. at the modest church that damp, gray Sunday morning, a police dog checked every vehicle entering the property for bombs. Though we were plenty early, a line of people already stretched from the front door, down the cement sidewalk to the parking lot.

By now, former President Carter has developed quite the reputation as a teacher, humanitarian, and world-renowned peacemaker. At age 90, he and his equally gracious wife, Rosalynn, are still putting their faith into action.

Noble Peace Prize, Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize medal. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

My wife and I joined the queue to enter the red brick building. A stern looking woman popped onto the church’s front porch to announce the procedures for entering. She spoke loudly and resolutely so everyone could plainly hear the specific instructions to make everything go as smoothly as possible.

Secret Service agents greeted us inside the door. We emptied our pockets onto a table and removed our coats. Another officer checked everyone with a wand for any suspicious objects.

We sat in a pew about two-thirds of the way back from the pulpit. Promptly at 9 a.m., the same drill sergeant like lady walked to the front of the church and introduced herself as “Miss Jan.”

Miss Jan spent the next 45 minutes kindly but firmly going over all the rules of conduct. Included were not standing or clapping for the president and no photography during the class or worship. We could take pictures during Jimmy’s brief introduction.

Miss Jan continued, “If you want your picture taken with the President and First Lady you must stay for both the Sunday school and the worship.”

After a brief break, Miss Jan, who had taught the Carter’s daughter, Amy, in elementary school, had us all bow our heads for a prayer. When she said, “Amen,” Jimmy Carter surprised the congregation when he rose and began addressing the crowd. He and his Secret Service guards had quietly sneaked in during the prayer. We hung on his every word.

Miss Jan kept watch over the assembled. She occasionally hugged or bent down to shake the hand of a Secret Service agent, as if she were welcoming them back to a family gathering. The affection they shared was for more than themselves. Their common assignment of protecting the president they loved and admired expressed their uniform devotion.

Jimmy Carter, Sunday school
Jimmy Carter was making a point during the introduction section of the class. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The topic was loving God and your neighbor. Jimmy humbly shared how organizations he supports, like the Lions Club, Habitat for Humanity, and The Carter Center in Atlanta, help him put this charitable concept into global deeds for peace and human rights.

Jimmy used the word “humble” several times, pronouncing it the old-fashioned way, without the beginning “H” sound. It modeled his southern, gentlemanly hospitable manner.

After the service, Miss Jan resumed command, dismissing us by rows to have our pictures taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn. When she came to our row, I told her she must have been an excellent teacher. Miss Jan winked, smiled, and quietly thanked me.

Miss Jan had instructed us not to either shake hands with the Carters or to talk to them so that everyone could get through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. When the lady taking the photo with my camera clicked the shutter, Rosalynn whispered to Neva that the flash hadn’t gone off.

That was so thoughtful of her. The picture was fine, just like Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, and Miss Jan, too.

The communion cup of love, faith, family, humility, and service generously overflowed in Plains, Georgia. We were grateful to have been partaken.

Jimmy Carter quote, Bruce Stambaugh
A quote from Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Liquid striations

Ruddy Duck, duck on pond, art photography
Liquid striations. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

When I snapped the shutter, I thought I was taking a photo of this male Ruddy Duck in its winter plumage. When I downloaded it to my computer, I realized I had much more than a duck on a pond.

The long lens, the lighting, the ripples in the pond all contributed to my Photo of the Week, “Liquid striations.”

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

This baby boomer is aging gracefully or not

fishing, baby boomers, retirement
Baby boomers like this couple can relax with hobbies like fishing, if they can get out of the chair to reel in their catch. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I and two other couples, all baby boomers, sat around the table playing dominoes. Besides the antics of the game, we laughed at the anecdotal stories we shared about our particular infirmities.

None in the group of six was sick. We just chuckled at our ailments brought on by our aging.

Beyond the stories of goofiness and crazy interactions, a common theme arose. Though we all agreed that we still thought young, clearly, we weren’t teenagers anymore. In fact, we were all grandparents.

While laughing at our gradual frailties, the game almost became secondary to our gathering. And yet, I felt a certain relief that it wasn’t just me that was feeling his age.

Keep in mind that those of us in the baby boomer generation had the reputation for thinking ourselves invincible, clutching college degrees and armed with an ironclad arrogance that we could somehow save the world. Now that I need help buttoning my shirts, I know that mindset was a bit over the top.

grandkids, creativity
It’s nice for some of us boomers to practice our creativeness with our grandchildren. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
The lack of dexterity is probably my biggest frustration. I have the hardest time picking up small items from flat surfaces.

Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife who at least saves her chuckling about my dilemma until she is out of earshot. At my age, that isn’t too far.

My hearing seems to be fading fast, although I’ve had two different doctors check it with the same results. I’m right on the border of needing hearing aids.

I’m holding off with the purchase. Man that I am, I prefer to cup my hand up to my good ear to hear conversations. Besides, the hardest frequency for me to detect is that of my wife’s voice.

I’ve had bifocals for years now and get along just fine. My good optometrist ensures me that all is well physically with my eyes. I’m glad for that, as long as I can remember where I put my glasses.

pills, pillbox, medication
My pillbox. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Memory was probably the number one issue discussed around the game table that night. There was universal agreement that our recollections were slipping. We all confessed to walking from one room to another room to retrieve an item, only to forget what we were after once we got there. Misery loves company.

To help me keep track of what medications I have to take and when, I use something at which I recently scoffed. I fill a pillbox, four slots per day, with my medications. None of the spaces goes empty.

Filling my personal pharmaceutical dispenser has an ancillary benefit besides organizing my pills. Every time I restock the thing I realize another week has passed. It works better than a calendar.

The table talk revealed that I was fortunate compared to others. I usually have no problem sleeping. Other seniors wish they could, or require machines to keep them from inadvertently holding their breath at night.

Of course the evening I wrote this, I couldn’t sleep. See what I mean?

I won’t mention the gray hairs, or in my case, baldness that foretells our age. I only see the wrinkles and crows feet on the faces of others. Mine is smooth as a baby’s.

Officially defined as the years after retirement, the Golden Years usually begin at age 65. Now that I’ve crossed that demarcation, I feel a little tarnished.

I’ll age as gracefully as I can. After all, I need all the grace I can get.

kayak, sunset, Bruce Stambaugh
The sun is setting on the baby boomer generation as they paddle into retirement. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015