Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Pain

Two Springs ago I began this minor treatise on planting a vegetable garden. Written from deep inside an early April reverie, I was pining to germinate something, anything really. Amidst icy sleet of an upstate New York “mud season”, I designed, and planned and prepared to plant a garden. Anticipating all that I knew this generous ground would bring forth, if it just had some seed and someone to plant.

young tomato

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

April 2016

“My organic heirloom seed order from Seeds Now is here! There are forty-nine tiny plastic bags spread across my table, and a stack of empty peat pots in the garage. Unfortunately, I have underestimated the chilly reality of the North. I am about a month too optimistic.  My vision of a knees in the dirt, direct planting has transformed.  It is more a Thich Nhat Hanh mindfulness meditation in dirt and patience.

Spooning the mixed peat and perlite into the small pots, armed with tweezer and chopstick, I drop each seed into the earthy mix. An “Om” here and a “Pea” there, topped with a prayer and a pat for good measure.

“You will be a grand Cantaloupe!  You will be the first Pea of the Spring!”

A healthy dose of encouragement is always a good idea. Tiny Chamomile dustings, wrinkled dried beans, they all have the miracle of “concrete potential.” They could be an abundant plant with the right environs.  They could create and recreate themselves, transmuting soil and seed into something that has never existed before, in exactly this particular way. Each seed was offered what I knew to give: time in the dark to incubate, warmth for encouragement, a bit of direct sunshine and enough water for “damp.” Life starts in the damp, and dies in soggy.

Some of those seeds must be coiled springs, set to explode at the first moisture. As the snow swirled across my waiting garden, the Kale has germinated in under 48 hours. We may be having some for dinner before it’s warm enough to plant in the garden! Others, like Amaranth and Borage seem quite comfy in their dark warm spot. As weeks go by, I begin to think that they are smugly enjoying my meddling attentions.  Through weeks of gray clouds, I shuttle them from garage to spare bedroom trying to find a temporary sunbeam.  I imagine how these transplants from a proper British Herb Garden might respond to my muttered queries on their much anticipated arrival after these weeks of attentions, and no visible sign of “green.”

“We are considering germination.  We will get back to you when we are…….(sigh)…..ready.”

They aren’t ready, it isn’t time…yet. Nothing is more ambiguous than “concrete potential.”  In my chilly garage are all the makings of a glorious vegetable garden, it already exists out there in the Ethers. I am imagining it. I am hoping, no expecting some Findhorn scale bounty (https://www.findhorn.org/aboutus/vision/) complete with homegrown pollinators.

abundance agriculture bananas batch

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Bees! I have read the books, taken the classes, dreamed of bees, and yes, even dreamed that I WAS a bee. I have assembled my hives, arranged for a Beekeeping friend to migrate some of her ladies to my silent boxes hopefully in May, when they have regained their robustness. Bees don’t wish, they do. They act on what is there.

With the help of a Beekeeping mail list, a small library, and all the observation skills I can muster, I have assumed the mantle of responsibility for these miracle workers.

 I will try to make the most informed beekeeping choices.  I will keep them warm in winter, cool in summer, keep the bears away and feed them when they are hungry.   All the while knowing they are completely in charge of their own survival.  They are carrying me, I’m only along for the ride, and maybe some honey. “

That was two Springs ago.  This winter we were warm in sunny Tampa watching leaves the size of bedspreads grow sprout out of my white Bird of Paradise. I grew Basil and Parsley in a pot by the pool and listened from the screen porch to the “Uh-UH” birds comment on our private conversations.

The bees have survived a second hard winter in the shed at the back of the barn.  When I last checked in April, the golden hued “Italian” bees greeted me at the door as I removed the mouse guard.  This, a metal gate with holes the size of bees.  It makes bees come through the door single file while keeping out cold and the “winter hungry” mice. They were gloriously happy to fly out the now open windows in search of a Spring that wouldn’t arrive for another month.

insect bees flying

Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

The Russian crew next door are a bit more curmudgeonly in chilly temperatures. Note that Dr. Zhivago stayed in the Ice Palace until there were flowers blooming. They may be grumpy, but they are pragmatic. These dark ladies may swagger but they are less likely to blame a beekeeper for accidents of broken combs or spilled honey. They just get down to the business of cleaning it up, putting their world back in order and you had best “get out of the way.” On this cold day, a single dark Russian bee came out of the hive, buzzed with great agitation, spun on her back legs and strode back into the darkness.

“It’s not time!!!”

She spat at me.  Returning to her post, she tucked her fuzzy body back in formation.  For the entire Winter, months and months of cold, they surround their Queen in a tight ball of bees, rotating from inner to outer circle as their own survival dictates. The bees stay close, hopefully to the abundant stores of last Fall’s honey. Abundant honey unless, that is, a greedy Beekeeper has taken too much for themselves.

