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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Amelia Island Artists Workshop
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell
Amelia Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)
The holidays descended as if it were a big secret to which I wasn't privy.  Only after a few days of cool, rainy weather and the realization that my mother-in-law would arrive in 2 days followed by my son David and his wife in another day, and then Christmas Eve shortly after that did I finally have that big neon sign over my head along with the delayed Christmas Memo which said "it's Christmas", it's here, it's time, and I finally got it.
At that point I had to shift into high gear as far as getting food, house, and presents ready.  Still I can take a minute to admire this beautiful flower outside the back door of the gallery.  I have a sprig of this beautiful creation of nature started at home, but didn't know what a great combination of colors it presented when in bloom. Purple, lime green, yellow, blue and a burgundy-red, all in one cluster of blooms along with some very interesting speckled foliage.  Gorgeous it is.
On my day off, I took a break from cleaning the house in anticipation for a mother-in-law visit, to sit on my back patio which is at its prettiest for the year.  Everything I tried to get growing all summer is now thriving in the cooler, wetter atmosphere.  Flowers are blooming, the Poinsettias realized it was Christmas and turned a brilliant red, and the butterflies are getting in some serious late season egg laying as if they think it is Spring.  The weather has been Spring like so you can't blame them.  On examining my Passion Flower I actually found a live Caterpillar belonging to one of these Gulf Fritillaries, my most common visitor.  I brought it in to just see if it would survive.  All the tiny ones which I brought in as eggs have finally disappeared.  This one was larger so I felt it might make it.  So far so good.  I don't believe any could ever have the beautiful Chrysalis of the Monarch.
I was finally able, a few days before Christmas, to get my photo of the Ritz's Christmas Tree fully lit.
After a stressful flight from Chattanooga for Bruce's mom, which involved changing planes in Atlanta, stressful for anyone, but making us realize that she can no longer handle that trip alone.  In the hopes of creating a nice "Welcome to Florida" dinner, I went to Atlantic Seafood just down the street and bought some very large Sea Scallops. 
Rub a dub dub, three Pelicans in a tub.  The Pelicans entertained us while we waited for the Amelia River Cruise to depart the next day.  A beautiful day for a cruise on the river.  Son David with wife, Rizza were collecting their long promised birthday present cruise, and we were accompanied by Momma-in-Law, Sheila, and the Granddog, Bella.  Pets are welcome on these cruises. 
Everyone seemed to be heading to some kind of gathering of the flock.  The water sparkled like diamonds as they all swam toward something.
Some arrived by air but hopefully they did not have to go through Atlanta.
I finally stopped looking at the world through the camera lens and took in the whole scene and realized what the big attraction was.  A fisherman was cleaning his catch and like the conductor of an orchestra was getting the rapt attention from his musicians as they followed his cue to the T, only breaking into a wild commotion once the treat was tossed.  Then chaos ensued.
Greed sometimes gives one another set of problems when one gets a bit too wrapped up in eating, and bites off more than one can handle with no thumbs.  Well I guess they sort of have thumbs on their feet and at the front of their wings, but not suitable for this kind of multi-tasking.
Three different age levels are represented by the colors of the heads and feathers of these fellows.  The handsome white downy head represents the fully grown adult member of the group with the two others coming in as older and younger teenagers as their feathers attest to their changing plumage.  I especially love the very distinctive patterns of the back feathers of the younger one.  They almost look like fish scales they are so perfect.
As we pull out of port Kevin, owner and Captain of the day, points out that each piling has its own bird.  He said the day before they had actually played a game of leapfrog as one landed on another's post and he in turn went to the next until it became a chain reaction down the whole line.
We are at the height of the "White Shrimp" shrimping season and several boats which were not local were in the dock area.  This one, a newer boat, whose new technology for flash freezing in a salty brine, unloads its big orange bags of already frozen shrimp.  The older boats still use the process  of packing in ice without freezing, until after they reach the dock. 
The boat from Bermuda was in dock loading giant rolls of cardboard from the mill behind the port.  Most of Bermuda's supplies go through this port on the weekly trip back and forth.  A few weeks prior it was a big load of Christmas trees and some luxury boats which were probably going to be under someone's tree come Christmas morning.
The bow of the boat was interesting with its colors and familiar looking crest.  Does anyone recognize it??
With the tide out, the bricks are visible, which once formed the base of Fort San Carlos, built in 1812, to protect the Spanish owned island from invasion by the US of A.  True story as they had already been invaded once.
