The Landmark

 

Seemingly plucked from the hills of Santorini before being plunked down on the edge of Trinity Bay, the white-washed compound glistens in early autumn light. Not everyone fishing or sailing the waters off Anahuac knows the name of the property owner, but as a fisherman cleaning his catch pointed out, “It makes for a great landmark. It’s sure enough better than the water tower.”

The compound, a weekend retreat for Houston general contractor George Pontikes Jr. and his wife Laura, includes a similarly-styled great house, a guest house, and various amenities, in addition to the chapel pictured above.

The similarity to houses on the Greek islands is understandable, given that the owner is the son of George Pontikes Sr. and the grandson of Angelos Konstantine Pontikes, who emigrated from Nauplion, Greece. Angelos K. Pontikes began as a home builder; both his son and grandson George Jr. followed in his footsteps.

While exploring the area on a Sunday afternoon, a friend and I mistook the private chapel for a public church and drove through the open gate. With parts of the compound still under construction, we realized our mistake fairly quickly, but I captured this image of the chapel before we left: as simple and beautiful as any white flower blossoming against the sky.

 

 

A Pair of Palafoxes

Rosy palafox (Palafoxia rosea) ~ Brazoria County, Texas

History connects Pensacola, Florida with a small group of lovely flowers scattered across the southern United States, including Texas. Both the genus — Palafoxia — and Palafox Street, the boulevard that lies at the heart of Pensacola’s colonial town, are named after General José de Palafox y Melzi, a Spanish nobleman and military hero.

The connection is understandable, since Pensacola is the site of the nation’s oldest European settlement.

Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna sailed into what we know as Pensacola Bay in August of 1559, charged by Spain’s viceroy of Mexico, Luis de Velasco, with establishing a settlement there.  

Luna arrived in Pensacola six years before Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés reached Florida’s Atlantic Coast and founded St. Augustine, generally regarded as the oldest city in the United States. Had it not been for a hurricane, Pensacola might have held on to that honor, but as the Smithsonian points out, only the Menéndez colony endured:

On September 19, 1559, only weeks after he dropped anchor, a powerful hurricane blew in from across the bay, sinking all but three of Luna’s ships.
Luna dispatched a remaining ship to Veracruz, Mexico, in hopes of enlisting rescuers. For more than a year, the settlers hung on, their numbers and stores dwindling. At last, some vessels arrived to transport survivors to safe haven in Havana. By spring of 1561, only a military outpost remained; in August, its handful of soldiers abandoned the site and returned to Mexico.
It would be 1698 before Spain established another garrison in Pensacola.
Reverchon’s palafox (Palafoxia reverchonii) ~ Hardin County, Texas

Whether those earliest Spanish explorers noticed Florida’s coastal plain palafox (P. integrifolia)  or its endemic relative (P. feayi) is hard to say. But eventually the flowers did get noticed and named.

By the 1800s, botanical exploration was common, and Julien Reverchon, a French botanist who collected in Texas during the late 1800s, was honored by having his name attached to one of our state’s several species.

 

Comments always are welcome.
To see yet another Texas Palafox species, visit Steve Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers, here.

Lookin’ Out My Back Door

 

No, I wasn’t at a wildlife refuge. I wasn’t exploring a bayou, or slogging through a swamp. I was sitting at my desk when I happened to glance toward  the marina, and saw the unmistakable profile.

A quick run down the stairs took me to the water’s edge, where light from the setting sun flickered and faded. You never know, I thought. You just never know what you’re going to see — even if you’re only looking out your back door.

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival ~ lyrics, J.C. Fogerty

 

Just got home from Illinois, lock the front door, oh boy!
Got to sit down, take a rest on the porch.
Imagination sets in, pretty soon I’m singin’
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Giant doin’ cartwheels, statue wearin’ high heels,
Look at all the happy creatures dancin’ on the lawn.
Dinosaur Victrola list’nin’ to Buck Owens
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Tambourines and elephants are playin’ in the band
Won’t you take a ride on the flyin’ spoon? Doo, doo, doo
Wond’rous apparition provided by magician
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Tambourines and elephants are playin’ in the band
Won’t you take a ride on the flyin’ spoon? Doo, doo, doo
Bother me tomorrow, today, I’ll buy no sorrow
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.
Forward troubles Illinois, lock the front door, oh boy!
Look at all the happy creatures dancin’ on the lawn
Bother me tomorrow, today, I’ll buy no sorrow
Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.

Comments always are welcome.