Bee Lore says the Russians high survival rate in cold, wet weather comes from their cultural sensibility to keep their numbers small until it is absolutely “Spring.” The “Spring” that matters: when the sun comes back and there is actual food out there.  They don’t lay eggs until it stays warm. I think the elegant Russian Queens don’t care for a cold backside.

agriculture bloom blossom clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What changed in 2 years? Time feels shorter, kids and grandkids don’t wait, they keep growing like Kale. I like to be in places where the sun shines and green things grow all the time.  The time to do what you want is right now.

My grass is too long for suburban standards; we no doubt look abandoned, but only by human standards.  The Owl house, bat house and blue bird houses are in place, only the Purple Martin condo is still tucked into the barn. Fruit trees are blooming, last year’s Sunflowers have tossed their seeds about, and I’m sure the bees are grateful for no mowers, they have had every Dandelion and clover to savor in peace. None of these living things makes a reservation with me or keeps a schedule.  They show up and grow when the time is right.  And so will we.

Choose Your Resources Wisely

It was misty on the big thumb that is Clearwater Florida this morning.  We live on the inside curve of the Clearwater-St Petersburg peninsula.  In the armpit, if you will, of “old Tampa Bay.”  The bay is beautiful. Shades of watery blue beneath whitecaps and the shadows of Great Blue Heron wings. A clam pot for birds, a safe passage for kayak and paddleboard the Bay lacks the primordial punch of the great womb that is the Gulf of Mexico.

We drove North and then West to the causeway at Dunedin.  We passed through the gate and maneuvered into a parking lot for 100 with 98 spaces left. The thick fog of a bottom-heavy steel gray cloud was just rising as we kicked off our shoes on flour white sand. Bands of blue green water snaked through the opaque ashen waves as the rising sun topped the palms at the edge of the beach. If you want to have color, you have to have light. Without illumination, life is just shades of gray.

 

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Those that show up at the beach on a morning like this didn’t come with sunscreen and a People magazine.  We come to the edge to restore and rejoice, or to soak up “beach time”, before the vacation runs out. Some stand ankle deep in salty water to reclaim dreams, or discover new journeys. Some come to petition the deities of great bodies of water for their divine assistance. Today I wasn’t clear who was doing what, except for one of us.

I saw them coming.  The two women walked slowly towards us wearing ultramarine blue t-shirts in different sizes. The older woman walked on the left. The deep lines of her face framed her expression of deep gratitude.  Clearly this was an extraordinary day for her to be walking here on this thin strip of land between waters, on this March day, with this young woman.  The older woman held her worn-well Keds in her hand as they walked barefoot near the water. She leaned in, listening attentively to the words that flowed from her companion. Neither seemed to feel the sharp shell rubble or notice the few passersby.  They were intent, focused.

Indeed! They were pregnant with change. The younger woman was supremely pregnant, probably beyond pregnant and well into “overdue.”  She walked strong, straight but with great care, balancing a belly that looked as if it might burst open at any moment.

 

“You came to the right place,”

I thought, thinking of the saltwater that filled that belly. Then I realized,

We are always in the right place,”

The young woman spoke fervently, passionately. Her arm movements animated her story and the old women with the wrinkles smiled a quiet smile. We passed unseen.

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It is my practice to stand at the edge of earth and water to check my trajectory and clear the emotional flotsam. Placing my thoughts in fragile shells, I create a shrine of temporal impermanence that holds my concerns and hopes for this day. The Gulf is my resource for reflection on the mud and miracles that happen daily. I imagine the Nereids float silently nearby, offering illuminating advice that wordlessly seeps into mind and heart through the souls of our feet stuck deep in the moving sands.  Their whispered encouragements float down from Tern’s wing,

 “Be brave! Be strong! Live! Live!”

Standing in sunlight and blue water one moment, and chilly wind of storm clouds the next, it’s all here, and it’s all good.

“Look at the sea, She lives there,

and She knows how it works,”

was my silent reassurance.

I walked up the beach a bit and found a message scratched in the sand by a sure hand on a sturdy stick.  It was addressed to the Sea and the Wisdom herein,

“I am ready now

I am ready now Baby”

March 19, 2018

She chose her Resources wisely I thought, as I wrote,

Godspeed!

in the sand with my toe. We are all in this together.