On the Pogy Plant complex, turned Shrimp net factory and now transitioning to the nets now used behind the goal posts and behind home plate at many of your sporting events,  The big building which looks very dilapidated still is filled with nets and can give some really interesting photos with the late afternoon sun from the landward side.
A surprise was in store when we rounded the point and could see Fort Clinch.  The sky was filled with wonderful flying contraptions.
A closer view of them showing quite a variety of styles and subjects.  I loved the big sea creatures in the form of fish and Orcas which seemed to be in a big blue aquarium.  The Clown Fish was swimming a bit low though.
Crossing the inlet, we began to see what eventually would be 4 different Bands, or families, of the wild Cumberland Island horses.
I thought this was an interesting scene.  Out in the middle of nowhere was a lone chair sitting as if it were in someone's backyard.  I imagine it washed in on the tide and was retrieved by someone walking on the beach.  It seemed like a very serene place to sit and while away the time.
A bit further around on the river side was another band of horses grazing along the top of the escarpment.  I noticed that one of the horses legs was muddy up above the knee area.  I imagine that hoofs would really penetrate the muck which can be almost like quicksand in some more marshy areas.
My granddog was snuggled up with his momma to absorb some of the warmth she offered.  The temperatures, although quite warm onshore, were not so warm as we were sitting on top of a body of water which was only 64 degrees F.
A Great White Egret, highlighted by the sun, was looking very regal on top of this Live Oak Tree.
A Great Blue Heron flew up over the now Golden marsh, giving the reason for the name given to the "Golden Isles" which were first viewed in the late Fall by the Europeans who "discovered" them.  Of course the local Native American population might have thought it already discovered since they had lived here for the previous thousands of years.
As the holidays approach, the skies fill with contrails from the many jets which are getting everyone including those protecting our shores to various destinations before the big day.  It almost looks like we have a game of tic tac toe being played in our skies.
Since the Captain was also the boss of the boat, we ventured as far as it was possible to head up Beach Creek, without totally bottoming out and being stranded until the tide raisined us up to a deeper level.  The walls of the old Dungeness Cemetery had been adorned with a Christmas Wreath on it's gate.  The cemetery holds the remains of many of those whose lives were touched by this island, some as property owners, their children or employees.  One who died on the island and was buried here, and was later exhumed and re-buried in Virginia with his son, was General "Lighthorse" Lee, father of Robert E. Lee.
We had our usual close encounters with the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins in the creek.
Our one hour cruise extended into a welcome two hours as host and Boat Captain Kevin kept asking, before he made a decision to explore a bit more, "is anyone in a hurry?"  No one was, even though we were into the time for the traditional season's hustle and bustle frame of mind, but all were up for a little adventure on a Pre-Christmas Eve.
The sun was starting to get low in the sky when we headed back toward Fernandina Beach.  The trip back was much colder and I am glad that Sheila, Bruce's mom, decided to opt for making that trip back inside the zippered up compartment rather than up on the front deck.
We met this interesting craft with its dingy in-tow.  Very Pirate looking.
The Captain of this craft equally filled the role as a modern day Captain of a Pirate ship.
Back into port with some of the visiting shrimpers docked in the port.  The green and red of the boats docked here remind me of the amount of work I had to do before all my packages were finished as I was making most of my gifts and they were not all ready to be wrapped yet.
The Lady Virginia was a nice warm color with the reflection of our boat draped across her bow as we glide by.  I am wondering what these fellows do for the holiday.  Do they hang out here in town or do they head back home to Virginia, the Carolinas or Georgia?  Read "The Last Light over Carolina" to get an idea of how hard their lives can be.  Being a "Shrimper" is a hard life.  The real money they make today in buying power is less than their grandfathers made and the least in the history of the business due to the cheap foreign shrimp.  Buy local and that is becoming easier to do.  The fellow who has his truck parked on the corner of Sadler and 8th has reasonably priced, fresh, locally caught shrimp and also the Lofton Creek Market and a couple of others have fresh seafood, keep an eye out for the vendors.  Lots of options being made available to us locals.

(Please take a moment to consider:
These photo-stories have always been offered completely free, to simply share the wonders of nature, and life on the Island. Thousands of hours have been poured into them and it has even become necessary to enlist the services of a paid email service to send out the large numbers who now receive them. So, with the current economic situation if you are able to make a small donation to help ensure the continuation of the stories it would be greatly appreciated.)

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