Friday, October 3, 2008

Updated Meanderings: A Moment in Time and Nature

In the midst of political and economic high drama, it is well to commune with natural world. For instance, walking along the portico of my favorite bookstore this morning, I caught a glimpse of a dried leaf out of the corner of my eye. My brain began to process the sight when it announced an anomaly. How did the leaf get in that position halfway up a faux masonry column? Automatically, I turned and took a closer look. It was a moth, but not just any moth. It was a mega moth, confident in its camouflage and wisely ignoring me. A little down the way, I caught sight of one of our local wasps tending its nest above of my head. In the grass alongside the building industrious fire ants were busily constructing a mound.

Marveling at all this fauna in the unlikely location of a strip mall, I was reminded of the first time I stood by the Gulf of Mexico. Used to the beaches of the Caribbean islands, the East Coast of Florida, I was surprised that the waters of our local beaches are not generally the azure as those of the aforementioned locales, although they can be at times depending on their mood. They generally have a green tint. Over the years, I've come to see the color as symbolic of the fecundity of the natural setting.

We share the sugary sands of our beaches with countless birds, whole phalanxes of avian life. There are sand pipers and plovers, an odd ibis or two. There are diving birds and birds like pelicans and very sneaky white herons who challenge you for your bait as you fish. Our waters teem with the tiniest of bait fish. Go out a few yards, and you can catch mangrove snappers, grouper, snook. Incredible. Of course, if you're going in the water, it pays to practice the stingray shuffle. Although they are beautiful when you see them gliding in a school as I did off an abandoned trestle in Boca Grande, hidden in the sand under your feet, they are awesome in another way.

Inland, the ubiquitous lizards are kind of like mice up North, except that you ignore them, until they show up dessicated in the washing machine, etc. Then there is the dread Palmetto bug. Despite having grown up in South Brooklyn, inured to committing mass cockroach homicide, I cannot bring myself to stomp one. It's the splat factor. The same one that came into play, when we found the mother of all spiders, at least three inches long, in the living room. The hubster, as befits the man of the house, defended his castle with a shoe he had carelessly tossed by the sofa, only to unleash a sci fi channel horror as hundreds of spider babies fled in all directions from their mother's crushed body. Memo, use an inverted cup and slip a piece of paper under it.

I've learned to love nature here in all of its manifestations. Here in my part of Florida, we live much closer to Mama Nature, not only her beaches, but her skies, her weather and her minions. I love the blazing cardinal and screeching jays, the owl somewhere in the backyard, and the gorgeous birdsong outside my window, even at 2 AM. I know not to approach piles of brush directly or inverted planters. Snakes, you know. I've even learned not to get too freaked when the black racer that lives here visits the lanai, probably gaining access the same way the jays I occasionally have to liberate do and in search of the same prey- the seemingly endless supply of dead beetles that have given their all straining toward the light, as we all do.

Update: And today in the same spot, I came across the remains of a beautiful little bird, a yellow warbler of some sort, I think. I looked up at the plate glass window and read its demise in the smear. The last time I came across one of these little fellows, he had become hopelessly enamored of his reflection in the shed window. Sad.

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