 

(http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html)

Photos: Carol Martell, Honeymoon State Park, Dunedin Florida

The Really Big Dream

The imagination is not a state, it is the human existence itself. -William Blake

On a sunny Florida day in February our ‘round the corner neighbor erected a 10-feet tall wooden cross on their pocket sized front lawn. The towering rood mocked the cheerful “Alleluia” of pink plastic tulips lining church parking lot across Nokomis Avenue. Heavy beams tilted at an angle suggesting the bearing of weight. Red paint smeared and dripped from the bent spikes and onto the lawn. The assemblage was illuminated 24/7 against the dark southern spring evening with red rope lights. This was a serious installation, scaled to intimidate the passersby onto a one-way track of strong emotions: Fear Submission Repentance Anger Intolerance, they are all human flavors. What was missing was “Grace.”

killscreendaily.com

killscreendaily.com

When I first saw it standing right there in my temporary ‘hood, a chill of fear washed through my body. “That’s no way to get people to love each other,” I grumbled to myself, wiping sweaty palms on Khaki shorts. I felt bullied. There was more going on than a rapid heart and manipulated anxiety. A wordless wave of recognition swept through in my inner landscape. The first psyche searchers returned  with only garbled bits and thought fragments.

“I have forgotten something important, was it a memory? Was it a task?

No, it was a dream. The far seeing elves of Onus and Obligation were dispatched immediately to the misty corners of my right brain. They mined memories, poked the unprocessed, systematically uncompiling countless bits of dream imagery. Unearthed bushel baskets of half processed emotions stood before soggy cartons of unfinished business.

In this well-guarded corner of my psyche they exposed a dream box marked:

Really Big Dream”.

It was there, on a dusty shelf, towards the back of an unconscious cave labeled:

             “Probably Shouldn’t.”

As it came back into the light, I remembered the dream in Technicolor detail. It was a vision really, and we all have them. The revelation caused a small explosion of nervous sweat that gathered about the hairline at the back of my neck. By this time the alarms had sounded in my stodgy, conscientious, yet cautious left-brain. Verbal abilities coming back on line, this regulator of reason announced, “Your revelation could be another’s blaspheme! “

A far distant ancestor unfurled her flag from my DNA to remind, to warn, to encourage. She had such a dream as this one in a far away time. Its beauty was trussed up with stout cord to the memory of toasty toes and the smell of burnt hair. But a dream unspoken is only half dreamt.

In my dream I walked down an empty dirt road and came upon Jesus Christ on the cross. In my dream, he looked exactly like a million crucifixes I have seen; blood, thorns, mutilation, agony, disappointment, pain

… until he looked up with a most beatific smile and said,

 If you take me down and put me back on the ground again we could get something done!

It was a scene plucked right out of Wizard of Oz.

I recall the sensation of illumination; the divine being was rummaging around in my psyche for just the right memory and experience to keep me from ejecting myself out of this modern day Passion Play. Even when the iconic image is deeply embedded in our physical experience and collective mind, there are actions that must come from mortal hands. We must participate; we must step forward in support of divine causes.

So I did. I helped him down off that instrument of torture and he stood beaming with joy, his feet once again on Mother Earth. The rest of the dream was a colorful expression of love and exquisite beauty in all manner of things. Hate, separation, sadness, cruelty all receded like a storm tide: no longer needed.

The high Winds of human conflict and injustice were replaced with gentle waves of acceptance of our ignorance, the offering of wisdom, and endless boundless compassion. Compassion for our lack of evolution, compassion for our wounds. Compassion for our fear. It was beautiful. It was Peaceful. There was no fear.

It was a dream.

In dreamtime, all thoughts are acceptable and miracles are within reach. It’s when the dream drops into the circumspect atmosphere of my “self-conscious” conscious that the bonfire of potentiality is extinguished.

I suppose it is my humanity that shuts down this unreasonable magnificence. Communing with Divinities, and experiencing “Really Big Dreams” must be trimmed to a more manageable size.

There were no rules, no judgments about my worthiness.

It was a dream.

After all, who am I to question 2000 years of belief and dogma intended to explain why we aren’t all personally responsible for creating a loving and just world in this magnificent magical world?

Am I to imagine that I can report,

“We have all been fearfully frozen long enough! Let’s get back to he business of loving and learning see what we really have “under the hood!”

The possibility and potency of this high-octane dream was quite overwhelming. I wrote it down and put it away, for a year, and then another. The first year I was in a transitional place. My parents were now gone from this life, but there was still childhood furniture in my psyche. Rocking the Religion boat felt risky. It has been yet another year and the dream remains untold.

A dream unspoken is only half dreamt.

This dream was about love and acceptance, peace on earth, honoring and acknowledging a divine being. Not so controversial, but I still put it away. Is it easier to express negativity, like a bloody cross, than love and compassion?


    This is the Wizard of Oz paradox.

Hope and pray for something extraordinary.

Receive that gift, (wisher beware: true change is like getting a puppy)

Immediately upon receiving your prayer/wish we then deny its beauty and holler to go home where it’s “safe.”

And all that we, “Send me over the rainbow type” folks, actually require for our safety and sanity in this new reality is a bucket of water, and a wish.

    You will have to figure that one out yourself.


Found on ngv.vic.gov.au

Found on ngv.vic.gov.au

What if Christ, Allah, Buddha are all walking around somewhere? Or everywhere? Or even… together? What if they ARE that child, that old man, that smelly street person?

And wait, where’s the divine women? With rare exception on this planet it requires male and female. Her voice is here, can you hear it?

I can’t imagine that our best shot at peace, beauty, and love was 1000s of years ago.

“Keep your eyes peeled” we used to say, they must be here someplace.

William Blake Biography

 Born: November 28, 1757
London, England
Died: August 12, 1827
London, England

English poet, engraver, and painter

Read more: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Be-Br/Blake-William.html#ixzz3ojtUhTdv

http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/

http://www.philipcoppens.com/blake.html

In Search of…..What? In Search of Who..? Revisited

redonwoodsThe Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I am accustomed to tending my own garden of Psyche daily. I work each morning as a medieval monk tending the medicinal herb garden. It’s solitary work. Strong medicines need quiet voices and patient hands. In this garden of “Know thyself,” and it’s corollary “Know Everyone Else”, the Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I seek the smallest of keys, the softest of voices whose demands create heaven or hell here on earth. I am a devotee of the siren called Relationship. Without relationship, love is lost, if love is lost, all is lost. The answers to the “good life” quest are all right there, floating in the rich soup of interrelatedness. It is appropriate then to find myself here.  Queries of life should be answered in the field, library research is far too easy, far too clean.  It is a shock to witness the deep clouds of aged aloneness that are all around me.  Their solitary presence as palpable as the gnat that floats in my coffee, right under my nose.

Why do so many fragile elders live out such lonely endings to their “Well-lived” Lives?

These are the superfluous thoughts that I ponder in my garden. In Florida, the hearing is hard and time runs short-endlessly. Thoughts are cheap; connection requires deep attention and careful listening. If I wish to hear them, I will. Once heard, I will have to listen, and I already know the sound is deafening.

 

Deva

MysticalconversationredonIndo-European, Sanskrit word for God, originally thought of as feminine. The modern word Goddess has changed connotations to represent a lesser form of divinity. Deva had the meaning we typically think of as the word God today, however God was thought to be the Great Mother.

In Buddhism Devas are highly evolved beings who inhabit different levels of existence. Devas are commonly associated with great beauty and bliss.

Modern New Age versions of Deva’s are thought of similarly to angels, nature spirits, or fairies.
Pronounced Day-va.

 

Is there anybody there?

In the heat of August, our 1960’s era Florida ‘hood seemed nearly abandoned. Air conditioning and cicadas humming in unison, shades pulled against the relentless sun; we are all hunkered down in our separate oasis. In gentler October, I came to discern the fainter life force: there are many more people here than meet the eye. Empty carport and weekly mowing does not necessarily denote a Michigan snowbird’s empty winter escape. Is it a clever vacation timer changing channels in the late night TV glow across the street? Or is there a gnarled hand on a sticky remobecomingRedonte picking endlessly at the arm of a single recliner in that darkened room?  When I look at the blank face of that picture window, I wonder what looks back at me.

By November, my own lack of critical agenda mixed in the Ethers with the timeless energies and endless ebbing of those in 30-year retirements. Only then did I begin to hear them. I accepted the possibility that hearts too fragile to be “out and about” lived amongst us; close by and yet unseen. Yes, some of our neighbors have been here a very, very long time. Current wisdom calls this “Aging in place.” With enough resources one can stay home until you die, sometimes alone, sometimes leaving another alone for the first time in many years.  Sadness and fear are the concrete reinforcement of loneliness, once hardened, so hard to get free.

How can I help and why don’t I want to?

An opportunity to interact with a silent neighbor arrived via Postal indiscretion. West became East and switched mail brought an impromptu visit from a frail neighbor. I didn’t recognize the Deva in the background right away. She stood no taller than my chin.  Her razor sharp blue eyes shimmered above the optimistic swash of pink cheeks. Our visitor knocked on the door with authority belying her tiny stature. I was surprised by the friendly face; she took that in stride; she needed to sit down. Lowering herself into the nearest chair, she announced herself and her mission. Panting a bit, she noted my painting of wings on the wall nearby and identified herself as a fellow painter and designer.

Had I not been wearing my Florida Fairy foiling earmuffs, I would have identified her immediately as one of the “nature folk” or “little people.” Diminutive in size but powerful in Spirit, these forgotten folk are part of mythology worldwide.  Mythology means “replaced by a different idea,” it doesn’t mean “extinct.” It has been my experience that occasionally one of these Folk will drop into our amplitude to whisper in our ear

oldangelRedonor whack us up the backs of the knees all the while screeching “WAKE UP” directly into our hearts. She had appeared at our doorstep having trekked down a half block on slippered feet to deliver a bulk rate package gone amiss. “He” was just out of the hospital that very afternoon from a hernia operation. The timing of this sortie was just so untimely. I was so taken by this elf in my living room and the stream of wordless language flowing out of her that I forgot myself and offered her whatever help I could.

“Oh no, we’re fine. He just isn’t feeling very well.” She said. Another sign of the Wee Folk; reverse hyperbole.

 

Then I heard the Deva, “She wants you to come with her…”

I walked her home, offering first to drive the span of four driveways and a street. She reminded too much of the gentle gray doves we see splayed out on the road because they just won’t hurry. She told me of his stomach pains and his surgery, her cancer and her painting, “He” was installed on the couch when we got back. There would have been surprise on his face as we walked in together, but it would have taken too much strength. He was saving what he had to speak gently to his partner.

Haunted

He told me he came here for the small airport; he was a pilot then. She said they bought the house for the pool; so much fun for his grandchildren. He said, “They are grown now, haven’t been here in such a long time, but they used to like to come.”

There were ghosts of good times watching them; the reapers of regret piling their sheaves high. I sat and listened, learned about life and longing and love. I called on every angel I knew to help them, and to help me know how to leave this house without bundles of baggage that I didn’t pack.

She showed me the pool; vacuum bubbling away on its appointed rounds. When had someone had last jumped into that clear water? Was there ever sand on the floor and food in the fridge? When was there last a child sleeping in the three empty guestrooms with sheets on the beds? My silent questions were sucked into flocked walls and thick carpet and left unanswered. The density in the room dared me to stay longer.

“No food, no wine, no fun!”

She waved at the artwork layered on bookshelves and the cases of small cans of liquid diet stacked in the Formica kitchen. Paints were laid out on a card table in the sun. “Do you paint now?” I asked. She said smiling, “Not inDeathRedon a long time, my back hurts too much.”

I asked if it was hard to not eat food anymore, cancer had taken that too. “No food, no wine, no fun!” she said.

I sat for a while in their living room taking in the dire straits in this home. Health completely gone, mobility quickly disappearing, they were collectively a ship with ravaged sails facing an oncoming storm. I looked for despair but couldn’t find it, neither could I feel anger. It did seem that sadness took up the best part of the couch. The professional part of me asked, “How long could these two support each other and their own disabilities?”

 

The partner part of me knew the real answer: until “Death do they part”, and probably beyond.

I walked home with my bundle of information in a language I didn’t understand. It was heavy and bulky, it smelled a bit rancid. I resented carrying it home, but I did. I put it in my studio room under an unfinished painting. I hoped they would talk between themselves and get back to me on its meaning.

twoinboat

Well they did. It came to me in the form of a recommended article from a dear old friend from my ancient past. A fellow sojourner in the early days of our “We can do more.” Ideas in the Ether, stay in the ether, unless they are processed via focus and form into concretized products. She wrapped love around that article and sent it out. This my friend, is the product of that bundle. Thank you

To our silent neighbors all around

I know you are there, I hear you and I send you love

Addendum

January 20,2016

Not sure why I revisited this story written when we lived in Venice Florida in 2014. Possibly because we will drive down that street in the next few weeks and I need to remember the heart of it and not just the face. It was a good chapter, full of family and fun. I discovered I needed to find my roots again. I did pull my intention out of the Ethers, we are back in my homelands for this part of the journey.

Our tiny sweet lady’s husband died shortly after this was written, she followed, just a bit later.  I heard this from her neighbor, as she was moved to a “higher level of care.” One of the children moved into all those empty bedrooms with a shiny clean pool. Our “across the street” invisible TV watching gentleman also died that winter while we were away for a weekend. Turns out he did have family. Shortly after, I was holding the hose on some parched Gardenias when I saw a young man move away from the foul tempered house emptying cadre filling a dumpster, to sit on the back bumper of an old van. He bent over out of sight of the the others, and sobbed a river of tears into his hands, shoulders heaving; a heartbreaking scene.

All that sadness, anger, depression, whatever the emotions that existed in that living room were all still there. There’s always someone in each family who chooses or is chosen to hold that basket. The house had been foreclosed upon, those that went in didn’t stay long inside. The living conditions inside were just that bad.

I said a prayer for this sad boy and I thought our tiny neighbor from the wee folk was right there next to me. When we were done, she looked up at me with a look that told me, “You don’t understand now…but you will.”She patted my arm, gave a little wink and walked back up the street to her old house.  I was happy to see a bit of Spring in her step now.

The younger 60’s hippie neighbors to the left of him also left quickly, they did it with a rented truck and a friend’s pickup.  We followed a bit later, selling most everything we had gathered there to a picker with a turkey vulture mentality.  On Ground Hog day we will set off to revisit old territory with a new view of our life. It will be wonderful to see family, watch the sunset, walk the beach.  Thank you Florida for the good lessons well learned.

All paintings by Odilon Redon

http://www.odilon-redon.org

http://terrainwalker.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/native-american-little-people/

 

Florida in August is perfect…..

Oak

Florida in August is perfect…..if you are a lizard.

It is the outside air oozing in through an open door, thick and steamy, just this side of liquid.

It is the sun searing the innocence of transplanted leaves, or the unprepared skin of pale tourists. Both have left their genetic comfort zones. Both have grossly miscalculated the desiccating power of unlimited Prana.

It is the drama of turbulent clouds reaching into the Gulf for yet another cauldron of water to pour on summer stagnant swamplands. Monstrous storms move desert lifetimes of water in spontaneous torrents, rinsing and washing, rinsing and washing until every plant comes shiny and clean under a rainbow.

It is the whine of the Cicadas and the cacophony of tree frogs so loud that some days it is unclear if the sound exists inside or outside of my consciousness.cloud

There are Primal forces at work here in the near Tropics and they “strut their stuff” in August.

They bow to no one on these dense days.

These are the Titans, the soul of all life here on Earth:

Sun, Water and the Urge to live. And live they do, in bright colors and with leathery resiliency. The work of Earth will prevail here in Florida, despite our human hindrance and hampering, poisoning and pruning. Life will continue, although the prevalent form may be a lizard

or humans that act like lizards!

It’s all about Adaptation

Humans

Humans scurry to join the Outdoors in the early morning and nearly dark evening, leaving the bright days to pass in the electric oasis of central air conditioning. If you weren’t born to live here, better lay low until later.

The only living that goes on Outside at noon is carbathwindowried on by the professionals; Lizards, Bougainvillea, Palm trees and very hardy Landscapers.

We are the human versions of the sweating ice tea glass, go outside and unimagined amounts of water will begin to roll off your body. The weather calls the shots here, adapt your schedule or “fry.”

Palms, Palms, Palms: every size and every guise

Palms look the way they do because they have done their best to maximize a challenging assignment. Compare a Palm to a Peony and tell me who will be standing in this climate? Tropical sun, Biblical proportion deluges and circular winds of summer’s tumultuous thunderstorms have created the perfect survivor.

Palms can sport thick trunks of spikes and spears, shields studded with razor sharp points or spindly, spongy 60-foot stems holding a single mop of leaves. Somehow, they are all Palms. What they don’t share in shape they share in attitude.

Palm

Their magic is accommodation. They share leaves that bend, split, unfold, and shred as they dance the wind spirit. Leaves on branches that ride the top o’ the gale, always illustrating wind, never “bracing against.” No matter how fierce the blow, they flow in non-resistance. Palms win their survival by yielding; being one with what is present. No good to burn, and hard to get close to, these are tree survivors.

I give them full measure of respect and keep a good distance as they are also- full of

“those that shall remain nameless”…the “insect survivors.”

   Lizards Lizards and more Lizards

There are thousands of lizards in our yard this month, every color, every size and everywhere you look. From out of the ferns they leap; tiny “two inchers,” swinging on a leaf, to the full-grown Grand Poobahs.These behemoths challenge at eye level with a “come hither” throat swell and a raised eyebrow. This could suggest a great deal about the power of a positive self-image. They also remind us all that the human brain is built on this very same “reptilian brailizardn” substrate as well.

It’s all so familiar. The population of lizards surrounding the giant Live Oak suggests the machinery and mysteries of reproduction are in full swing out there.

Our chemical free yard has become a version of the “Whole Foods” olive bar for snakes, birds and any and all creatures that find a lizard tasty. A Red tailed hawk left a tail feather “Thank You” note on the driveway, as did the Blue Jay. The Rat snake was a surprise; he was so full he could hardly muster himself off the driveway. It’s not easy to be “prey.”

The Poobahs and their minions are particularly fond of the car that resides in the shade of that giant “Live Oak. Most will leap off tires and shimmy out of the front grill when the locks click open. There are some that won’t leave, be it territorial or recreational; they stand their ground. Maybe theyfeathers claim dominion over Fords?

They are tenacious despite their diminutive stature. Some of these cowboys have a penchant for riding on the hood, sticky toes spread, gripping the metal, face into the wind. Others, caught napping in the windshield wiper well, climb their way up despite gale force windshield winds, to glare at the driver, clearly irked at the unexpected journey. More than once I have pulled over and commanded them off. I can’t drive safely and watch for raised eyebrows and panicky looks when I have to stop fast. I do wonder how they know where to find the driver? I try not to envision the aftermath for one of these unexpected emigres marooned at the grocery store or the beach parking lot.

plumeriaI’m unclear if I will sign up for the next “August in Florida” Cotillion of sweat and swelter. I can dream and ponder on cooler realms for next August. For the present, seems a page out of the book of palms might serve:

Adapt, Modify, Accommodate.  The Quest?

Bloom where you’re planted.

Rituals of Steelhenge

ChartresLabyrinth We are presently staying in an official “Mobile Home Park” for snowbirds south of Sarasota, Florida. We usually stick to the forests, but those opportunities are slim to non-existent in the coming months. Hence, we set out to take a walk on the “mild” side to see if this more available venue was survivable with our pack. As we have a penchant for the privacy of perimeters, I hadn’t often ventured into the center of this community. Walking our dogs can set off a chorus of canines, our dog Bear turns into something from “Call of the Wild,” so we keep to the edges.

I came to Middle Earth today to wash and dry, and rub elbows with the locals from Ontario, Michigan and all points North. I soon realized I was sitting on the Axis Mundi of this Vagabond village. Two hundred or so sites are arranged in three concentric circles, dissected by an equidistant cross; a veritable Stonehenge of aluminum and fiberglass. I should have recognized the power inherent in this design, and the significance of the season. Early December marks the apex of Snowbirds migration here in SW Florida. I was unsuspecting witness to some of this flock’s winter nesting rituals.

At the center of this community lies a present day altar of sorts; two recycling containers and a huge trash compactor. Strangely enough, the latter had Mayan-esque sensibilities, as one had to ascend 5 steps, and raise the lid to reach the maw of the insatiable daemon. As in a scene from a sacrificial ceremony, each member of the community found themselves there daily, supplications in hand. I soon realized there was more at work here. As we all know, offerings are given with the expectation of reciprocity and this divinity didn’t disappoint. As I acclimated, I was able to see the pile of castoffs for what it is, the font of Sacred Stuff. It formed before my eyes.

Commencing with a TV cart, circa 1980 the altar was in place and the ceremony began in earnest. Some objects were proudly displayed, even arranged, like flowers at a funeral. “I don’t want it, but look how great it is!” Others were furtively dropped off, or casually tossed to the pile on the way to the compactor. Residents arrived instantly as called in by the pheromone of Free. It rolled like this: I leave “it” sitting conspicuously next to the trash. You come by on your bicycle, golf cart, or dog walk, and take it home. “Home,” being a vehicle with very limited floor space, and a yard smaller than motorcycle parking space. “It” could be just about anything that could have arrived by car, truck or 50 foot personal caravan. That possibility makes the plunder possible. Having been carried here, or been stored here over the summer, does not guarantee survival or retention. RVs are not built for excess, some days I’m not sure what they are built for, but that’s another post.

From my observation point, it was clear that these cardboard cartons standing open were a siren’s call, a “come hither” to pedestrians and car passengers alike. “It, ”might be a box of faux crystal glassware, seemingly a poor choice for moving mansions, one broken, one whole beach chair,( I’m curious about that story), two dusty wreaths adorned with beach finds and a tube TV with the positive message, “great pictur” taped to the front. Nothing unusual here, except for the quantity of joy and even avarice generated in passersby. From comments overheard in the laundry, I wouldn’t find it surprising to find some spouses out there on the pile.

I of course am not one of these people; I am merely waiting for my clothes to dry nearby. I only know the contents of the boxes because I found some trash in my car that needed to be discarded immediately and the boxes were on my path. I am actually not even old enough to be here in this Florida RV park, I have just thrown them off with my very light hair, white hair actually.

To add color, the box of glassware has been claimed. It has indeed passed right by my car window with its new owner, a 70 something lady with florid skin, who carried on a conversation with the box as she passed “If I can just get you home without breaking it…..” My point precisely. A gentle man on a bicycle has just stopped by to donate some nice latticework to the mix. I think I will donate my backpack beach chair to this alter. It’s a good, if bulky backpack, but a lousy beach chair, someone will LOVE it!

The Alligator in the Pond

smilealligator

Everyone knows there are alligators in Florida. Alligators are to Florida, what Moose are to Maine. They are apparently, everywhere. I say apparently because they are nearly impossible to see, even close up. Yes, Alligators lurk and live at the edges of beachfront, in canals, ponds, wetlands, swamps. They are not the bright green, upright icons chugging beer on a T-shirt. They are invincible archaic survivors, living in what to me, is the belly of the Underworld.

I have noticed in our time here that people in Florida seem complacent about the presence of these ancient beings.
No matter the frequent “on location” TV News reports of another 8 foot, armored, cold blooded creature showing up in the hot tub with Fifi’s pink rhinestone collar stuck between his teeth, your typical Floridian or Snowbird doesn’t seem to find their presence worrisome. Delude yourself if you must, but they are among us. More accurately we are among them; this is their swamp. And no indigenous creature does swamp better than a Florida (American) Alligator. (Alligator mississippiensis)
http://www.flheritage.com/facts/symbols/symbol.cfm?id=3

Let me illustrate the peaceful coexistence scenario

swimsign

Our present campsite residence has a small but attractive lake fed by a meandering stream, the color and opacity of 1970’s Army fatigues. This circular lake-ette is surrounded by trails, a grassy picnic area, and a small sandy beach.

One could easily imagine colorful towels laid out amidst the palms and pines. Small children are wading in the shallow water, filling their plastic buckets and racing to the sand, while Mom chats on her iphone, watching the clouds pass. The reality is gently offered by the Parks Department with this tame and tractable cautionary sign.

How could anyone consider swimming with alligators?
I wonder if the tone of this cautionary sign would change were we to replace the word “Alligator” with:

Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile?

Be watchful for Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile, especially if no Lifeguards are present.

(Tarzan doesn’t work here.)

Report approaching Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile to Lifeguard or Park Ranger.

Never feed Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile.

Here in Florida, Alligators are the “elephant in the room” of suburban development and tourism. Along with recent additions of Pythons and Gila Monsters, Alligators are just part of the Flora and Fauna of Florida. Would someone in say, Milwaukee be OK with one of these guys, laying in the driveway or coming across the yard?

Alligators are one of the few wild creatures comfortable living in suburban and wild places to have removed themselves from the endangered-species list. They were down but they weren’t out. Once it became rude to wear them as shoes and purses they bounced back.
Or did they just come back up to the surface? Amidst the Spanish Sword Palms and the pea green water they reign supreme. Never underestimate the resilience of a prehistoric reptile species. Here’s the facts:

American Alligator
150,000,000 BC – Present
Lives in southeastern America. Usually lives for 35 to 50 years, and grows to a length of 10-15 feet during that time.
(http://www.preceden.com/timelines/68990-evolution-of-the-alligator#sthash.e86DhO7E.dpuf)

Let that sink in…150,000,000 BC – Present; and still here

35 to 50 years? The oldest alligator in captivity is 76 years old and living in Belgrade Zoo.

Length of 10-15 feet -There is a 19.5 ft alligator caught in Louisiana

Bring on the reclaimed land, ice age, gated communities and global warming; they are still here. For our Darwinian Evolution fans this might suggest that they were built correctly the first time, no need to renovate or modernize this model! Yes, there are an estimated one million alligators in Florida alone. If this estimate is as humanly biased as the facts above, we can expect there are many more. Why are the Alligators so willing to cede ownership of this vast environment to humans and their suffocating need to drain and build?

I believe it is a conspiracy by the Alligators to keep the humans oblivious and complacent until Florida can be reclaimed by the rightful owners and original inhabitants: the Reptiles.

Just kidding,. …maybe…

To a greenhorn Florida camper like me, they are the Dragons, Giants in the Wood, the Yeti on the mountain. They are the minions of Sobek, the Egyptian Croc God. http://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/sobek.html
Look that name up, it’s an interesting read, a bit too juicy and conflicted for this missive. He is a Shadow side teacher; always interesting, always treacherous.
Maybe my curiosity about human “Alligator blindness” lies in the persistent “Reptilian Brain” conversation. This Reptilian awareness ranges from alien watchers suggesting we are controlled by Reptilian races, or we ARE a Reptilian race to the more concrete and mainstream Triune Brain theory, representing the current Psychotherapeutic paradigm. Triune brain says human brains are built on a Reptilian Brain chassis, with Limbic system and NeoCortex added later. Ask any trauma survivor, the reptilian part is in charge of fear, flight and fight.  This ancient part is effective for survival, but hard to modulate and nearly impossible to turn off.
Google Reptile brain and there is everything from soup to nuts; and they are strangely all related if you step back far enough.

Whatever the reason, I intend to give them wide berth. I will treat them with deference and respect and I will stay out of their pond. It does suggest another question:

What else is here that I can’t see?